Food, wine and travel all go hand in hand, whether you want to know the best wine makers across Australia to visit on your travels, or just the top affordable wines to order on holiday.
The path to reach the final list of wines for the Top 100 was the most arduous and challenging in all the years I have been conducting this annual event.
It wasn’t so much the standard of the wines that made the final list but the quality of those I had to leave out, among them wines that in previous years would have walked into the Top 100.
To give you some idea of the challenge faced, and the difficulty in making the final decision, with nearly 600 red wines from all around Australia submitted, it meant that nearly five in six wines did not make the final cut.
Of course, it means that the Top 100 is made up of some mighty good wines, from value-for-money wines in the highly competitive under-$15 category to the hugely expressive and wonderfully made wines in the $25-$40 category.
And it also means that deciding on the best of the best was equally challenging. In the battle for the best-value wine of the tasting, not only were there the usual suspects in the under-$15 category, but some worthy wines in the $15 to $20 category, making for a difficult decision.
And the taste-off for the best wine of the tasting was very difficult, with some of the finest-ever wines submitted to this event vying for the title of the Best of the Best.
The tasting was conducted along similar lines to previous years. Producers and distributors from around Australia were invited to submit wines in four categories under $40 — under $15; $15-$20; $20-$25 and $25-$40.
It was a requirement that all the wines submitted were in reasonable supply in Perth retail shops. This can be a bit tricky because of exclusive deals between some producers and some of the bigger chains, so to be fair I have permitted wines that may be exclusively aligned to some chains, provided they are in healthy supply.
I also asked that prices for all of the submissions included all the standard taxes and a 35 per cent mark-up in price. Now in some cases this is less than the standard mark-up and in some it is more but the aim is to try to get an average price across the board.
With the fierce discounting still prevalent in wine retailing my advice, as always, is to shop around for the best deals. You will find many of the wines I have included in the Top 100 list for prices well below what I have quoted.
Overall, the standard of wines in all price categories was as good as I have seen in any of these tastings. This is not surprising, with the quality of the recent vintages around Australia being reflected in the wines which were largely from the 2014 and 2015 vintages.
Winemakers too have clearly lifted the bar, which you would expect because the competition for a share of the consumer buck is intense and building brand awareness and identity is a constant struggle. For this reason, it was pleasing when a few new names made it through to the final list.
Also pleasing was the number of quality pinot noirs, mostly in the higher- priced categories but also with a few cheapies, showing that you don’t have to spend massive amounts to get a decent drop of this sometimes fickle little number.
By far the strongest variety was shiraz, which continues to deliver from regions all around the country. There is a range of different styles, from the traditional bolder South Australian wines to more elegant cooler-climate styles revealing a little more finesse.
So what was it that differentiated the best wines? In the main it was the quality of the fruit, which for me must be fully ripe and show no under-ripe green characters. They can be light or medium bodied but they must be ripe. Under-ripe fruit knocked out a wine straight away.
Other problems included sometimes heavy-handed oak and in some cases a little too much tannin or even acidity.
In the end it all adds up to balance. A wine, whatever the body or style, must be balanced, with everything working towards the common end of focus and palate length and completeness.
I think the wines chosen in the Top 100 easily meet those criterion.
This year I have taken a slightly different approach and chosen a best-value wine in each price category in addition to the usual best-value overall and best-value runner-up.
The Best Value
Hesketh Midday Somewhere shiraz 2015 ($13.20)
Hesketh is a family-owned South Australian company headed by Jonathon Hesketh, with Phil Lehmann the chief winemaker. They have a strong pedigree in wine. Hesketh’s father Robert is chairman of the company and been involved in the industry over many years.
Lehmann’s father Peter was one of Australia’s most famous winemakers and a true legend of the Barossa. Together they are making a breathtakingly good range with wines such as the value-for-money Midday Somewhere shiraz, and others differentiated by region and style. Clearly as chief winemaker for the company, Lehmann is bringing a wealth of experience and talent to the task and from the moment I first saw the early releases a few years ago I was impressed. This wine, which was judged Best Value Wine, is just starting to reach WA but it is quickly making a name for itself. In fact, it’s almost too good to be in this price category. There is a classy elegance and stylishness you don’t normally get at this price point. Light and delicious with great fruit concentration on a medium-weight palate. 91/100
Best Wine of the Tasting
Eddystone Point pinot noir 2014 ($30)
Tasmania is starting to come into its own now with quality pinot noirs. Of course, there are many that we unfortunately don’t see in WA, but when you get to taste wines like this one, it increases your frustration that they are not available in bigger volumes here. This is a relatively new label from the Accolade stable. It is a thoroughly magnificent statement of Tassie pinot noir, coming from fruit off the Tamar and Derwent River Valleys in the main. Raspberry and sour cherry notes on the nose with a liberal splash of spices. The palate is light-to-medium bodied, with deep intensity and an extraordinarily long finish. Exceptional pinot especially for this price. 95/100
Best Wine Runner-Up
Swinney Tirra Lirra 2014 ($33)
This is a stunning combination of cabernet sauvignon tempranillo and grenache from a vineyard in Frankland that is consistently one of the best in the State. 95/100
Best Value Runner-Up
Jacob’s Creek Classic shiraz 2015 ($12)
A massive-selling wine that continues to defy logic by being so good in such huge volumes, delivering plenty for the price. 91/100
Best Value $15 - $20
Taylors cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($20)
This is such a good cabernet. Massive fruit concentration but delivered with such finesse and poise. Deep blackcurrant fruit flavour and some rich chocolaty characters, with a touch of toasty savoury oak.
Best Value $20 - $25
Castelli shiraz malbec 2014 ($22)
Super blend of shiraz and Malbec — they might seem unlikely partners but they work so well.
Best Value $25 - $40
Amelia Park Frankland River shiraz 2014 ($27.95)
A slightly more refined and controlled wine than some previously and yet there is still all that deep, concentrated fruit and complex mix of flavours.
Best reds: under $15
This category was the biggest I have tasted in the history of this annual event. And the most impressive thing was the quality of these wines - from those selling for well under $10 to those selling for about $15. It appears that winemakers are really doing what they can to maximise the fruit they are getting and trying to capture good fruit intensity and flavour. To that end, they are succeeding in spades. And in the main these came from some of the big names in Australian wines. Wines in this price category have to show good primary fruit characters. I am not looking for too much additional winemaking intervention but rather just enough oak in some cases and overall good balance. Many of these will be excellent winter buying, especially by the case.
Hesketh Midday Somewhere shiraz 2015 ($13.20)
One of the names to watch in Australian wines. This is made by third-generation winemakers and it’s bloody good. In fact, almost too good to be in this price category. There is a classy elegance and stylishness you don’t normally get at this price point. Light and delicious, with great fruit concentration on a medium- weight palate. 91/100
George Wyndham Bin 555 shiraz ($15)
This is a more robust shiraz for this price point. Loads of earthy, plush fruit with a fine, dusty coating of tannins and fine-grained oak. A degree of class in here and an impressive offering. 89/100
Jacob’s Creek Classic shiraz 2015 ($12)
A massive-selling wine that continues to defy logic by being so good in such huge volumes, delivering plenty for the price. This one perhaps shows the increasing focus of Jacob’s Creek on getting even more fruit into this bargain package. Loads of spicy, rich fruit with a stylish structure. This definitely won’t disappoint. 91/100
Grant Burge GB56 shiraz 2014 ($13)
Ticks all the boxes in this price point, with a decent mouthful of rich, spicy fruit of medium weight and poise. Touch of blackcurrant and dark plum, with a nice spicy lift. Like the savoury edge on the finish, which adds that bit of complexity. 88/100
Angove Long Row shiraz 2014 ($10)
One of the best of this famous line that I have tasted. It comes off one of the longest rows in the world. Medium-weight and flavoursome shiraz, with stacks to like about it. Nice, peppery finish complements the light, plummy flavours. Crisp and long in the mouth. 89/100
Oxford Landing shiraz 2015 ($9)
A simple and fruity young shiraz sourced from around South Australia. It’s got a slightly confectionery character of raspberry and cherry on the nose, with a delicious, sweet fruit palate. Easy current drinking. 87/100
Lindeman’s Bin 50 shiraz 2015 ($10)
Simple fruit and spicy, and unbelievable value for this quality. Lovely bright fruit flavour with just a dab of oak. But it’s all about bright, fresh fruit. Great current drinking. 88/100
Taylors Promised Land shiraz 2015 ($15)
This is nearly always an impressive offering for this price. Promised on the label and delivers in the bottle. Fruity, plummy flavours with a little spice and licorice. Nice, controlled finish. Super value. 90/100
Quarisa Johnny Q shiraz 2013 ($15)
An arresting and most-stylish shiraz in this category. Has some really attractive fruit flavours, with lifted plummy and light cherry plus a decent hit of vanillin oak. It’s all balanced and perfectly poised. A mighty impressive wine. 90/100
Goundrey Homestead shiraz 2014 ($15)
An appealing fruit-driven shiraz sourced from a number of regions throughout WA. Well-structured with light tannins and a smidgeon of oak supporting the bright, plummy and slightly spicy fruit characters. Soft and supple in the mouth. 89/100
Whiz Bang Barossa shiraz 2014 ($15)
Ripe and fleshy Barossa shiraz here that delivers plenty in spades. Juicy, ripe, plummy fruit with a dab of earthiness and oak to complement. A little hint of tannin. But it’s all juicy and delicious. Excellent wine in this price category. 90/100
Brookland Valley Verse 1 cabernet merlot 2014 ($15)
A quality wine that clearly is punching above its weight in this price category. Firm and assertive fruit, with a degree of plushness. Fine tannins and some understated oak to support. Hangs together rather well and even has some short-term cellaring potential if you really want to. 91/100
De Bortoli Sacred Hill cabernet merlot 2014 ($7)
Such amazing quality for this price point. Fruity, with a decent dab of oak. Fine tannins and good structure. The plummy fruitcake flavours are delicious. Medium weight and perfect current drinking. 89/100
Alkoomi cabernet merlot 2014 ($15)
A punchy and lively young cabernet merlot blend. Abundant fleshy fruit complemented with a little dab of oak. It's warm and flavoursome, with a good finish. Ideal quaffing at this price. 89/100
Parson’s Paddock Langhorne Creek cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($13.95)
Softness, softness, softness and high drinkability. That’s what Langhorne Creek is all about and this excellent wine delivers it. Generous and balanced with a medium body. It’s such delicious current drinking, with a good balance of fruit and vanillin oak. 90/100
Serafino Goose Island cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($15)
This is excellent. Loads of plump McLaren Vale fruit with a lift of spice and lively blackcurrant cabernet fruit. Balanced oak and a little tannin treading the middle palate to add some structure. Perfect current drinking. 89/100
Best reds: $15-$20
The pleasing thing about this price category was the range of excellent wines from different varieties and different regions. Shiraz was very strong, as it always is in the prices under $20, but there were some excellent blends, a quality pinot noir and couple of decent alternative varieties to add a little interest to the category. Generally, the standard was very good, with a little more substance than the under-$15 category. At this price point I am still seeking good primary fruit characters but generally like to see a little more in the engine room, with some oak and tannin management where appropriate. It’s a high-standard class offering plenty of great drinking for the winter.
Pitchfork shiraz 2014 ($17.10)
Bright, lively shiraz from Margaret River. Delivers deep, plummy and slightly cherry-like characters on the nose and palate. A little oak and some fine tannins add support. It’s all about bright berry flavours but there is some classy structure in here as well. 91/100
Willow Bridge Dragonfly shiraz 2015 ($20)
Lovely wine that shows the quality of the Geographe region of WA. Aromas of roasted coffee with spicy plum notes. The palate has deep concentration but admirable restraint and poise. Smooth integration of oak and grainy tannins complete an impressive young wine. 90/100
Battle of Bosworth Puritan shiraz 2016 ($19.15)
No added preservatives in this wet-behind-the-ears shiraz from the 2016 vintage — yep it’s from this year. Fruity and delicious, with soft plum and slightly earthy fruit flavours. Drink it now. 89/100
Andrew Peace The Unexpected shiraz 2014 ($17.55)
OK, here’s a wine for the vegans. It’s preservative free and with no added sulphur. Plump and juicy, with deep fruit flavours. Let it breathe and Drink now. 89/10
Fox Creek Red Baron shiraz 2014 ($18.50)
Bang on the money for this price. So much deep and plush McLaren Vale shiraz crammed into the palate. I like the savoury and slightly gamey character on the nose, which is so compelling. Excellent value. 90/100
Fowles Are You Game? Shiraz 2013 ($18.35)
A high degree of complexity in this medium-bodied and stylish shiraz. Spicy, with slightly gamey characters on the nose. Smooth and textured palate, with great fruit presentation. 89/100
Rosemount Diamond Label shiraz 2015 ($16.75)
Bright and spicy shiraz sourced from McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek. With that pedigree it’s all about current drinkability. It works so well, with just the right hint of oak adding a touch on the finish and palate. 89/100
Hardys Insignia Barossa Valley shiraz 2014 ($20)
Medium-bodied and generously proportioned Barossa shiraz, with all those warm and cuddly red fruit flavours. Balanced with enough structure and control to provide focus and length on the palate. There is a silky smoothness about it. 90/100
Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Signature shiraz 2014 ($20)
Barossa shiraz; you have to love it. Here it is with generosity and power all harnessed with a decent hit of oak and firmish, ripe tannins. Rich, sweet fruit flavours, with a balance of spice and dark chocolate. 91/100
McWilliams High Altitude Hilltop Shiraz 2014 ($17.85)
The cool climes of the high country creates a wine that is smooth and medium bodied, with a slightly peppery freshness. 90/100
Quisara Treasures cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($18)
Really impressive cabernet from this excellent season in Coonawarra. Smooth and elegant, with those red-berry and lifted minty characters well to the fore. There’s a hint of spice and deep blackcurrant richness. Integrated oak works so well. Stylish wine. 91/100
Hanging Rock Bendigo cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($20)
So much to like about this robust and earthy cabernet from the Bendigo region of Victoria. Blackcurrant and dark chocolate, with some toasty, savoury oak character. This is an impressive wine, with a hint of iron filings and graphite adding a degree of additional complexity. 92/100
Taylors cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($20)
This is such a good cabernet. Massive fruit concentration but delivered with such finesse and poise. Deep blackcurrant fruit flavour and some rich chocolatey characters, with a touch of toasty savoury oak. As good as it gets for $20 or less. 94/100
Jack Estate cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($19)
Terrific Coonawarra cabernet from what was an outstanding vintage in this great cabernet region. Smooth and elegant, with structure and poise. This is classy stuff, with the type of palate that will support medium-term cellaring. And believe me, these Coonawarra wines can live for a long time. 91/100
d'Arenberg d’Arry's Original shiraz grenache 2013 ($18)
From a very good vintage offering super value for such a wine. Has to be one of the better wines from this highly distinguished line. Leafy lift on the nose, with typical earthy, dusty rose-petal aromas. The palate is generous and controlled, with lovely long, grainy tannins supporting the finish. 93/100
Thompson Estate Four Chambers Cabernet Shiraz 2014 ($20)
The best yet from this second label of Perth cardiologist Peter Thompson. Textured and fruity, with deep and concentrated fruit characters. Lots of blackcurrant integrated with fine oak and firm tannins. Controlled and long in the mouth. 92/100
Salomon Estate Norwood Shiraz Cabernet 2014 ($19.16)
Loads of deep, rich dark chocolate and blackcurrant flavours swirling through this robust and impressive shiraz cabernet blend. There’s a bit of history to the place which you can read all about on the back label while you enjoy a damn fine red wine. 91/100
Wills Domain Cabernet Merlot 2014 ($20)
These guys are making some mighty fine red wines and this one in the value for money category is excellent. Soft and generously proportioned fruit characters on a smoothly integrated palate. Very long and sustained finish. Loads of dark berry fruits with a degree of merlot lushness for balance. 91/100
Amelia Park Trellis Cabernet Merlot 2013 ($15.95)
A mighty impressive follow-up to last year’s breakthrough wine. Gone up a little in price but for this quality it is still amazing value. Concentrated Margaret River fruit shows its power and palate strength. The plush merlot adds a soft suppleness. Nice wine for the short term. 91/100
Rocky Gully Cabernets 2014 ($20)
This is a second label from Frankland Estate. It’s quality through and through, with excellent structure and fruit definition. Plush spicy, plummy fruit, with a distinct earthy note that seems to bring the vineyard into play. 90/100
Bremerton Tamblyn 2013 ($19)
An aromatic and appealing blend of cabernet shiraz malbec and merlot from Langhorne Creek. The combination works well, providing a seamless continuity on the palate. Smooth medium body with a sweet, ripe, chocolatey red-berry fruit combo. Tuck into this for winter. 90/100
De Bortoli Bella Riva sangiovese 2013 ($17)
If you’re wanting a wine for your next pasta dish, then this is your bag. It’s from the King Valley of Victoria. I like the way the fruit has been softened, with time in older oak. The tannins are supple and important. Dusty, with light cherry flavours. 90/100
Serafino Montepulciano 2015 ($20)
Beautiful example of this famous Italian variety. Medium-bodied wine with a mix of savouriness and spices to complement the light cherry flavours. Like the dry savoury finish which is perfect for lighter meat dishes. 90/100
Brown Brothers 1889 Tempranillo 2014 ($18)
A wine that captures the essence of its famous Spanish variety rather well. Fruity and savoury, with a touch of spice. Supple through the middle palate, with a dry, savoury finish making it ideal for light Mediterranean dishes. 89/100
Devil’s Corner pinot noir 2015 ($20)
One of the best things Brown Brothers has done is buy some dirt and vineyards in Tassie. This excellent pinot noir is an example of why it was a good investment. Spicy cherry and light bodied. Beautifully presented palate supported by fine sinewy tannins and fine-grained oak. Class and quality here. 93/100
Best reds: $20-$25
This was a hugely competitive class with quality wines spread evenly across most varieties and throughout many of the best regions in the country. It shows just how good the fruit is for winemakers to really create something special for the price. This was such a difficult class to judge and probably took the longest. In the end I am very happy with the wines that made the list but there were at least another 20 which could have crept in and not been shown up. At this price you start to get significantly more winemaking intervention, but still not that it compromises the quality expression of the fruit. There is some outstanding value-for-money quality drinking for the months ahead.
Battle of Bosworth shiraz 2014 ($23.15)
Outstanding producer from McLaren Vale, where they do things as naturally as possible with organically grown fruit. This is a perfect example of capturing the essence of the vineyard. Dusty and savoury, with a real sense of place. 93/100
Xanadu DJL shiraz 2014 ($24)
So well presented. This is an example of Margaret River shiraz showing that distinctive savoury and slightly earthy, sinewy character that distinguishes it from other areas. Spicy, with a little toasty oak complementing the medium-bodied plummy fruit characters. 91/100
Yalumba Patchwork shiraz 2013 ($22)
Good-value Barossa red here. It's sourced from all over the area and comes together in a medium- bodied, quite elegant red. Spicy, savoury notes on the nose, with a seductive, perfumed, sweet plummy character. The palate is soft and supple, with the small amount of new oak adding a neat lift. Ideal in the medium term. 91/100
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel shiraz 2014 ($25)
The secret of this excellent wine is the finishing in whisky barrels after traditional oak maturation. The whisky barrels simply act like a condiment to spice things up a bit. It works well and this one is beautiful, with delicious, deep fruit-driven flavours of dark chocolate and earth. 92/100
Bleasdale Bremerview shiraz 2014 ($21)
One of Australia’s oldest family- owned companies. It is based in Langhorne Creek, where it has been turning out classy and superb wines such as this for years. The beautiful, powdery tannins of the palate are a feature, with soft and supple medium- weight fruit delivered to a long, focused finish. 93/100
Hardys Tintara shiraz 2014 ($25)
A consistently underrated name from McLaren Vale. This is one of the very best and shows the blend of old and new, with a terrific freshness worked into the wine plus some good earthy richness underpinning it. Loads of spices and dark chocolate add further richness and lift. 93/100
Tellurian Redline shiraz 2014 ($22.50)
This is the entry-level shiraz. There is a lovely richness and depth in here, with the typical graphite and slightly gunpowder characters of the region. Lovely rich and dense palate, with vibrant lively fruit weight. Really beautiful wine of wonderful fruit expression which comes from the fact that there is no new oak. 92/100
Tahbilk shiraz 2013 ($24.80)
One of the more generous and approachable shiraz offerings from Tahbilk. Is this a change in winemaking approach despite what is written on the back label about maintaining traditional techniques? It certainly has a typical Tahbilk thread but there is a little friendlier suppleness in the fruit. Spicy and savoury, with sinewy tannins and fine, understated oak. Will handle extended cellaring. 92/100
Sevenhill Inigo cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($24)
Intense and concentrated cabernet from the Clare Valley. Blackcurrant and black olive nuances, with cedary oak influences. It's loaded with lots of dark fruits and supported by firm, ripe tannins and very attractive oak. So smooth and seamless through the palate to its long finish. Will happily support extended cellaring. 94/100
Blass Black Cassis cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($20.90)
A new name from Blass. This is a cabernet sourced from Langhorne Creek, which was the favoured region for Blass’ earliest wines. It’s so typically soft and supple, with those minty dark-chocolate characters of the region complementing the deep blackcurrant fruit richness. 92/100
Robert Oatley Margaret River cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($22.35)
Classically framed Margaret River cabernet. All those distinctive black-olive and bay-leaf characters across the deeper blackcurrant fruitiness. Nice oak treatment, with a sinewy tannin definition. Stylish. 91/100
Domaine Naturaliste Discovery cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($22)
Powerful statement of Margaret River but one with poise and elegance. Fine, powdery tannins control the palate, with the use of oak clever and understated. The fruit is classical Margs, with that bay-leaf character over the deep blackcurrant fruitiness. Dry and focused on the finish. 91/100
Lindeman Gentleman’s Collection cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($21.85)
A very complete and almost understated wine of impeccable balance and poise — as a gentleman should be, of course. Sweet fruit characters supported by fine, grainy tannins and a little oak. It all knits together perfectly to deliver a focused, effortless palate. 90/100
Castelli shiraz malbec 2014 ($22)
Super blend of shiraz and malbec which might seem unlikely partners but they work so well. The leafy, floral notes of the malbec are superb complements to the richer dark-chocolatey plum of the shiraz. So rich and flavoursome yet with Great Southern elegance and plumpness. 93/100
Smith & Hooper cabernet sauvignon merlot 2013 ($21)
Sourced from Wrattonbully down on the South Australian south coast. Spicy and aromatic notes on the nose, with touches of floral clove- like influences. The palate is typically smooth and seamless, with a great integration of fine, powdery tannins and fine-grained oak. Can be cellared if you want. 93/100
Hancock & Hancock Home Vineyard shiraz grenache 2014 ($22.35)
Chris Hancock knows a thing or two about making wine, having been involved in the industry, largely with Rosemount, since the early 1960s. This excellent shiraz and grenache blend captures much of the McLaren Vale character. Pepper, with nice plum and that so-appealing rose-petal character of the grenache, make for an excellent wine. 92/100
Hewitson Miss Harry 2013 ($22)
This Barossa Valley GSM blend also has a cinsault and carignan tossed in for good measure. It's a medium- bodied wine of subtle fruit expression. Balances the primary confectionery fruit characters of the three main varieties, with a savoury earthiness adding an intriguing thread through the palate. Nice dry finish, with supple, fine tannins and understated oak. 92/100
Fox Creek JSM 2013 ($25)
This is a blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Rich and opulent blend from McLaren Vale. Loads of deep fruit concentration with ripe, firm tannins and loads of oak worked into the dark chocolate and black fruit of the concentrated palate. 91/100
Peel Estate shiraz cabernet 2014 ($20.10)
One of the quiet achievers in WA. This little vineyard in Peel, just south of Perth, makes some of the best- cellaring red wines in the State. This one has all the ingredients to handle medium-term cellaring, with plush and intense fruit on the palate supported by a clever use of oak. Tonnes of flavour right through to the long finish. 91/100
Stella Bella cabernet merlot 2015 ($24)
So bright and lively is this terrifically flavoured young cabernet merlot blend. This is all about fruit presentation. Lively raspberry and cherry notes on the nose, with more traditional plum and red-berry notes. The oak is underplayed but important. Palate is so well balanced. 91/100
Hay Shed Hill cabernet merlot 2014 ($20.75)
This beautifully appealing cabernet merlot blend is all juicy fruit and succulent flavours. Perfumed, scented notes on the nose, with a fruit-driven medium-bodied palate offering loads of balanced red-berry flavours supplemented with some nice, savoury, slightly cedary oak. Smooth and effortless. 91/100
Singlefile Estate Frankland River cabernet sauvignon merlot 2014 ($25)
Terrific wine that seriously over-delivers for this price. Blackcurrant, leafy tobacco and black-olive nuances create a compelling and complex opening. The palate has a dusty, minerally thread running deep into the warm fleshy fruit. Structured and precise, with plenty to like about it. 91/100
Pikes The Dogwalk cabernet merlot 2013 ($25)
Fleshy and fruity cabernet merlot blend from Clare. Loaded with sweet, ripe red-berry fruit characters. Palate is fruity, with fine tannins and a little oak in support. Has a dry, savoury and slightly sinewy character to add balance on the finish. 90/100
KT Tinta tempranillo 2015 ($23.95)
Just love this excellent tempranillo from Kerri Thompson in the Clare Valley. It’s beautifully presented with a great balance of fruit and oak with some fine grainy tannins understating the palate. The smooth, slightly dusty, earthy character with hints of raspberry are just beautiful. 92/100
Millbrook sangiovese 2014 ($20)
Captures the distinctive characters of this famous Tuscan variety. Sourced from the Geographe region which appears well suited to the variety. Loads of red berry aromas with a spicy dusty overtone. Deliciously fruit driven with firmish dry savoury tannins and a little dab of oak. 90/100
Amato Vino Montepulciano 2015 ($25)
Part of a new range of interesting alternative varieties by Brad Wehr. This one is wild-fermented and spends about 10 months in oak. The result is a wine that brings complexity and subtlety to the table. Dark chocolate and savoury coffee grinds work with the dusty fruit characters. 91/100
Mount Macleod Pinot Noir 2015 ($22.40)
Lovey, elegant and beautifully presented pinot noir from the Gippsland district of Victoria. Light cherry and spices on the nose, with a sublimely pure and expressive palate. Medium-to-light bodied, with great intensity. 92/100
Crittenden Geppetto pinot noir 2015 ($22.35)
One of the pioneering producers of the Mornington Peninsula. This is a firmish pinot but showing all those delicious spicy, sour-cherry characters on the nose. The palate is thoroughly delicious, with a silky smoothness and very long finish. Expresses a lot that is good about pinot noir. 91/100
Best reds: $25-$40
All I can say is that if your budget can stretch a little more then you need to check out some of the fabulous offerings in this price category. OK, you expect things to heat up a bit when in some cases you are paying around $40, but throughout this category from the wines around $25 through to the more expensive offerings there is so much quality. Like the $20-$25 category, the challenge was deciding which wines to leave out. It was the biggest class in the tasting, with nearly 200 wines on the table, so the wines that made the final list are pretty damned good. Those that made the final cut were all from varieties or blends that fall within the norm of Australian wines, so it was a little disappointing that some of the newer alternative varieties didn’t perform as well. It was particularly pleasing that the pinot noirs were very strong and if you are into this variety you will find some excellent wines here that, when you stack up the quality, are not hideously expensive. A lot of great drinking and cellaring if you wish in this class.
Amelia Park Frankland River shiraz 2014 ($27.95)
A slightly more refined and controlled wine than some previously and yet there is still all that deep, concentrated fruit and wonderfully complex mix of flavours and aromas that stamp both the region and the approach to winemaking. Excellent wine of great balance and style. 95/100
Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 shiraz 2013 ($40)
Classically deep and lush shiraz from a number of different regions. It's largely Barossa but has influences from McLaren Vale, Padthaway and Langhorne Creek also. Ripe, juicy fruit balanced by a cutting edge of cordite and graphite. The palate packs plenty, with its generous proportions. Loads of dark-chocolate, plum and black-olive influences. Such a rich and generous style that captures the essence of Penfolds perfectly. 95/100
Hardys HRB shiraz 2013 ($39)
McLaren Vale, Clare and Frankland River. Such a fine and immaculately poised shiraz which brings the virtues of three wine regions into play. It is a magnificent statement of Australian shiraz delivered with refinement and stylish elegance. 94/100
Tim Smith Wines Barossa shiraz 2014 ($38)
The fruit for this exceptional wine is sourced from the Barossa and cooler-climate Eden Valley regions. The result is a wine that brings the deep concentration and intensity of the Barossa together with the lifted, refined aromatics and stylishness of Eden Valley. Beautifully structured and presented shiraz. 94/100
Juniper Estate shiraz 2013 ($37)
Shiraz continues to be a super wine from Juniper. This follows the excellent 2012 and shows a slightly more robust character and structure. Retains that savoury, earthy character, with firmish, sinewy tannins a feature. Really concentrated and dense, with great length and palate persistence. 94/100
Seppelt Great Western Chalambar shiraz 2014 ($27)
Excellent, slightly different take on shiraz from the Grampians and Heathcote regions. Has a distinctive earthy ironstone minerality that carries through the palate. It's savoury, with licorice and cedary notes. The palate is supple, with spicy minerality. 93/100
Mandoon Estate Old Vine shiraz 2014 ($29.50)
These older vineyards date back to the mid-1950s and are now supplying some pretty handy, plush, plummy fruit for this wine. The approach has been a gentle winemaking technique to preserve the essential soft-fruit characters. Generous, soft and supple palate, with lovely oak and fruit balance. Like that minerally, chalky, tannin influence on the finish. 93/100
Yelland & Papps Second Take shiraz 2015 ($32.75)
There's some power in this exceptional statement of Barossa shiraz made in a traditional old- world way. Wild fermented and half whole-punch pressed. Gets eight months in oak, of which nearly half is new French. So this is substantial and yet it presents with lovely restraint and beautiful, seductive fruit expression. The purity of expression is a feature. Terrific take on traditional Barossa. 93/100
West Cape Howe Two Steps shiraz 2014 ($30)
Another exceptional wine under this sub-brand from West Cape Howe. Shows excellent flavour intensity and balance, with a poise and elegance you might expect from higher-priced wines. The palate is seamlessly merged with fine-grained oak and super-fine, though fully ripe, tannins. Dark- chocolate and blackcurrant flavours, with a spicy lift on the finish. 93/100
Serafino McLaren Vale shiraz 2013 ($28)
Full-bodied shiraz from McLaren Vale capturing the sumptuous middle-palate fruit of this region. Fine-grained oak and silky and slightly powdery tannins add support. Focused, long finish. 93/100
Heirloom Vineyards shiraz 2014 ($40)
Lots of sweet, ripe fruit here, with a balance of earthy, savoury notes that smack distinctly of place within the McLaren Vale district. Lovely mouth feel, with intense flavours carried effortlessly to a long finish. It’s a juicy, vibrant wine for drinking in the short-to- medium term. 91/100
J.E. Ngeringa syrah 2012 ($28)
Biodynamically grown fruit from the Adelaide Hills showing the different and more modern Aussie take on shiraz, hence the use of the term syrah. It’s an elegant and slightly rustic wine showing vineyard character with minimal intervention. 91/100
Swinney Tirra Lirra 2014 ($33)
This is a stunning combination of cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo and grenache from a vineyard in Frankland that consistently produces some of the best fruit in the State. This wine already demonstrates a high degree of complexity on the nose especially but it is the weight and balance on the palate that really stamp its quality. Just superb. 95/100
Teusner Joshua 2015 ($30.90)
Hugely fragrant and perfumed blend of grenache, mataro and shiraz. The thing is that this is all fruit with no oak used. Beautiful spicy notes on the nose and a soft and supple palate, with ample structure coming from the fruit itself. Excellent. 94/100
Ministry of Clouds tempranillo Grenache 2015 ($27.95)
Smooth, integrated and structured blend of these two excellent partners from McLaren Vale. It has been handled with kid gloves through the winery to capture the fruit. Fragrant and delicious with the potential to age for a few years. 93/00
Flametree cabernet sauvignon merlot 2014 ($30)
A really punchy cabernet merlot from one of the best producers in Margaret River. It’s largely cabernet merlot but there is an important inclusion of malbec and petit verdot. The result is a more complete wine, with good structure and palate presentation. Impressive. 93/100
Henschke Henry’s Seven 2014 ($37)
A blend of shiraz, grenache, mataro and viognier. The spicy, ginger viognier is quite evident on the nose. Beautifully aromatic and fragrant wine as a result of that viognier, with a plush and fruit-driven palate that carries an impressive finish. 92/100
Deep Woods cabernet sauvignon merlot 2014 ($35)
A highly sophisticated blend, more in the medium-to-full- bodied zone. Lifted red fruits with a trace of black olive on the nose. The palate is balanced with sinewy, chalky tannins and fine-grained oak. A perfumed redcurrant and violet lift adds to the bouquet. Most appealing and stylish wine. 92/100
Kaesler Avignon Grenache mourvedre 2013 ($35)
The vineyards supplying fruit for this are more than 80 years old. The result is fruit intensity with effortless understatement. It’s so elegant, with grainy tannins and a slightly gravelly palate. 92/100
Singlefile Estate Single vineyard Frankland River cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($37)
Cracking good wine that amply demonstrates the qualities of Frankland as a cabernet region. Loads of deep dark fruit displaying typical Frankland juiciness and plushness. Yet there is structure and poise here, with firmish tannins and well-played oak. Great depth and power. 95/100
Xanadu cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($37)
Another stunning statement of classic Margaret River cabernet. Packed with all those blackcurrant, plum, chocolate and black-olive characters you would expect. Powerful it is but there's polish and finesse here that stamp it as a wine of the highest class. 95/100
Evoi cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($28.75)
Quite beautiful and fragrant cabernet from Margaret River made by Nigel Ludlow. It’s a small producer yet one making some of the consistently finest cabernets in the region. Loads of ripe blackcurrant fruit with bay-leaf and black-olive nuances. Already complex and velvety smooth. 95/100
Frankland Estate cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($28)
Most impressive cabernet from the Frankland Estate vineyards. It shows a distinctive regional and vineyard character, with a graphite-like iron-filings character threading through the seamless, structured palate. Elegant and stylish. Beautiful wine. 94/100
Yalumba The Cigar cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($26)
Comes from one of the most famous stretches of dirt in Australia, right in the heart of Coonawarra’s terra rossa patch. This is so elegant and poised with those fine tannins, and smooth, effortlessly long-palate features of an exceptional wine. 94/100
Castelli Frankland River cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($34)
Another exquisite wine from this emerging star of the West Australian wine scene. Flavours are intense and rich, with sweet fruit characters augmented with a leafy tobacco and black-olive nuance. The palate is structured, with firm, fine tannins and a lick of cedar oak. Well-presented and balanced through to its long finish. 94/100
Firetail cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($27.50)
Loaded with dark chocolate and plummy blackcurrant, with just a faint hint of roasted coffee on the nose. The palate is seamless and velvety smooth but there is plenty of core power, with those firmish tannins and ample oak. Subtle astringency on the finish completes an excellent wine. 93/100
West Cape Howe Book Ends cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($28)
Consistently one of my favourite modestly priced cabernets each year. This is another cracker which captures the character and style of Mt Barker cabernet perfectly. Lots of plum and blackcurrant fruit intensity, with a little cedary, savoury oak influence. Structured with firmish tannins and balanced oak. 93/100
Eddystone Point pinot noir 2014 ($30)
Thoroughly magnificent statement of Tassie pinot noir. Comes from fruit off the Tamar and Derwent river valleys in the main. Raspberry and sour-cherry notes on the nose, with a liberal splash of spices. The palate is light-to-medium bodied, with deep intensity and an extraordinarily long finish. Exceptional pinot, especially for this price. 95/100
Devil's Corner Resolution pinot noir 2014 ($35)
An immensely powerful pinot noir from the cool- climate east-coast vineyard of Devil's Corner. Spicy dark- cherry fruits, with an earthy savouriness adding complexity. Tannins are firmish, while the fine- grained oak is impeccable. Strength and power here, and it will continue to reveal more as it ages. 94/100
Hardy’s HRB pinot noir 2014 ($39)
Sourced from both Tasmania and the Yarra Valley. This is the first pinot under this multi-regional label from Hardy’s under the dab hand of winemaker Paul Lapsley. Silky smooth and very rich palate, with firm tannins supporting the long, stylish finish. Thoroughly integrated and harmonious in every aspect. 94/100
Domaine A Stoney Vineyard pinot noir 2015 ($32.85)
Another tremendous pinot from this exceptional vineyard in Tasmania. Sweet fruit balanced with dry savoury tannins and fine- grained oak. Lively and vibrant fruity notes on the palate make for a gorgeous expression of the variety. Excites and appeals. 93/100
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