Australia’s more than 2,400 vignerons make a greater diversity and higher quality wine than ever before in a wine history dating from the first fleet.
My top-15 therefore represents a wide range of Australian styles from seven distinct regions in four states, plus five multi-region blends, including one bubbly. Completing the lineup are two imports – a delicate riesling from Germany’s Mosel region, and a savoury montepulciano from Abruzzo, Italy.
While several wines in the selection bear recommended prices over $15, they are frequently discounted and you should never have to pay the full price. As a guide, the price ranges I give cover the lowest discount price at time of writing and the recommended price.
Hay Shed Hill Pitchfork Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2015 $14.25–$16
Winemaker Michael Kerrigan praises Margaret River’s 2015 vintage, but laments the tiny quantities. He writes, “We experienced some of the wildest, windiest weather for decades” resulting in the record low yields. However, a dry and balmy end to the season ensured lively, grassy, herbaceous flavours in this classic, slurpy Margaret River blend.
Tahbilk Nagambie Lakes Marsanne 2015 $12.35–$18.85
The Purbrick family’s beautiful Tahbilk property sits on an anabranch of Victoria’s Goulburn River. The property holds one of the world’s oldest and largest plantings of marsanne, a Rhone Valley white variety. The richly textured wine offers pleasantly tart and savoury citrus-like flavours on a bone-dry palate.
Jacob’s Creek Classic Riesling 2015 $7.85–$12
Humble Jacob’s Creek often upstages expensive wines. In the recent National Show, for example, Jacob’s Creek Classic Pinot Gris, topped its class and won the best “other white variety” trophy. Jacob’s Classic Riesling, an even better wine on my scoresheet, captures the aromatic appeal and lime-like flavour intensity of this great variety – on a delicate, dry and beautifully refreshing palate.
Peter Mertes Mosel Riesling 2014 $9.99
Aldi’s semi-dry riesling comes from the vicinity of Kues, the village opposite Bernkastel on Germany’s Mosel River. The area produces some of the world’s great rieslings, noted for delicacy and intense flavour. Mertes captures the regional style with its full flavour, delicacy and good balance of high acidity and grapey sweetness.
De Bortoli Windy Peak Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013 $11.40–$14
De Bortoli’s classy touch with Yarra chardonnay shows even in their lower priced Windy Peak. Splitting the ferments between French oak casks and steel tanks combines freshness and varietal purity with depth and texture. The resulting wine presents deliciously fresh nectarine- and grapefruit-like varietal flavour on generous, vibrant, smooth dry palate.
Penfolds Koonunga Hill South Australia Chardonnay 2014 $13.30–$15
Like the De Bortoli wine, Penfolds chardonnay is produced in a combination of stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. The tank-fermented component preserves fresh peach- and melon-like varietal flavours; and the barrel component gives a smooth, creamy texture, a touch of spice and nut an exotic yeast-derived “funky” note.
Tyrrell’s Lost Block Hunter Valley Semillon 2015 $13–$18
Tyrrell’s offers a range of Hunter semillons from the austere, long-lived Vat 1 to this approachable Lost Block. It’s low in alcohol (11 per cent) and light and fresh on the palate, with the region’s delicious lemongrass- and citrus-like flavours. It’s one of Australia’s distinctive regional specialties.
Mr Mick Clare Valley Novo Sangiovese 2015 $12.80–$17
Tim Adams’ Novo Sangiovese 2015 sparks memories of the vibrant, light and fruity reds of France’s Beaujolais region. It’s a wine to enjoy lightly chilled, with or without food, during the warm months. The light crimson colour, shimmering, summer-berry flavours and tart tannins provide easy, refreshing drinking.
Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013 $8.90–$12
A favourite since its Australian debut in 1991, Riparosso starts with clean, fresh fruit flavours – before delicious, teasing, Italian savouriness sets in, distinguishing it from the generally more fruity Australian red styles and giving it a satisfying, dry, grippy finish. A Woolworths’ import, it’s available at Dan Murphy and BWS.
Jacob’s Creek South Australia Reserve Shiraz 2014 $14.25–$18
On a quality basis, Jacob’s Creek Reserve justifies its $18 recommended price. But it’s forever discounted, sometimes as low as $11. Lap it up and let the marketers worry about how they differentiate it from the standard Jacob’s Creek brand. The 2014 delivers pure, vibrant varietal fruit flavours on a medium-bodied, elegant palate.
De Bortoli Windy Peak Heathcote Shiraz 2014 $11.40–$15
Windy Peak provides a drink-now side of Heathcote shiraz. The region in general produces deep, dark savoury shiraz. But de Bortoli tames the beast by presenting more of the ripe, juicy, red-berry varietal flavours, with less grunt and savour. Fine, drying tannins and a savoury undercurrent add interest to a lovely red.
Taylors Estate Clare Valley Shiraz 2014 $13.95–$18
Taylors 2014 beat a who’s-who lineup to top the 2015 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge. The award followed a trophy and nine gold medals from other shows. The wine’s vivid fruit booms out of the glass and precisely predicts the juicy, soft palate that follows. Little wonder the judges lavished praise on it.
Twelve Signs Hilltops Cabernet Merlot 2014 $13–$14
The Hilltops region makes ripe, soft, medium-bodied reds with great drink-now appeal. Even at this modest price, Twelve Signs, from Moppity vineyards, captures the sweet-berry flavours of cabernet, the fragrance of merlot and the fine but strong tannins that distinguish good cabernet blends from other varieties.
Hesketh Twist of Fate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 $12
Jonathon Hesketh and Phil Lehmann capture the spirit of cabernet in this bistro-style red from South Australia’s Fleurieu region. Though light in colour and made for current drinking, it offers particularly vibrant, lively cabernet aromas and flavours on a bright, buoyant, gently gripping palate.
Hardys Sir James Pinot Noir Chardonnay Cuvee Brut $8.99–$15
With big stocks on hand, Accolade Wines, Hardys parent company, dropped the price on one of Australia’s most popular bubblies. Independent retailers leaped in, dropping the price to under $10, leaving the big retailers flat footed. It’s a light, flavoursome bubbly with gentle varietal flavours, subtle yeast-derived brioche-like notes and deliciously fresh finish.
Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2015
First published 19 and 20 December 2015 in goodfood.com.au and the Canberra Times