The Top 100 whites and sparkling wines under $40
By Ray Jordan, Wine Editor
Whether you only want to spend around $10 or bottle or can fork out $30 or $40 the good news is that there is plenty of superb white and sparkling wines to choose from this summer. The real value is to be found in the sub $20 categories but with the level of discounting at the moment you can also find great value at the higher price points.
To help you choose you best drinking for Christmas, New Year and the summer ahead, we have this year combined the white and sparkling wines into the one special edition.
After tasting through nearly 500 wines I have chosen a Top 100. I have selected 70 white wines all selling for $40 or less while the 30 Australian sparkling wines are across all price points, which means they offer the very best of the best in Aussie fizz. For simplicity I have broken the sparkling wine section down into $20 and under and over $20. (For the best in French champagne, check out the West’s Saturday Magazine this coming weekend).
An interesting feature in this year’s tasting was the high number of pinot grigios and a few pinot gris submitted. This is in keeping with the strong growth in this variety and style in recent years in Australia. To be honest they are not wines that I have particularly liked in the past but with an open mind I tackled them in the tasting and found some surprisingly good wines.
One of the biggest problems with the variety that can turned into the fine and lean pinot grigio style, most famous in Italy, or the bigger and fatter pinot gris style of France. The range of winemaking interpretations has made it pretty difficult for consumers to know what they are getting.
Fortunately there is a consistency now and also a better handling of the variety. The wines that came up well in this year’s tasting are all excellent drinking. In the main they are all of the pinot grigio style which is ideally suited for those afternoon tipples when you just want to sip on a chilled glass of wine at the end of the day.
It was also very pleasing to see the high number of outstanding Rieslings coming through in all price categories. This is a variety that once dominated our drinking in this country, yet for more years than I care to remember it has been largely out of favour.
There has been more talk of the second coming of riesling than probably even of that slightly more famous guys who is about 2000 years overdue.
Unlike pinot grigio, which can sprout up almost anywhere into a halfway decent wine, Riesling does require specific environments to show its best. The wines are South Australia’s Clare and Eden Valleys together with those from WA’s Great Southern are quite superb.
Once again that standard of the chardonnays was exceptional. In fact deciding which to leave out was a real challenge.
Australian winemakers have really come to grips with this variety over the past 10 years and now make wines that combine power and elegance with none of those big butter fat overly oak characters that resulted in this great variety losing its way and losing favour with wine drinkers.
Well, chardonnay is well and truly back. Some of the wines are the top end of the tasting in the higher price categories were exceptional and could easily sell for a lot more.
The sparkling wines were very strong in all price points. I expected the higher priced wines to be very good and they were.
But I was amazed at the standard in the sub $20 category with some wines which sell for less than $10 offering very attractive drinking, especially if you are looking at entertaining a big number of people over Christmas and New Year and want to save a few dollars.
Because the white and sparkling wines have been combined into one feature, the pricing is a little different for both.
In the whites I have stuck with the four price ranges – Under $15, $15 to $20, $20 to $25 and $25 to $40. IN the sparkling wines I have just the two – Under $20 and $20 and over, with no upper limit.
The pricing listed is based on all standard taxes with a standard mark-up. Now this might mean that the price you see in the bottle shop is different – either high or lower. IT is the nature of today’s discounting that the prices will vary from store to store and chain to chain. All I can say is that it makes sense to shop around and look for the best deals.
And remember to check out the discounts of buying by the case or half case, as this is a great way to get real value into your summer wine drinking.
Best White Wine
Xanadu chardonnay 2014 ($35) – 95 points
Glenn Goodall has been making some of the finest Australian chardonnays for a few years now so it is no surprise that this wonderful wine should come up trumps. Not only that when you consider the price it is also great value. A really pure expression of chardonnay with no malolactic fermentation. It has had some lees stirring to generate complexity and richness and for what is a lightly framed wine it carries plenty. It’s creamy with a balancing savoury character and a precise fine acid taking it to a very long finish.
Best White Wine Runner-up
Flametree SRS sauvignon blanc 2014 ($33) – 95 points
Outstanding example of taking sauvignon blanc to another plain of complexity and interest with some additional work in the winery. It’s a classy sauvignon blanc. It comes from the Karridale subregion south of Margaret River. Some French oak fermentation brings a high degree of complexity to the refined and pure fruit. The screws have been tightened to introduce a string savoury character which carries through to the long finish.
Best Value White Wine
Houghton Crofters chardonnay 2013 ($19.15) – 93 points
This is a wine that could easily sell for more than $30 such is its quality. IT’S drinking superbly now and you will probably find it on discount. The combination of quality fruit really shows in this bracket. Yes, it’s not super cheap but when you consider how good it is you just can’t go past it. A combination of the power of Margaret River and the fine finesse of Pemberton. It is an excellent chardie that fits the bill for those wanting a little more of that creamy subtle oak treatment in their wines. The oak treatment is well managed and the fruit sustains its intensity through to a long finish. Ideal in the short term. Drinking at its peak right now.
Best Value White Wine Runner-Up
Jacob’s Creek Classic Riesling 2015 ($10.65) – 92 points
An amazingly good wine at this price. Especially as it will certainly be a lot cheaper. Keep it a few years and see it develop.
Best Sparkling Wine
Arras Grand Vintage 2006 ($70) – 96 points
No surprise that the House of Arras should dominate the sparkling wine tasting and come up with the best wine overall. This is pure deluxe showing just how good Australian sparkling wine can be. Little wonder too. It gets 8 years on tirage – lees – before it’s released. The result is a wine of supreme complexity and depth with a withering finish driving very long in the mouth.
Best Sparkling Wine Runner-up
Yarrabank Cuvee ($36.30) – 95 points
This is the result of a partnership between Yering Station in the Yarra and the French champagne House Devaux. The wine gets four years on lees and the result is clearly evident in the bottle. A superb wine of classic style.
Best Value Sparkling Wine
Jacob’s Creek Trilogy Cuvee Brut ($17) – 91 points
I reckon I haven’t tasted a better bubbles under this label. It’s always a favourite. It’s well made from pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meaner. Has some time on lees to bring about further complexity through autolysis.
Best Value Sparkling Wine Runner-Up
De Bortoli Sacred Hill Brut Cuvee ($6.85) – 89 points
Okay we’re not into complex nuances here. We’re into great value with a clean and crisp sparkling wine that would not be out of place at a higher price.
Here are the top 100 whites grouped by… Under $15 | $15 to $20 | $20 to $25 | $25 to $40
|Under $15The standard of wines in the under $15 category was very good. All wines chosen here show exceptional fruit for this price. You don’t get a lot of complexity but you do get good clean and quite flavorsome wines ideal for current drinking.|
If you are keen to try some short term cellaring them try the Jacob’s Creek riesling and the Houghton White Classic. Both would be good for five years.
|Seppelt The Victorians chardonnay 2014 ($15)||90/100|
|Once I got over the name, especially in the wake of the AFL grand final I had to accept that this is a pretty good wine, especially for the price. Itis one of the more sophisticated you will find in this price bracket. Worth holding on to for the next year.|