Ray Jordan’s Top 100 Reds 2017

Ray Jordan’s Top 100 red wines under $40

 

Introduction

The results of the West Australian’s annual Top 100 Red Wine tasting for wines selling for less than $40 has once again confirmed that the quality and value for money being offered is remarkable.

This year’s tasting was the biggest yet with nearly 650 wines entered from wineries across Australia. IT as a challenging exercise to cull back to the best 100 and obviously, a lot of very good wines missed out. Some of these near-misses will featured in my regular wine columns in The West and the Sunday Times in the coming weeks.

In many ways, the results showed a return to our knitting, with the strongest varieties the traditional staples of the Australian wine Industry, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. These came from many different areas but once again it was the long-established home of reds, the Barossa, which featured strongly.

I was a little disappointed that there were not more wines from some of the relatively new varieties such as sangiovese, tempranillo and others. Yes, there were some but these are now well established varieties in Australia and I would have thought more wines made from them would have sneaked into the final selection.

Pinot noir was another I was hoping to see more of, and while the ones I did choose are very good, as a varietal class the pinots were the weakest,

To give some context to the tasting, 80 wines were in the under $15 category, 140 in the $15 to $20, 188 in the $20 to $25 and a staggering 240 in the $25 to $40. Of these few than 10 wines were sealed with cork, reflecting the commitment of the winemakers to screw cape closures as the logical way to go.

The method for tasting so many wines is simple. I initially run through them and make a first run cut to bring the short list back to a more manageable 140 to 150 wines from which the serious business of the tasting begins.

This is where more detailed analysis takes place to get the list back to the final Top 100. As always I allow a few extra at this stage in case wines have been incorrectly submitted or vintage changed as they run out of stock.

In the end the final 100 wines reflected the number of wines submitted in each category.

The wines are entered in one of the four categories based on their retail price. I asked that the prices were based on the normal landed unit cost plus tastes and with a mark-up of 35 per cent. This is less than the usual full mark-up prices in retail, but with so much discounting especially in these lower priced wines, it makes sense to use that is the final price is more realistic.

And as always I suggest that you shop around because the level of discounting will almost certainly see most of these wines selling for less than the price I have used.

And so, to the overall quality. In short there are wines in each price category that I would be more than happy to drink. And that includes the under $15 bracket which continues to offer wines that punch above their weight.

When you move up in price you do move up in quality and sophistication, which in some cases had me questioning whether they have been mistakenly entered. But to the best of me endeavors to check you will find these all selling for less than $40.

When it came to choosing the best wine of the tasting, this was pretty much a no contest. The new Woodlands Clementine 2015 which sells for about $39 is as good a wine that I have seen in all the years I have been compiling this annual Top 100.

In fact, not long after I finished the tasting I was on the phone to Woodlands Andrew Watson to check on the price. If it had been $50 more it would not have fazed me. The quality of the fruit, the vintage and the oak use is of an extraordinary level for a wine selling for less than $40. This is a wine that if you can part with a few extra dollars should be a mandatory but the next time you are in the local bottle shop.

I know the best wine of the tasting is the most important gong but historically the wine that attracts the most interest is what I consider the best value. This year I had a real dilemma, In the under $15 category the Houghton Classic Red 2014 was superb and clearly the best but then in the $15 to $20 category is the Deep Woods shiraz et al 2015, which continues to amaze me that it can be less than $20.

IT was clearly the better wine, but when I factored in the price, which for the Houghton may well see it selling for less than $10 I had to choose it as the best value wine. But I would certainly endorse the Deep Woods shiraz et al, which is a stunner for the price.

The Best Wine

Woodlands Clementine 2015 ($39)

So here it is the unquestioned wine of the tasting. IT’s from one of the premiere producers in Margaret River that these days makes a range of outstanding wines right up to their outstanding cabernet. This is a blend of 55% cabernet with the remainder mainly merlot and Malbec and just a small amount of petit verdot. The remarkable thing is that this sophisticated and most expressive wine is selling for less than $40. The fruit intensity is superb and the oak so well managed. It is quality through and through and clearly has class stamped all over it. 96/100

Runner Up

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge shiraz 2014 ($40)

This estate has been turning out some marvelous shiraz for some years. And they seem to be getting better. These now mature vines are turning out exceptional fruit from this single vineyard. This is another shiraz that captures the essence of the region. It’s more medium bodied with a mix of gravelly subtle dusty earth characters complementing the sweet seductive fruit. There’s a subtle ironstone character that emerges. IT’s a wine with a distinct vineyard character.  96/100

The Wines $25-$40

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge shiraz 2014 ($40)

These now mature vines are turning out exceptional fruit from this single vineyard. This is another shiraz that captures the essence of the region. It’s more medium bodied with a mix of gravelly subtle dusty earth characters complementing the sweet seductive fruit. There’s a subtle ironstone character that emerges. IT’s a wine with a distinct vineyard character.  96/100

Millbrook Estate shiraz viognier 2014 ($33.50)

Millbrook along with Yalumba and Yering Station has been a campion of viognier and this blend. Once again the guys have got it right with the dominance of the shiraz the striking feature and the spicy aromatic viognier bringing some additional lift on the nose. Plump and fleshy with a driving finish. 95/100

Vasse Felix shiraz 2014 ($37)

Vasse Felix is best known for its cabernets yet it has some great old vine shiraz with the result you get wines like this. Clearly one of the best they have made in a distinguished line of shiraz over the years. Aromatics with dusty savory plum and a sprinkle of earth with grainy chewy tannins balancing the fruit. 95/100

Willow Bridge Gravel Pit shiraz 2015 ($30)

Georgeous example of Geographe shiraz. It’s been a wine that has steadily improved and been refined over the years and is now a consistently impressive wine. Grainy tannins and fine oak combine to bring the best out of the quality fruit. 94/100

Yelland & Papps Devote Greenock shiraz 2015 ($32.75)

The Greenock area within the Barossa has a distinctive and individua character that emerges in these red wines. Loads of rich dark chocolate and plush ripe fruit. Intense and multi-layered with masses of persistence and driving intensity. 94/100

Leeuwin Estate Art Series shiraz 2014 ($38.90)

Love the way this variety has come into its own at Leeuwin. This is a more medium bodied expression showing impeccable balance and integration. Silky smooth tannins and fine grained oak with a savoury fruit character. Totally seamless plate is superb. 94/100

Seppelt Great Western Chalambar shiraz 2015 ($27.30)

Have been a devotee to the wine for more years than I care to remember. This comes 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

Pepperjack shiraz 2015 ($30)

This has become a consistent wine over the years and this one nails it yet again. Comes from the Barossa and is treated with a degree of finesse to capture the best from this excellent fruit. You could keep this for a few years to get an extra dimension. 93/100

Hardys Tintara McLaren Vale shiraz 2015 ($28)

One of the oldest names in McLaren Vale. The place has been revitalized in recent years but throughout the renos the wines has remained superb. This is loaded with spicy blackberry and earthy savoury fruit. It’s deep and dark with a chewy plate that carries to a very long finish.

93/100

Mount Pleasant Philip shiraz 2014 ($27)

The 2014 vintage was the stuff of legends and how fitting that one of the most famous wines in the region has emerged triumphantly in this tasting. This s Hunter shiraz in all its distinctiveness best with a little minerally dusty earthiness balancing the ripe medium bodied fruit. These wines are classically about food. 93/100

Yering Station Village shiraz viognier 2015 ($40)

The white aromatic viognier has been added as a clever condiment to ring the palate and the nose to life. Balanced with so well managed throughout to show the best of this combination.

92/100

St John’s Road Block 8 Maywald Selection shiraz 2016 ($40)

A beautifully aromatic shiraz from the Ebenezer region within the Barossa. Valley. It’s a relatively high vineyard on shallow rocky soils and the aim was to retain those lovely aromatics in the cool fermentation approach. Vibrant with a minerally thread and fine rained understated oak. 92/100

Mitolo Angela shiraz 2015 ($35)

This is one of the more stylish and refined shiraz from McLaren Vale. Silky smooth with god flavor intensity. Balanced with the fine tannins supporting the pure varietal fruit. 92/100

St John’s Road Block 8 Maywald Selection shiraz 2016 ($40)

A beautifully aromatic shiraz from the Ebenezer region within the Barossa. Valley. It’s a relatively high vineyard on shallow rocky soils and the aim was to retain those lovely aromatics in the cool fermentation approach. Vibrant with a minerally thread and fine rained understated oak. 92/100

Cabernet sauvignon

Hardy’s HRB cabernet sauvignon 2015 ($35)

A bled of Coonawarra McLaren Vale and Frankland River cabernet . Defined and elegant with such beautiful refinement. Leafy black olive and black currant. A wonderful example of how sourcing great fruit from different regions can produce some quite special. 95/100

Yalumba The Cigar cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($27)

The Cigar refers to the shape of the special piece of dirt in Coonawarra where the distinctive terra rosa soils impart their characters to the wines. This is one of the best. IT comes from the Menzies Vineyard and displays the leafy black currant frit of the region with that wonderful aromatic lift on the nose. 95/100

Xanadu cabernet sauvignon 2013 ($37)

Another stunning statement of classic Margaret River cabernet. Packed with all those black currant, plums and chocolate black olive characters you expect. Powerful it is but there’s polish and finesse here that stamps it as a wine of the highest class. 95/100

Houghton Wisdom cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($37)

This wine is sourced from Margaret River. IT is a wonderful expression of the region with its elegance and refinement. Such a perfect combination of fruit and oak. Leafy fruit with a slightly cedary oak character delivered with deliberate understatement. The palate though is chock full of sweet ripe fruit balanced against powdery fine tannins. Superbly sourced and crafted. 95/100

Hay Shed Hill cabernet sauvignon 2014 ($27.30)

A balanced and polished expression of Margaret River cabernet sauvignon. A mix of red and black fruit on the nose with a certain tobacco leaf and dark chocolate subtlety. The palate is the real strength here with its grainy tannin showing a subtle iron filings minerality with blackcurrant dominance and some nice savoury oak. A wine for now or cellaring. Great potential at this price. 93/100

Pinot noir

Devil’s Corner Resolution pinot noir 2015 ($35)

This is a more full-bodied style of pinot with stack of black fruit sowing a hint of sour cherry and spiciness to bring some balance into the mix. A quality impressive wine with richness and chewy tannins adding another dimension. Will cellar rather well.  95/100

Coldstream Hills pinot noir 2015 ($36.50)

Classically defined and presented pinot noir from this famous Yarra Valley producer. Perfumed and highly scented with sweet fruit complemented by a forest floor sweet and sour edge. Exotic spices lift the finish. Fine silky tannins and fine grained oak create a perfectly structured palate.  93/100

Port Phillip Estate Red Hill pinot noir 2016 ($39)

An excellent producer from down in Mornington making several outstanding pinots. This one hits it mighty well with its fragrant aromas and smooth exquisitely balanced palate profile. 93/100

Delamere Naissante pinot noir 2015 ($27)

This small producer from the Pipers Brook region of Tasmania is making some of the best wines from the Apple Isle. This is such an elegant and beautifully refined pinot noir. Lovely perfumed red cherry and spices with a little sweet strawberry influence. 93/100

Castle Rock Estate pinot noir 2015 ($35)

One of the best pinot makers in western Australia. This is another excellent wine from Rob Dilleti showing the refinement and spicy cherry characters that stamp this style. But this has structure and firmness which means it has the capacity to age further. 93/100

Blends

Woodlands Clementine 2015 ($39)

So here it is the unquestioned wine of the tasting. A blend of 55% cabernet with the remainder mainly merlot and Malbec and just a small amount of petit verdot. The remarkable thing is that this sophisticated and most expressive wine is selling for less than $40. The fruit intensity is superb and the oak so well managed. It is quality through and through and clearly has class stamped all over it. 96/100

Torbreck The Steading 2015 (37.50)

Grenache mataro and shiraz make up this fascinating Barossa bled. It is a glorious expression of the style with such balance and richness held with precision and deftness. An exquisite wine that is so well balanced. 95/100

Ulithorne Specialis 2015 ($27)

A distinctive Spanish blend of tempranillo, Grenache and graciano. Savoury and fruity with an impressive balance which is the hallmark of these wines. Has such a wonderful mouthfeel with the tannin and oak balance spot on to ensure the essential fruit characters remain untouched. 94/10

Flametree cabernet sauvignon merlot 2014 ($30)

Exotic spices and perfumes on the nose herald this excellent classy wine at a relatively modest price. Loads of blackberry and coffee grinds on the nose. The palate is dense with grainy tannins and fine grained oak working neatly with the ripe fullish fruit. Balanced dry finish completes an excellent wine. 94/100

Amelia Park cabernet merlot 2015 ($29)

This blend of cabernet and merlot nails the style for a medium term cellaring totally pleasing red wine. Good depth of fruit supported with slightly grainy tannin, and a lick of oak. The palate is so well balanced with the blackcurrant and fruit satsuma plum flavours bursting through to the long

finish. 94/100

Singlefile Clement V 2016 ($30)

An excellent blend of shiraz Grenache and mataro. Grainy chewy tannins and fine grained oak support the beautifully lush and perfumed fruit. Balanced with great depth and persistence through to the finish. Lovely mouth feel.

94/100

Henschke Henry’s Seven 2015 ($39)

Simply gorgeous wine of great balance and poise. This wine always emerges as a class at. It’s a shiraz Grenache viognier blend and the combination creating a velvety smooth seamless palate. Highly perfumed with exotic spices and darker fruit characters. 94/100

Thompson Estate cabernet merlot 2013 ($35)

Has emerged as one of the premier producers in Margaret River, thanks to the unwavering commitment. This is an excellent example of the Margs style with the firmness of cabernet perfectly complemented by the plumper flesh of the merlot. A cracking od wine. 93/100

Teusner Joshua 2015 ($31)

Poise and mouth feel are what this charming Grenache mataro and shiraz from the Barossa is all about. So silky smooth with fine gained oak and smooth silky tannins erectly complementing the rich fruit. So much to like about this terrific wine. 93/100

Leconfield cabernet merlot 2015 ($35) 

The perfume of Coonawarra is evident from the first sniff into this captivating blend. Loaded with a mix of choc mint and blackcurrant with the fine-grained oak and silky tannins providing great support. 92/100

Other varieties

Yelland & Papps Second Take Grenache 2016 (32.75)

This is made using basic winemaking. It’s vegan friendly and is unfined and unfiltered so you get down to basics with the finished product. Has a great mouth feel and such multilayered flavours. Structure and interesting with each glass. 92/100

Turkey Flat mataro 2016 ($36)

Love this variety. Has an earthy spiciness with some nice raspberry nuances and spicy plum. A little dark plummy fruit cake with a neat lick of oak. There’s plenty of chewy mouthfeel here with great texture and mouth feel. These guys have been doing terrific things with mataro for years. 92/100