The best Australian wines
With so many of us now proactively supporting the Australian wine industry during these turbulent times, we asked the renowned local wine expert David Parker for his top picks from Australia.
Here are his top Australian wine selections across a range of styles and prices. You can purchase directly from the vineyards or David has a hand-picked selection of Australian and international wines available via Bottle & Glass.
Head Wines Head Red GSM 2019 $23
Winemaker Alex Head was at the forefront of the movement away from the traditional Barossa blockbuster style that was so popular in the 90s. “Alex Head has done an amazing job in bringing a new kind of panache to the region’s (Barossa) traditional varieties. He’s introduced an extra touch of elegance without losing the region’s essential generosity and softness.” Huon Hooke, May 2019.
This entry-level wine, epitomises Alex’s approach, style and the incredible value he offers. It’s a blend of 50% grenache, 30% mataro and 20% shiraz from 25-76yo vines, with 60% of the fruit sourced from the Eden Valley area. It’s super fresh and juicy, with primary fruit the star in this drop. In the glass this is a purpley, rosey red. On the nose you’ll find ripe and juicy cherries, raspberry jubes, caramel and lifted floral aromatics of fresia. On the palate, pomegranate and plums mingle with pepper and liquorice - clean bright acid ensuring nice balance. This has a lovely viscosity with soft tannins quietly shoring up its structure. Nice dry finish.
"Beautifully and harmoniously structured and textured, clarity and purity its watchwords." 96 points, James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion.
Medhurst Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2019 $25
Another terrific wine from one of my favourite winemakers Simon Steele. The Yarra Valley is a great region for pinot and this is as good as entry level Yarra Pinot gets.
"Bright ruby red appearance with a lovely crimson hue. Lovely nose, highly perfumed wine with red cherry, five spice savoury and floral notes dominating the aromas. The palate has a core of red fruit flavours around a backbone of natural acid. The mouthfeel is lithe and energetic with slinky fine tannins and a clean, fruit-driven finish. A wine made for immediate consumption that will improve with careful cellaring over the medium term." Winemaker's notes.
Warramate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 $27
Warramate is next door to, and shares ownership with Yarra Yering, one of Australia’s most iconic wineries. This set up means that this humble wine is made by Yarra Yering’s winemaker, Sarah Crowe, who was the first woman to win the prestigious James Halliday Winemaker of the Year award in 2017. The wine is essentially made in the same way as the Yarra Yering Dry red No. 1 and I reckon it’s one of the most underrated and best value cabernets in Australia.
It’s a deep rosey red in the glass. On the nose: cedar and sarsparilla precede savoury graphite and tomato bush aromas with an overlay of sweet dark fruit and vanilla touch. On the palate: fresh raspberries and violets intertwine with subtle green vegetal notes and skilfully subtle vanilla. This is lean and elegant with crisp clean acid and fine, firm tannins drawing to a beautifully dry finish.
“The perfumed bouquet introduces a supple, medium-bodied palate with the full suite of ripe cabernet flavours, enhanced by moderate alcohol. Oak, too, plays a part.” 95 points, Halliday Wine Companion, 2020. And a Value rating. Not really an inspiring note, but the score says it all.
Quin Wines Barossa Shiraz 2016 $55
For those of you who love a solid and powerful, yet svelte and modern Barossa Shiraz this is for you. Andrew Quin is chief winemaker at Hentley Farm and in 2014 started making his own wine on the side. Some side project it’s turned out to be… in the 2018 Barossa Wine Show this wine was awarded Trophy for Best 2016 Shiraz as well as Trophy for Best Shiraz. Not sure I need to say more.
In the glass this is dark, dense purpley red. On the nose, sweet dark plum and blueberry fruit mingle with spice and vanilla. And on the palate you’ll find plum, blueberry and pomegranate with a hint of anise. This is lush and viscous but with fresh acidity a counterbalance to its power and depth. A long finish and firm tannins complete the structure in this concentrated wine. Seems effortlessly balanced as only a good wine can - this is a beauty. 14.5% alcohol.
“Deep, dense, concentrated red/purple colour, with a deep, super-ripe, fruit driven aroma, which is classic chocolaty, dark plum Barossa shiraz, and the lets the fruit do the talking. It’s likewise dense and concentrated in the mouth, powerful and structured for ageing. A big serving of tannin - in balance, impressive wine.” 95 points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review. (Huon is a hard marker so this is a great review from him).
Bekkers McLaren Vale Syrah 2018 $120
Here’s a wine that’s well worth splashing out on. Toby and Emmanuel Bekkers only make 3 red wines, this being their best. The thing I love about this wine is its incredible velvety texture. The wine is long, complex, gently powerful and oh-so-smooth. Not surprisingly, the reviews have been outstanding.
"A truly great McLaren Vale syrah, as smooth as velvet, yet with layer upon layer of purple and black fruits that are hypnotic in their perfection."
99 points, James Halliday Wine Companion (equal highest scoring shiraz)
Special Value Rating, James Halliday Wine Companion.
Best of the Best, Shiraz, Halliday's 2021 Wine Companion Awards
"Deep, brooding red/purple colour, with a blackberry fruit aroma that is ripe and concentrated. The wine is full-bodied, fleshy and smooth, with savoury qualities and quite chewy tannins to conclude. There is density, depth and weight, and the wine has a lasting intensity through a very long aftertaste. Deep-set blackberry, cranberry, black cherry and dark plum flavours, with an earthy bass note. Delicious and long-term."
97 points, Huon Hooker, The Real Review.
Ranked #1 of 81 Shiraz from 2018 McLaren Vale
"Best bottle of McLaren Vale Shiraz in my life. This is a remarkable wine and cheap at $120. The understated wine making relies on vineyard or vine selection and elegant use of whole bunch. The tannins are very fine and the fruit length means you linger over sip the last glass as you don’t want it to end."
Rob Geddes MW.
Terre a Terre ‘Down to Earth’ Sauvignon Blanc 2019 $19
Don’t be fooled by the price - this is no massed produced new-world fruit bomb. I don’t know many, if any, sauv blancs at this price that get this sort of treatment. It’s single vineyard sourced and handpicked, with 45% of the fruit whole-bunch pressed and fermented in large oak foudres and demi-muids. The rest (55%) is crushed, destemmed and cool-fermented in stainless steel. Both portions were left on lees for 7 months to add a little extra complexity and texture.
“The bouquet and palate hunt together as one, stone fruit and citrus neatly trimmed by fresh acidity. Distinctive style.” 96 points, James Halliday, Wine Companion 2021.
Also included in Varietal Winners, Best of the Best, Sauvignon Blancs in the 2021 James Halliday Wine Companion.
“Not your average Aussie sauvignon blanc, this wine has some serious character and personality that lifts it up above much of the local competition. It is bright and pale in colour, and is more Loire Valley than Marlborough with guava and honeydew melon plus a pretty touch of dried thyme flowers and some lanolin barrel ferment complexity. It’s dry, mid-weight, crisp, and more savoury rather than the fruitier Adelaide Hills style. The wine is also powerful, delicious and a touch creamy on the palate with a long drying finish. Delicious and it will beautifully match delicately flavoured spicy Asian dishes.” 92 points, Angus Hughson, winepilot.com
Riesling Freak No.4 Eden Valley Riesling 2019 $23
Winemaker John Hughes is indeed a riesling freak, making at last count 10 wines, all from riesling. The No.4 hails from Eden Valley and with its delicate floral notes, is one of my favourites. This wine shows what incredible value for money Australian riesling offers.
"Fresh, bright, aromatic. White flowers, gooseberries. Talc and slate. Great lemon, limes, with a lingering acid back bone. The vibrancy of the palate has you salivating for more. A wine which will go the distance now and in time."
"It's taken time, but I've finally become used to John Hughes' brand name. Here the Meyer lemon/lemongrass flavours of the Eden Valley are correct, even if they have hints of Hunter Valley semillon, a dreadfull accusation for a SA riesling maker. 11%, screwcap"
95 points. James Halliday.
Printhie Mountain Range Pinot Gris 2019 $25
Pinot Gris (same thing as Grigio) is becoming more and more popular and here’s a great Aussie example that’s show exactly why. Printhie is a family-owned winery located in the increasingly popular cool-climate region of Orang, NSW. I had the pleasure of visiting them a few years ago and love what they’re doing.
“Deeper yellow colour than most young wines. Moderate aromatic intensity typical of Pinot Gris but lifted by the floral, citrus and spice of Gewurztraminer and Riesling. Palate weight more ’Gris’ than ‘Grigio’.” Winemaker’s notes.
“A very good gris, an exciting category of Australian wine of the moment. Medium-bodied, while streaming orange blossom, baked apple, cinnamon spice and pear gelato along a skein of gentle phenolics and moderate acidity. Flavoursome and winning.” 91 points and a Special Value Rating, Halliday Wine Companion.
Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon 2019 $31
If I was to pick the most unique Australian wine it would have to be Hunter semillon. “Among the greatest and most distinctive (wines)in Australia, if not the world.” Huon Hooke. Hunter semillon has an incredible ability to age while still being eminently drinkable along the way. When young, it’s bright, racy and refreshing, with crisp acidity and lemony flavours. With age, it transforms, becoming darker in colour and taking on honeyed, toasty oakey notes, to such an extent you’d swear it was oaked.
One of the best ‘contemporary’ Hunter winemakers is Andrew Thomas. Thommo makes several semillons, his best/most recognised being the Braemore, named after the vineyard it’s sourced from, one of the best in the Hunter.
"The forcefield of the range. The most reticent and yet paradoxically, as with many fine wines, the longest driver of flavour, intensity and ageability. Lemongrass, lanolin and grapefruit zest. Pulpy. Fleshy. Strident length. Athletic. Crunchy and laden with '19-esque slatiness. Drink by 2029."
95 points. Ned Goodwin MW. James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion.
"A standard bearer as always. Lemony tang and leafy, green notes. Snow pea and grassy things to taste. Tight and racy, shows some juiciness and yet a core of rapier-like acidity too. Has an approachability and vivacity, crackling, crisp texture, bright and very refreshing. Finishes with that green mango and pawpaw sour-sweet thing. Drinkability in youth here. Delicacy too. Lovely drinking. An early drinker." 94 points. Mike Bennie (The Wine Front)
Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2018 $80
This wine makes you realise just how lucky we are in Australia with regard to top quality chardonnay. You’d spend twice the price to get a wine of similar quality from Burgundy. Made by Australian wine industry legend Brian Croser and sourced from his superb cool-climate Tiers Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills, it’s is an absolute beauty.
“This is a spectacular chardonnay, eschewing malolactic in the name of precision and freshness, while sacrificing nothing in the way of flavour and textural detail in doing so. A reductive riff of gunflint segues to notes of white fig, honeydew melon, nectarine and creamed cashew. A chassis of mineral and bright acidity carry the flavours long and broad, chaperoned by high class oak that is nestled into the fray. This will age beautifully over the coming decade, but oozes class and such poise already that it is difficult to refrain from opening a bottle or, at least in my case, finishing the glass.”
97 points (Gold) James Halliday Wine Companion 2021.
Medhurst Rose 2020 $25
Australians are going mad for rose and this is my favourite. It’s made by talented winemaker Simon Steele and is a blend of 56% cabernet and 44% shiraz sourced from the estate’s own vineyards in the Yarra Valley, just north of Melbourne. You’ll love it.
The wine is clear, bright and very pale copper. On the palate it’s clean and bone dry, with subtle notes of strawberry, musk, honeydew and coconut, finishing long with delicate savoury notes. Its depth, weight and smooth mouthfeel belie its pale colour. Simon has balanced the acid in this wine so well it gives it freshness and vitality without being tart or linear. Its beautiful structure and integration set this wine apart - so generous and drinkable.
“Very pale copper with a bright vibrant pink hue. Deliciously elusive fresh fruits including strawberry and raspberry are supported by hints of fennel and white blossom of jasmine. The palate is savoury and refined with a supple creamy texture. The finish to the wine is superb, fresh fruits and a long chalky delicate phenolic edge that is trademark of this single vineyard wine.” Winemaker’s notes.
Daosa Blanc de Blanc 2015 $85
As Andrew Graham of the Australian Wine Review recently said “Why drink industrial NV champagne when you have Adelaide Hills Sparkling like this?” Made by Xavier Bizot, Lily Bollinger’s great-nephew, this is a super wine, one of, if not the best vintage Blanc de Blanc in Australia. It’s 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Piccadilly Valley and was aged on lees for a total of over 4 years! And yes – it’s worth it.
“A cracking vintage wine from Xavier Bizot showing aromas of coconut, nougat, cashew nut, lemon curd and hints of oak barrel. Full bodied and weighty. Displays concentration and richness, the finish long and powerful. A most impressive sparkling wine.”
96 points, Gourmet Traveller Wine, January 2020. Top rated Australian Sparkling in Gourmet Traveller Wine.
“Bright straw-green; it’s very elegant, very long, and superbly balanced.”
97 points, Halliday Wine Companion 2021. It’s also included in ‘Best of the Best’ Sparking Wines, Sparkling Varietal Winner 2021, Halliday.
“Beautifully perfumed with hints of peach, bright citrus and heady, rich brioche notes, then to a palate braced with a fine acidity, clean, focused fruit and a layered textured finesse.”
97 points, Platinum Award, Decanter World Wine Awards 2020.