The definitive guide to Australian Wines
As usual, the number of wines in each group is limited. The varietal categories are the same as in previous years, as is the link of each wine with its region, so only the best are listed in full. That said, the cut-off point does reflect the strength of the particular category. Where the list would be unacceptably long, the wines printed in black are grouped by region and their names shortened while still enabling the exact wine to be identified in the tasting notes for the winery in question. In looking at the points, remember these are the best of the nearly 10,000 wines tasted for this edition.
The varietal winners are proudly sponsored by Langton's, Australia’s leading fine wine marketplace. This year's Halliday Awards Auction is open for online bids until 9pm on Thursday, August 17.
A thoroughly diverse range of Bordeaux blends and varieties on the one (larger) hand courtesy of Margaret River, and the classic Australian blend of cabernet and shiraz on the other.
The affinity of cabernet sauvignon with a maritime climate is put beyond doubt by its home in Bordeaux’s Medoc region. So it comes as no surprise to find that most (but not all) of Australia’s top quality cabernets come from regions with climates similar to Bordeaux. The dominance of Margaret River is likely to continue; not only is the climate ideally suited, but it is far more consistent than that of any other Australian region.
Winner: the 2014 Deep Woods Estate Yallingup Cabernet Sauvignon
The field of 44 chardonnays was led by Margaret River (11), Yarra Valley (7), Adelaide Hills (5) and Mornington Peninsula (4). There was a greater spread thereafter, reflecting the great quality of Australian chardonnay; Beechworth, Geelong, Gippsland and Tasmania all provided three wines, Denmark two, Pemberton one.
The points speak for themselves. These are unique to Australia in terms of their age, their complexity, their intensity, and their varietal make up. They arguably represent the best value of all Australian wines given the cost of production, notably in the amount of working capital tied up for decades.
Winner: the 1917 Seppeltsfield 100 Year Old Para Liqueur
Put these alongside Burgundies at twice the price and they won’t yield any ground. Yet the journey still has a long way to go, with new clones slotting in alongside MV6, an old clone unique to Australia. The average age of vines is also rising – the oldest are now more than 40 years old. A titanic struggle between Tasmania (10 wines), Yarra Valley (9) and Mornington Peninsula (8).
The Eden Valley empire strikes back with nine wines compared with six from Western Australia. One change in representation doesn’t surprise, with three rieslings from Tasmania and one from Henty, the latter a climatic twin with Tasmania.
Rosés are the ultimate all-purpose wines, to be enjoyed when people meet for a drink, with any Asian cuisine, with seafood, with entrees of almost every kind and yet more. These are of world class, all full of vibrant fruits (mainly red), but dry.
An interesting spread of regions, with the top group of five each from a different region. Adelaide Hills (6) fended off Margaret River for bragging rights. A high percentage of these wines have structure and complexity from some barrel fermentation.
Winner: the 2016 Oakdene Jessica Single Vineyard Bellarine Peninsula Sauvignon
The usual walk-over for the Hunter Valley, with all but two in the top group between five and eight years old, and another six on 96 points in the same age group.
Winner: the 2016 Silkman Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon
Why does anyone outside of Margaret River bother? Not only does it monopolise the field on points, the wines have typically mouth-watering prices.
These are truly the crème de la crème of Australian shiraz, coming from all points of the compass, reflecting the unequalled adaptability of shiraz to every type of climate, and its undisputed first place in hectares planted and tonnes produced.
Winner: the 2012 Henschke Hill of Grace
A South Australian stronghold, indeed stranglehold, mostly with some or all of shiraz, grenache and mourvedre.
Five wines; two challenge my belief that shiraz viognier fares best in cool regions.
All of these have been available (and tasted by Tyson Stelzer or myself) at some point over the past 12 months. I am aware that some practitioners, and some critics, are less convinced than I am about the quality of the Arras, but I am unrepentant.
Winner: the 2007 Seppelt Show Sparkling Limited Release Shiraz
Suffice it to say caveat emptor, and read the tasting notes of the rieslings (off-dry to luscious and intense) that monopolise the category this year.
Four wines, four varieties, four regions! Very Italian.
Eleven wines, with the usual spread of regions.
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