A McLaren Vale-sourced white wine that explores the more unctuous and textural side of the viognier and marsanne grapes. Golden in the glass, the bouquet is strong in viognier notes – citrus, honey, apricot – swamping the more delicate features of marsanne’s jasmine florals. The palate, while well-rounded and textural - is likewise overtly viognier-focussed with an apricot honeyed-ness that is a little cloying.
Score: 86/100 TO: 2021 Alc: 13.3%
Sometimes also known as savagnin, savarro is a grape that hails from the Jura region in France. It has become something of a flagship wine for Soumah, creating much interest with the sommelier set because of its food friendly ways. It has a strong presence in the glass with mineral, exotic spice and honeysuckle flavours and a pronounced, smooth texture. There’s a wildness to this wine, a kind of wild herb thread, that is appealing and different.
Score: 90/100 TO: 2025 Alc: 13%
Not too long ago the name trebbiano was a dirty word in the Australian wine industry, a grape that was definitely on the outer with makers and drinkers alike, a mere bulk grape for the wine cask market. Vines were pulled out and replaced with more fashionable varieties. Look at what Torzi Matthews has achieved with the grape and you wonder why. The grape is re-fashioned as a subtle, gently-flavoured dry white with a distinctive savouriness. It’s a rough-hewn grape suited to a rustic country wine informality. More please.
Score: 94/100 TO: 2027 Alc: 12.5%
This Yarra Valley producer with the experienced Ben Haines (ex-Mitchelton) in the winemaking chair is kicking goals with the Rhone Valley white grape, marsanne. It understands the grape very well and marries oak sparingly (six months in mostly two-year-old French oak) producing a wine bright, fresh and utterly delicious. Trademark honeysuckle, jasmine and attractive florals and citrus on the bouquet lead into a balanced, well integrated wine.
Score: 95/100 TO: 2030 Alc: 12.8%
In typical Bass Phillip fashion, yields were low with less than 100 dozen of this wine produced. Winemaker Phillip Jones goes in search of concentrated, complex fruit flavour and comes up trumps with a powerful, muscular chardonnay. Expansive bouquet of fine-edged flintiness, stone and citrus glace fruits, almond, baked bread, cashew nuts and sweet toasty oak lead into a mouth-filling chardonnay experience. This cool climate chardonnay is pretty deep and dark, sustained by a rare balance between richness and acidity.
Score: 93/100 TO: 2031 Alc: 12.5%
Flametree Wines notches up its tenth birthday this year, a landmark in any wine producer’s book. The maker is known for its gently-textured chardonnays, a more subdued version of the classic Margaret River style. This approach continues with the 2016 chardonnay release. Attractive bergamot orange and citrus notes to the fore on the bouquet with background dried herbs. Seaspray and oyster shell on the palate and bright citrus fruit flavours join on the palate in a well-structured wine that is drinking well right now.
Score: 89/100 TO: 2022 Alc: 13%
Hunter Valley chardonnay is all about a long, middle palate and texture, features that winemaker, Andrew Margan brings to his White Label “small volume, single batches” chardonnay. Pear, citrus and oatmealy aromas, fine and subtle reach out of the glass. It has a subtle, savoury palate, quite understated really, that offers a warm texture.
Score: 89/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 13.5%
Cold Chalk? It’s a reference to the style of Old World chardonnays the young Mr Riggs encountered back in the 80s – wines he says were “like drinking cold chalk soup” – and to which his heart still belongs. In the Adelaide Hills, he has a great source of inspiration with fruit off the Tomich Vineyard and here we see a wine that is beautifully formed from the roast hazelnut, nougat scents and strong primary fruit intensity on the nose through to the super tangy palate. A wine in the less-is-more philosophy that sings.
Score: 90/100 TO: 2027 Alc: 12.5%
Dr Peter Thompson is a Perth cardiologist – ‘The Specialist’ in this wine’s title - who could never be accused of merely dabbling in winemaking. He’s serious, as the release of this striking, complex four-year-old chardonnay reveals. Figs, almond, baked bread, biscuit and attractive white peach and kaffir lime introduce this bold wine. While complex in fruit flavour, the palate owes a great deal of its poise to some smart oak handling and winemaking techniques.
Score: 95/100 TO: 2029 Alc: 13.5%
Yarra Valley producer, TarraWarra has a long track record when it comes to the chardonnay grape. Increasingly, winemaker Clare Halloran has taken to pursuing individual vineyards, hence this wine from the South Block, a site she looks to for “refined and elegant” chardonnay. It opens with attractive citrus, white peach, fig fruit intensity. It’s a harmonious, bright palate with lemon zest and crunchy acidity. Nice balance. Should continue on for another decade.
Score: 91/100 TO: 2025 Alc: 12.5%
On the evidence of this wine from Devil’s Corner, it would seem that pinot grigio has a bright future in Tasmania. Grapes from the East Coast and the Tamar Valley were sourced for this attractive grigio that reveals its varietal signature immediately with a lightly spiced apple freshness on both the nose and the palate. It is a fragrant, subtle wine intertwining citrus and pear on the palate with a surprising level of texture.
Score: 87/100 TO: 2020 Alc: 12.5%
The future of pinot gris/grigio, a white grape with a pink-red skin, is definitely looking more dramatic. Once producers sought to remove any hint of pink hue that came with the skins mixing with juice in the winemaking process, but not anymore. Skins are embraced and no-where with more effectiveness than at Moorooduc Estate where the gris transformation is electric: from the arresting scent of raspberry, plums and an intriguing confection quality on the bouquet to a palate that is more tannic, more drying than most standard gris. The wine has been made like a red wine. And it works. Shut your eyes and taste . . .
Score: 93/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 14%
Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula pioneered the pinot gris grape and while it’s taken a while for most producers to come around, it is now viewed as the second most important white grape of the region, after chardonnay. Ocean Eight’s Mike Aylward is a firm believer. His 2016 gris is linear and fine-boned and a tad under-developed. More time in bottle will see its individual parts combine and meld. Pretty floral and fruit blossom scent opens the bouquet. The palate is quiet with some attractive apple, citrus flavours newly emerging. Needs time.
Score: 90/100 TO: 2024 Alc: 13%
Sam Coverdale at Polperro is a strong proponent of pinot gris and has high hopes that it will eventually replace sauvignon blanc in the hearts - and wine glasses - of Australian wine drinkers. He blends fruit from two vineyards and searches out ways of maximising the grape’s hugely attractive textural appeal and spice. His 2016 gris plays to these attributes with spiced apple and honeysuckle on the bouquet leading to a big mouthful of ripeness and yes, texture.
Score: 91/100 TO: 2024 Alc: 13.3%
The pinot gris grape has pink-red skin, something that many wine producers work hard at avoiding in the colour of their finished gris wines. Not Sirromet. Winemaker Adam Chapman embraces the grape’s natural pink and in keeping the colour, he also keeps a fair degree of other goodies, too. Delicious salmon pink, Granite Belt-grown gris is all confection, boiled lolly, baked apple and apricot on the nose. This is an unctuous wine, thick on palate, giving the impression of sweetness but the winemaker assures drinkers (on the back label graphic) that it is indeed, dry.
Score: 88/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 14.5%
Watervale in the Clare Valley is a sub-region with a most distinctive – and attractive – fragrant, floral beauty. Dried flowers, stone-fruit and citrus blossoms with honeysuckle, the bouquet is quietly intense. The palate opens with lemon skin, spice and a lingering citrus juiciness combined with a high-ish level of bright acidity. Acid hounds will love this wine’s juicy tartness. Classic in structure, it offers a vibrant, lingering taste.
Score: 88/100 TO: 2027 Alc: 12.4%
Viognier is one of those grapes that people either get . . . or they don’t. Not sure why, maybe it’s because some viognier can often be over-ripe and just too powerful. Clonakilla carefully walks the line between the kind of ripeness essential for viognier’s characteristic honey apricot flavour line, and the brightness of acidity needed to lift the wine in the mouth. It is a well-balanced example of how good Australian viognier can be.
Score: 92/100 TO: 2028 Alc: 13.5%
Sometimes referred to as the lost grape of Bordeaux, Saint Macaire is an obscure variety which has found a home in California and in Australia’s Riverina at Calabria Wines. It has a rustic, earthy, open appeal, black and blue fruits, the odd floral note, pomegranate and spice combine nicely on the bouquet. A warm buzz of oak permeates through the dense palate with sweet licorice a dominant flavour. Medium in body and easy to enjoy.
Score: 86/100 TO: 2021 Alc: 13%
Delicacy is the theme here with a fine, fragrant style of nebbiolo highlighting the Italian grape’s undoubted seductiveness. Still in its youth, it has a long way to go and it seems a shame to broach a bottle now. If you do, you’ll find a most elegant wine, perfumed and intriguing. Roses and potpourri on the bouquet are part of the floral prettiness that is intrinsic to the grape together with fresh cherries and raspberries. Tightly focused and well structured, this long-flavoured nebbiolo belies its six years in bottle and looks a pup. Love to see how it develops.
Score: 92/100 TO: 2027 Alc: 14.6%
The Italian love of savouriness shines through in this King Valley sangiovese and is a major feature of the wine. Meat, prune and red fruits to the fore on the bouquet alongside a touch of polished leather. The palate is concentrated showing ripe-berry flavours, a load of spice, licorice, pepper and more of that delightful savouriness. Fine tannins to close.
Score: 89/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 13.8%
Stephen Henschke first ventured into making a solo mataro back in 2010 to raise funds for the Barossa Valley’s historic Gnadenberg (CORRECT) Church. Made only in good years , he embraces the grape’s riper side, an exploration that is all about rich, black and red fruits, sour cherry, blueberry, running the full gamut of spices. Dusty beets, white pepper build on the palate and together with fine tannins the wine finishes well and long.
Score: 89/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 14.5%
The Eden Valley is the source for this attractive, floral scented nebbiolo that holds more in reserve than a first tasting might suggest. Mid red colour, the wine starts off quite fruit-driven – cherries, plum, subtle spice – but it’s a lot more than simple cherry fruit. This wine’s gentle introduction underplays a taut wine that goes on to reveal real depth and character, finishing with genuine intensity.
Score: 92/100 TO: 2030 Alc: 12.5%
Exploring the dark side of a dark grape, Hamish Seabrook goes in boots and all with a Barossa Valley-sourced mataro (aka mourvedre) that is both wild and lovable in nature. It’s alive with the kind of meaty, savoury personality that many will find attractive. Chocolate, leather and fresh earth to start on the bouquet and in the mouth with arresting, bold tannins. A big wine, full of generous flavours, give it some air first.
Score: 90/100 TO: 2024 Alc: 14.8%
The Australian wine industry lost one of its most talented winemakers in 2017 with the death of Don Lewis. His winemaking partner, Narelle King, is bravely moving forward without her long time mentor. Among the last wines that she and Lewis worked together on are the 2016 vintage releases. They are a fine testament to Lewis’ craft. Dense and purple, a powerful scent of blackberry, black cherries, plums and capers rises from the glass. In beautiful balance, this young sangiovese sings with enchanting ripe berry flavours intersected by a savoury running thread.
Score: 93/100 TO: 2025 Alc: 13%
This was the last vintage that Don Lewis, a great Victorian winemaker, participated in at Tar & Roses before succumbing to cancer. Tempranillo was a great love and his work in Spain together with winemaker partner, Narelle King, gave their brand a head start with the variety. So delicious, the 2016 strikes the right balance and structure for the variety with ample sweet spicy black fruits confined nicely within a fine tannic structure and backbone. A wine with longevity on its mind, the palate is deep and layered.
Score: 93/100 TO: 2027 Alc: 14%
You read correctly, this tempranillo from the New England wine region of New South Wales is indeed from the 2012 vintage. It shows it, too, with a more developed colour in the glass hedging on brown and, with little primary fruit showing, this tempranillo is all about secondary and savoury flavours. Earth, mushroom and autumnal notes with sweet aniseed and spice. It’s an interesting wine but possibly getting a little tired.
Score: 86/100 TO: 2020 Alc: 13.7%
Going against the trend that generally sees mataro, aka mourvedre, as mere blending material, Turkey Flat reaches out to believers with a little gem. Trademark cinnamon, cloves and cracked pepper with redcurrant fruit offers distinctive, attractive aromas before moving into plums, violets and anise on the palate. A sinewy, savoury wines with attractive earthy undertones.
Score: 90/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 13.5%
Cabernet’s fortunes in McLaren Vale are waning in favour of shiraz and alternative grapes, but d’Arenberg shows year after year why the grape deserves our attention and our money. Tiny yields are a big part of this wine’s complexity and depth of flavour with bay leaf, dense black berries, cinnamon, clove and chocolate on the bouquet. The palate’s strength is, aside from lovely, bright fruit, the surprising fineness of structure and dry, sinewy tannic finish. A nice little package all round.
Score: 92/100 TO: 2029 Alc: 14.1%
A rich, generous flavoured young cabernet from Langhorne Creek with a solid core of sweet fruit that is typical of the region. Aromas of blackberry, ripe plum, chocolate, cinnamon and a load of spice and vanilla are all part of what is a very busy wine. The palate reflects the bouquet with the flavour volume turned way up with fine, soft tannins and good length. Tending towards the syrupy but there’s no denying it is chock full of flavour.
Score: 88/100 TO: 2027 Alc: 14.5%
Paul Osicka Wines is a pioneering name on the Heathcote wine scene. It’s a quiet, unassuming wine name, but one with a loyal following due to decades of consistent red wine quality in shiraz and cabernet sauvignon. Winemaker Simon Osicka combines power with finesse in a wine built to age. An alluring bouquet, like a wander through an old cellar: damp earth and sweetly fungal and dark. Stacked full of ripe black fruits and spice, this is a seamlessly balanced wine of highlighting the effortless poise of old vine fruit and great winemaking .
Score: 97/100 TO: 2030 Alc: 14.5%
We are well accustomed to the cabernet styles of Margaret River, the berry/leafy fruit, the palate so smooth and elegant and approachable. Great Southern offers a different expression, a herbal/floral-charged version of cabernet/merlot with a touch of the familiar and ever-so-delightful eucalyptus, a reminder of that part of the world where towering karris grow. Singlefile gives us blueberry, cassis and toasty influences, cigar box in style. This is a sophisticated wine with ripe, sweet fruit and a fine tannin backbone.
Score: 91/100 TO: 2026 Alc: 14.1%
Stella Bella’s Serie Luminosa (‘Brilliant Series’ in Italian) label in reserved for the best wines of each vintage. This wine plays to Margaret River’s renowned cabernet sauvignon strengths: juicy black fruits with a light herbal thread. A generous, complex wine with rosehip and spice on the palate, it finishes autumnal and earthy.
Score: 90/100 TO: 2025 Alc: 14.3%
The 2014 vintage was one of the earliest vintages ever experienced at Voyager Estate, starting January 29. The effect on Girt By Sea cabernet merlot is hard to judge but the wine appears to be firmer and more tannic in character than previous releases. It opens full of black fruit and spice, albeit with a noticeable herbal thread. Maturation was in French and American oak for 12 months, producing high tannic grip. The overall impression is of a modest wine on the leaner side with a hardness that is a little off putting.
Score: 86/100 TO: 2020 Alc: 14%
Strange to see a wine made under a French winemaker’s brand brandishing 15% alcohol. I think some drinkers used to Chapoutier’s Rhone Valley reds, might be surprised. The alcohol is certainly a stand out feature in this savoury, meaty grenache sourced from Chapoutier’s Landsborough Vineyard. Very ripe, black fruit and funky earth aromas introduce what is a robust, hearty wine. It’s a little old school, a big rich mouthful of grenache which may not be to everyone’s taste.
Score: 89/100 TO: 2022 Alc: 15%
Attractive nose of blackberry, chocolate, dark plums and lifted spice. Very approachable. The attraction in this wine is the balanced oak and gentle tannins allowing the fruit to be the star. And it certainly is together with a bright pepperiness that is never overdone or sharp. The result is a plump, highly drinkable merlot that leaps out of the glass. A nice drinking red. What more do you need?
Score: 92/100 TO: 2022 Alc: 13.5%
A Hunter Valley (Burton) and a Yarra Valley (McMahon) winemaker get together each year to explore pinot noir and chardonnay. It’s been an interesting ride. In Gippsland, they explore pinot noir in a super cool, wet region that is fast showing great potential with the grape. The use of grape stems in the ferment brings forth intense herbals which, together with the scent of redcurrant and red cherry fruit, is quite striking. The palate is sappy, floral and macerated sweet cherry, the structure is lean and the finish is compact and tight.
Score: 95/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 13%
Our Cliff Block pinot noir represents the highest quality, most site specific pinot noir that we can make,” says Rob Lightfoot. The owner prizes the intensity and power of the fruit off the Gippsland block, something easily translatable for drinkers in the taste. Highly aromatic, the perfume of sweet red fruits and intense florals is arresting. The heart of the wine is an intense core of ripe, complex fruit concentration and balance with barely a note out of place. Smart oak handling caps off a great wine.
Score: 96/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 13%
This wine has a fragrant and beautifully complex bouquet: cherries, plums, cranberries, beetroot and musk. It has a lot of flavour and body, a real mouthful of deliciousness with ripe fruit, mocha chocolate in a lightly savoury style. Mocha oak on the finish is perhaps a little overdone but, nevertheless, this is an enjoyable, easy-drinking pinot.
Score: 91/100 TO: 2020 Alc: 14%
In just a few short years – from the first vintage in 2013 – the Magdziarz family with winemaker Ben Haines has made a big impact on the Yarra Valley wine scene with a series of well-crafted, exciting wines. Elegance is a key feature. The 2015 pinot opens with an alluring fragrance, punchy and aromatic, with red fruits and spice. The palate shows good depth of sweet fruit, firm and tight. The wine is youthful and just two years into its journey has a long way to go. Needs time to knit.
Score: 93/100 TO: 2023 Alc: 13%
The power and abundance of flavour that is Barossa shiraz is on display in this well-crafted shiraz. It offers a complex aroma of earth, leather, stewed blackberries and blue fruits. Moving onto the palate the shiraz shows nicely restrained ripe fruit with savoury overtones and a high tannic grip. A wine built for time in the cellar but also most approachable right now.
Score: 92/100 TO: 2026 Alc: 14.5%
The former chief Penfolds winemaker, a son of the Barossa, knows just about everything there is to know about Barossa fruit. His experienced hand guides this wine with 52% of shiraz off old vineyards in the Krondorf and Ebenezer sub-regions. It melts the cockles with a wine of great warmth and approachability, from the intense black fruits, black strap licorice and chocolate on the bouquet, through to the juicy red and black pastille, quality tannins and integrated oak.
Score: 90/100 TO: 2021 Alc: 14.5%
It would appear that the release of Hill of Grace from a noticeably excellent vintage such as 2012 was good reason for the Henschke family to put the price up to $825 a bottle. Competition with Penfold’s Grange is turning into quite a price race. Price aside, what we have here is a wine of great fruit purity – the winemaker reports miserably low yields under one tonne to the acre which concentrate flavour incredibly – and a slow-release example of wine power in the glass. A deeply coloured wine with intense blackberry, dark plum, blueberry, exotic spice notes, it strikes a near perfect balance with oak. Everything is here just waiting for time to do its work.
Score: 98/100 TO: 2033 Alc: 14.5%
It was a beautiful vintage,” enthuses Stephen Henschke, winemaker. “Lots of sunshine.” The understudy to Henschke flagship, Hill of Grace, the fruit is sourced off the Hill of Grace vineyard but with vines entering their second decade, fruit considered too young for HOG. The maker believes it lacks the depth of HOG which might be true (HOR is half the price), but it remains an impressive wine nonetheless. A fine-textured wine, it is open and inviting in the glass with bursts of raised spices and sweet fruit interspersed an intriguing herbal leafiness. Supremely youthful and fresh, it retains primary fruit indicating that it has a long journey ahead.
Score: 95/100 TO: 2025 Alc: 14.5%
Shiraz and mourvedre are inter-planted on the same 50-year-old vineyard giving rise to what the Margans call a traditional field blend. “It is the only example of this unique combination in the Hunter,” reads the back label to this wine. It certainly makes for an interesting wine, one chunky, sweet fruited and upfront in its appeal. The scent of beef stock, plums and nutmeg spice opens the bouquet. Sweet, ripe shiraz fruit and chocolate, spice-infused mourvedre deliver a round, succulent wine finishing soft and persistent.
Score: 88/100 TO: 2020 Alc: 14.5%
Herbert ‘HJ’ Oliver is fourth generation Oliver and the man who worked hard to transform the family’s McLaren Vale property over to grape growing. It is fitting that his name adorns this wine made from old vine shiraz grapes planted in 1948. It’s a solid, dense wine with concentrated black-fruit, cinnamon, clove and earth balanced by some savoury elements, well-handled wood and ripe tannins. It slips across the palate, plush in texture.
Score: 93/100 TO: 2025 Alc: 14.5%
A smart, cool climate shiraz that is soft and fleshy and succulent. The colour is almost iridescent in purple shades, very attractive. Florals rise from the glass. Is that violets and lavender? Fruit-sweet it starts coating the mouth immediately in red and black berries, spice supported by more florals, finishing with just a lick of mint. Tannins are gentle, the texture is warm and inviting. This is a wine of substance within an attractive medium body.
Score: 92/100 TO: 2021 Alc: 14.5%
The Irish connection is strong at Clonakilla. Founder, John Kirk, was born in Ireland and established Clonakilla outside Canberra in 1971. You’ll find a number of the wines made by his son, Tim, share Irish-inspired names. Ballinderry, Irish for “place of the oak,” beautifully encapsulates not only the cool climate nature of the vineyard site, but the charm of the merlot grape which leads the blend (38 per cent). With support from cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, Ballinderry offers a smooth, complete wine with a solid core of ripe, blackberry, plum fruits and just a hint of leafiness. The gentle floral notes particularly delight. Still has a way to go.
Score: 93/100 TO: 2030 Alc: 14.5%
Non Irish-speaking drinkers will be relieved to see a pronunciation guide to Ceoltoiri (keel-toy-ree) on the back label. It’s Irish for musicians (the Kirk family love their music). This is an interesting wine on a number of levels. Mourvedre takes the lead as grape, followed by grenache, shiraz, cinsault and new Rhone Valley red grape, counoise. Not sure exactly what counoise brings to the wine, but Ceoltoiri is a youthful, fruit-driven drink full of bright cherry, plum flavours but ultimately lacking in intensity. It’s best suited to early drinking which is certainly not in line with the usual Clonakilla offerings.
Score: 88/100 TO: 2020 Alc: 14%
This is not only an imaginative blend of two Italian red grapes but a statement about marriage equality. You don’t see that on wine labels every day, but Heartland has had an ongoing campaign for some time, with $1 from every bottle of lagrein/dolcetto – now Sposa e Sposa - sold going to support Australian Marriage Equality. It’s a fine wine to lead the campaign, a creative mix of sweet dolcetto and tannin-rich lagrein. Blackcurrant pastille, prunes, dark spices and a noticeable trace of oak greet the nose. Vanillin oak is still there on the palate mixing with some savoury, black cherry notes. Mint twang makes a nice closing statement.
Score: 92/100 TO: 2021 Alc: 14.5%
The botrytis mould has worked some of its honeyed magic on the taming grape, a CSIRO-developed Aussie grape grown outside Mildura. Perfectly sweet (that is, with acidity in balance), it bursts forth with a rich apricot, marmalade and delicious honeysuckle intensity. With four years in bottle, flavours are developing nicely.
Score: 89/100 TO: 2022 Alc: 11%