Top 100 wines of 2004

Whites under $20

2001 De Bortoli Sacred Hill Semillon Chardonnay  
86 points, $5.50
No other country could produce a wine with so much flavour and character at this price. Light to medium yellow-green, it has surprisingly fragrant tangy/lemony aromas which reappear in abundance in the tangy/tropical fruit of the palate, which also has good acidity and length.
Region: Griffith, NSW
Drink now
Drink with: Any seafood

2001 Orlando Jacob's Creek Chardonnay 
87 points, $8
In the absence of Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay, this was a near-inevitable choice, offering remarkable value. Light green-yellow, the clean bouquet features subtle oak on more than adequate fruit, repeated in the mouth with plenty of sweet melon/stonefruit flavour and a nicely judged flick of oak.
Region: South East Australia
Drink now
Drink with: Whatever takes your fancy

2001 Wolf Blass Eaglehawk Riesling  
92 points, $9.95
Sensational value, edging out some higher-pointed but more expensive Blass (and other) Rieslings. The aromatic bouquet ranges through spice, mineral, talc, lime and passionfruit; the fresh, clean and lively palate literally dances on the tongue, but avoids excessive CO2 spritz. Already a gold medal winner.
Region: South Australia
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Asparagus

2001 Houghton White Burgundy   
87 points, $10.50
The long-term track record of this wine, and its gold-plated guarantee of improvement as it ages in the cellar, make it a mandatory selection. Fragrant, distinct passionfruit aromas are replicated with the gentle tropical/passionfruit flavours of the finely structured, clean palate. Keep a few bottles to see for yourself.
Region: Western Australia
Best drinking: Now-2007
Drink with: Fish, chicken or veal
 
2001 McWilliam's Hanwood Chardonnay   
88 points, $11.50
McWilliam's has got this wine down to a fine art, using a clever mix of large volume making techniques and smaller percentage of sophisticated hand making. Thus you find smooth melon and nectarine fruit coupled with creamy, nutty nuances and a touch of oak, all adding depth and complexity.
Region: South East Australia
Drink now
Drink with: Fresh pasta

2001 Garrett Andrew Garrett Chardonnay  
88 points, $13.50
This is the Beringer Blass Garret brand, sourced from grapes grown hither and thither. The bouquet is complex, with nutty/smoky/cashew aromas adding interest; the palate has length and balance, offering gentle fruit, oak and acidity. Clever winemaking has invested average base material with an extra dimension.
Region: South East Australia
Best drinking: Now-2003
Drink with: KFC

2001 Annie's Lane Riesling   
93 points, $13.50
One of the many Clare Rieslings to adopt the Stelvin cap; for other Riesling notes I shall simply say 'Stelvin' where this closure is used. Light but brilliant green-yellow, with fragrant aromas of lime, passionfruit and apple blossom, the excellent palate is tightened up by precisely judged acidity on the finish.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Drink now
Drink with: Summer salad

1998 Dalfarras Marsanne   
90 points, $13.95
Both in the Rhone Valley and Australia, Marsanne has put beyond doubt the benefits of long-term cellaring. Right now, the bouquet has closed up a bit; but the palate is hallmark stuff, with honeysuckle and dried flowers, then moving through to a crisp, firm and long finish.
Region: Goulburn Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Smoked trout
 
2001 Primo Estate la biondina Colombard   
92 points, $14.50
Joe Grilli must be able to work his magic with this wine in his sleep, so reliable is it. Excellent green-yellow, the fresh, lively and tangy bouquet with its citrus/mineral mix reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc, is followed by an abundantly flavoured but fresh palate with a twist of spritz.
Region: Adelaide Plains, SA
Drink now
Drink with: Shellfish

2001 Jim Barry Watervale Riesling   
92 points, $14.95
Stelvin. Sourced from the famous Florita Vineyard of Leo Buring purchased by Jim Barry some years ago. Bright light green-yellow, the smooth bouquet has sweet lime juice aromas, the palate fresh, well balanced with attractive lime and lemon flavours, and a lingering, almost silky finish. Should develop quickly.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2007
Drink with: Salmon and asparagus terrine

2001 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay   
92 points, $16
Oh dear; first-class Coonawarra Chardonnay, ditto French oak; ditto skilled winemaking and we end up with a $16 price tag. There is abundant rich stonefruit and melon varietal aroma and flavour, yet a restrained complexity, particularly with the nutty/creamy barrel ferment nuances to the palate. Lucky you.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: Now-2003
Drink with: Robe lobster

2001 Brokenwood Semillon   
94 points, $17
A Swatch watch operation engineered by Iain Riggs, and didn't miss the opportunities of the classic 2001 Hunter semillon vintage. Bright mineral, grass and herb aromas expand in the mouth, with gently sweet fruit on the mid-palate providing exemplary balance right through to the lingering finish.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Balmain bugs
 
1998 McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon  
94 points, $17.50
One of these years Elizabeth will be dethroned, but not yet, notwithstanding the shrinking gap between vintage and release. Bright yellow-green, the herb and grass aromas of youth are already being joined by the first signs of honey and toast, while acidity, emphasised by diminishing spritz, will guarantee the future.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2008
Drink with: Pan-fried veal

2001 Alkoomi Riesling   
94 points, $19
Great Southern Riesling stands alongside that of the Clare and Eden Valleys as Australia's best, and this is an excellent example. Elegant, fine, clean and flowery lime aromas show no signs of slow ferment (sometimes a problem), the palate equally fine and having the intensity and length to underwrite a long future.
Region: Great Southern, WA
Best drinking: 2002-2012
Drink with: Salad Nicoise

2001 Sevenhill Cellars Riesling  
95 points, $19.95
Great Southern may be a challenger to the Clare Valley, but wines such as this convincingly answer that challenge. Light green-yellow, it has a classic mix of lime, mineral, toast and spice, the fruit flavours exploding on the palate, giving the wine great length and balance.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Sashimi

2001 Tamar Ridge Riesling   
95 points, $19.95
The performance of this wine since 1998 has been little short of spectacular. Pale green-yellow, the crisp, clean mineral/herb/apple bouquet is followed by a palate with the Tamar Ridge hallmark intensity of lime and apple flavour. Faultless balance and structure.
Region: Northern Tasmania
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Blue fin tuna
 
2000 Wellington Chardonnay   
93 points, $20
It was a toss-up whether to choose the 1999 or 2000 vintage; both are prime examples of Andrew Hood's deft touch. The fragrant stonefruit and citrus aromas, and the barest touch of oak are followed by a supremely elegant palate, with typical Tasmanian acidity leaving the mouth fresh.
Region: Tasmania
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Salmon gravlax

2000 Rothbury Estate Brokenback Semillon   
95 points, $20
It's great to see Rothbury Semillon back in the winner's circle; bottles from the early 1970s with reasonable corks are still superb. The very pure bouquet has an array of grass, herb and citrus aromas, matched by the clarity of the palate with its excellent mouthfeel, balance and length.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Grilled flathead


Whites over $20

2001 Petaluma Riesling   
95 points, $21
Brian Croser has written of the climatic trials of the 2001 vintage in the Clare Valley, and rightly pointed to the unexpectedly excellent outcome. This is truly delicious, with fresh and crisp passionfruit and apple blossom aromas; the wine literally dances on the tongue with all the flavours promised by the bouquet.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2011
Drink with: Blue swimmer crab

2001 Houghton Frankland River Riesling   
94 points, $21.95
Stelvin. Another wine from the Great Southern area to emphasise the region's ability to produce fine Riesling of the highest quality. Pale straw-green, a spotlessly clean, crisp, direct bouquet leads into a super-refined palate with apple, lime and a whisp of passionfruit; very long carry and finish.
Region: Great Southern, WA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Blue lipped mussels
 
1999 Capel Vale Chardonnay   
93 points, $22
This wine came when it was least expected, its vitality belying its age. Light to medium yellow-green, the bouquet is still fresh and youthful, the oak subtle. The fruit-driven palate, with a flavoursome mix of melon, stonefruit and a touch of grapefruit/citrus, has particularly good length and persistence.
Region: Geographe, WA
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Marron

1999 De Bortoli Noble One (375 ml)   
94 points, $22
The undisputed king of the world of 'stickies' since it was first made in 1982. Glowing yellow-gold, the near-searing intensity of the botrytis balances the sweetness producing a layered bouquet of lime marmalade and cumquat, the palate long and intense, with excellent lemony acidity on the finish.
Region: Griffith, NSW
Best drinking: 2002-2008
Drink with: Creme brulee

2001 Pierro LTC Semillon Sauvignon Blanc   
94 points, $22.40
Les Trois Cuvees or a little touch of Chardonnay, take your choice. An outstanding success this vintage, the clean and concentrated bouquet of lemon/citrus and gooseberry flowing into a harmonious palate, with oak an impeccably-behaved observer.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: Now-2005
Drink with: Turkey breast

2001 Crawford River Riesling   
94 points, $27
John Thomson crafts flawless wines, the Riesling invariably cut like a diamond. Pristine, fragrant aromas of passionfruit, lime and fresh-cut apple are repeated on the fresh, lively palate with an additional hint of spice, and a tingle to the crisp finish. Guaranteed to age superbly.
Region: Henty, Vic
Best drinking: 2002-2012
Drink with: Antipasto
 
2000 Keith Tulloch Semillon   
94 points, $28
Five different handling techniques, and thus five components, were used in making the 400 cases of this wine. Gentle citrus, lemon and grass aromas are woven through subtle, immaculately handled oak, the flavour focussed, linear and persistent, the oak all-but hidden, contributing to the texture more than the flavour.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Teppanyaki seafood

2000 Meadowbank Grace Elizabeth Chardonnay   
95 points, $30
One of a series of lovely wines coming from Gerald Ellis's now mature vineyard on the banks of the Upper Derwent River. Light but bright colour, it has fresh, fine nectarine/stonefruit aromas, the elegant palate modulated and rounded. Fruit-driven, but with real finesse and length.
Region: Southern Tasmania
Best drinking: 2002-2008
Drink with: Fresh Tasmanian salmon

2001 Grosset Watervale Riesling   
94 points, $31
Stelvin. Who would have thought ten years ago that a current vintage Riesling would effortlessly command a 50 per cent price premium over Petaluma? Fresh cut apple/apple blossom aromas with hints of spice and lime meld into a lime-accented palate with great mouthfeel, its impact building progressively through to the finish.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2012
Drink with: Grilled King George whiting

2000 Cape Mentelle Chardonnay   
96 points, $32.30
Charges out of the blocks, instantly proclaiming another great Margaret River Chardonnay. It has a typically ultra-complex yet elegant bouquet, showing barrel-ferment and malolactic fermentation characters with a mix of fig, melon and creamy cashew. The palate is an instant replay, intense, complex and long.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Veal sweetbreads
 
2000 Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay  
94 points, $35
From the authors of Cerebral Chardonnay, Martin Shaw and Michael (and Matthew) Hill-Smith, hence M3. A fine, fresh and restrained bouquet with delicately aromatic melon and nectarine is logically followed by an elegant, long and restrained palate, with the barrel and malolactic inputs present but subjugated to the fruit.
Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
Best drinking: 2003-2008
Drink with: Lobster salad

1999 Metier Wines Viognier   
94 points, $35
Martin Williams is the craftsman who took Viognier from the 290-metre high Kanumbra Vineyard to sculpt this remarkable wine. Glowing yellow-green, the bouquet oozes ripe, honeyed, fruit pastille/dried fruit aromas, as does the palate. It has that slightly oily viscosity and powerful finish, eerily similar to a top Condrieu.
Region: Central Victorian Mountain Country
Best drinking: Now-2003
Drink with: Chicken pasta

1999 Hardys Eileen Hardy Chardonnay   
95 points, $35
Following in the footsteps of the 1998, has already accumulated a roomful of trophies. Light to medium yellow-green, it features very well balanced and integrated toasty oak in a web of melon, stonefruit and cashew on the bouquet, the palate flavour moving to melon and grapefruit; long finish.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic and Adelaide Hills, SA
Best drinking: Now-2005
Drink with: Salmon pasta

1996 Brokenwood ILR Reserve Semillon   
96 points, $35
This is not simply a re-release of Brokenwood Semillon, but a wine made from the ground up to be released when five years old. Complex, rich toasty overtones to lemony fruit on the bouquet, then a palate with lovely sweet lemony fruit allied with toast, the freshness sustained by the last vestiges of CO2.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Veal saltimbocca

1998 Leo Buring Leonay Eden Valley Riesling   
94 points, $35.50
In retrospect, I think the 94-point rating was churlish, and should have been higher. Great colour is an enticing start, the bouquet with a classic lime and mineral mix. The refreshing, almost light, palate has nigh-on perfect balance in a bone-dry style, then a lingering finish.
Region: Eden Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Baked fish, Chinese style

1996 McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon   
96 points, $41.50
At last this great, single-vineyard wine, the vines more than 50 years old, is carrying a sensible price. Brilliant green-yellow; intense, fragrant lemon/lemon rind/toast aromas are followed by a delicate, daisy-fresh palate, like the ILR with a touch of CO2 yet to disappear.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: 2003-2013
Drink with: Fine fish dishes

1996 Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon  
96 points, $45
The last of a trio of magnificent Hunter Semillons from 1996, all having accumulated numerous gold medals and trophies. Glowing yellow-green, the still-tight bouquet has abundant ripe, tangy, citrus and honey aromas, the outstanding palate long and concentrated, citrussy, and sustained by minerally acidity on the finish.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: 2002-2012
Drink with: Calamari

1999 Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay   
95 points, $45
The wine which launched a thousand ships with its inaugural release in 1971. Tasted on a number of occasions, this elegant yet complex wine has all the fig, melon, nectarine and underlying cashew one could wish for, the palate with that extra dimension and length which sets it apart from its peers.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2003
Drink with: Fresh, slow-cooked salmon

1998 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay   
96 points, $75
Has been and remains the best Australian Chardonnay, always demanding time. This has improved dramatically this year, and is still accelerating upwards. Vividly coloured, fresh nectarine and grapefruit intermingle with quality oak on the bouquet, the palate immaculately balanced yet piercingly intense, adding cashew and oak spice.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Tempura


Reds under $25

2000 Deakin Estate Shiraz   
87 points, $9.99
A consistent performer in the fighting varietal sector of the market, especially with its Shiraz (in this instance with 10 per cent ruby cabernet added for colour). Clean, direct red fruit and restrained oak on the bouquet is followed by an attractive fruit-driven palate which has fleshed out very well since being bottled.
Region: Riverland, SA/Vic
Best drinking: Now-2003
Drink with: One size fits all

2000 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet   
89 points, $14.50
Like Old Man River, just keeps rolling along, as honest and dependable as the day is long. Medium red-purple, the bouquet has smooth, sweet dark berry fruit and subtle oak, the palate with good structure, richness and weight thanks to dark berry and chocolate flavours and balanced tannins.
Region: South East Australia
Best drinking: 2002-2007
Drink with: All red meat, cheese

2000 Moondah Brook Shiraz   
89 points, $14.95
While Hardys continues to own the Moondah Brook vineyard, the name is now simply a brand, with the grapes sourced mainly from southern regions. Solid dark berry fruit aromas, with hints of earth and vanilla, lead into a full-flavoured, dense but not jammy palate with dark plum, prune and blackberry fruit.
Region: South Western Australia
Best drinking: 2003-2008
Drink with: Barbecued T-bone

1999 Moondah Brook Cabernet Sauvignon   
90 points, $14.95
Obviously enough, a sister wine to the Moondah Brook Shiraz, with a similar regional pedigree. Medium to full red-purple, powerful blackberry/cassis backed by oak on the bouquet flows through to the robust, rich palate with blackberry fruit, touches of prune and chocolate, lingering tannins and good oak.
Region: South Western Australia
Best drinking: 2002-2010
Drink with: Braised lamb with cous cous
 
1999 Orlando Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz   
89 points, $15
A worthy follow-up to the outstanding 1998 vintage of this wine, although the upwards brand-extension remains a conundrum. Good colour and a bouquet flooded with ripe, dark plum and prune leads logically into a palate with luscious ripe fruit offset by appropriately persistent tannins and subtle oak.
Region: South Australia
Best drinking: 2003-2008
Drink with: Rare roast beef

2000 De Bortoli Gulf Station Shiraz  
90 points, $15
All the Yarra Valley red wine styles from 2000 are outstanding, not just pinot noir, and De Bortoli has excelled at all levels. Rich, complex dark berry and earthy fruit aromas are followed by a concentrated and weighty palate of ripe blood plums, finishing with fine tannins. Subtle oak throughout.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: 2002-2008
Drink with: Osso bucco

1999 Ingoldby McLaren Vale Shiraz   
90 points, $15
A famous McLaren Vale name, now a brand in the Beringer Blass artillery. Impressive, deep red-purple signals a complex berry bouquet with savoury touches of chocolate and earth, the palate with good depth and structure replete with blackberry/blood plum fruit and soft tannins. Excellent oak handling throughout.
Region: McLaren Vale, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2007
Drink with: Shepherd's pie

2000 De Bortoli Gulf Station Pinot Noir   
91 points, $15
Has developed excellently since first tasted eight months ago, and offers unbeatable value. The latent complexity has now bloomed, with a mix of plummy/savoury/spicy aromas flowing into a palate with impeccable texture, structure and flavour, anchored on the abundance of plummy fruit the wine showed in its infancy.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2005
Drink with: Roast pigeon
 
1999 Hardys Tintara Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon   
90 points, $16
Open-fermented and basket-pressed wines are rare beasts indeed at this price point. Solid, dark berry fruit drives the bouquet with minimal interference from oak, the palate equally full-flavoured; here blackberry, plum and dark chocolate fruit flavours are supported by positive but soft tannins. Impressive value.
Region: McLaren Vale, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills, SA
Best drinking: 2003-2008
Drink with: Beef bordelaise

2000 Yarra Ridge Mt Tanglefoot Pinot Noir   
91 points, $16
A total surprise packet, doing battle with the De Bortoli Gulf Station Pinot for best value. The bouquet has remarkable varietal character and richness, the palate with its texture, structure and length. Spice, black plums and a hint of tobacco all add to the appeal and to the varietal character.
Region: Central Victorian Mountain Country, Vic
Best drinking: 2002-2006
Drink with: Braised rabbit

1999 Annie's Lane Shiraz   
91 points, $16
No surprise here with a wine which is a model of consistency year in, year out. Deeply coloured, the rich and concentrated bouquet has black fruit aromas and positive oak; then smooth, dark cherry/blackberry fruit at the core of a rich, weighty (but not the least extractive) palate.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2013
Drink with: Grilled porterhouse

2001 Charles Melton Rose of Virginia  
94 points, $16.90
I don't know whether there is anyone out there listening, but do yourself a favour: at least try a bottle at lunch this summer and see whether you agree with my points. Vivid colour, vivid aroma and vivid flavour all achieved without sugary sweetness, just cherry/cherry blossom fruit.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now
Drink with: Anything

1999 Rouge Homme Cabernet Sauvignon   
92 points, $18
The pending sale of Rouge Homme marks the end of an era, with little certainty about the future. Ironical, then, that this wine should be so good, flooded with ripe blackcurrant/berry fruit aromas which flow through to the palate. Rich fruit, sweet oak nuances and ripe tannins all add to the appeal.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2010
Drink with: Steak & kidney pie

2000 Hungerford Hill Tumbarumba Pinot Noir   
94 points, $19
Frost is a constant threat at Tumbarumba, and Pinot Noir table wines are few and far between. This is a ripper, with fragrant, lifted spicy aromas of violets, forest floor and plum, then a lively, spicy/savoury palate with great intensity and length. The absurd price hooked me for a case without thinking twice.
Region: Tumbarumba, NSW
Best drinking: 2002-2007
Drink with: Smoked quail salad

1999 Tollana TR222 Cabernet Sauvignon   
93 points, $20
A wine which reflects the synergies to be gained from regional blending, especially with aristocratic regions. Strong red-purple, the sweet, dark berry cabernet varietal character of the bouquet continues to run through the medium-bodied palate with a skein of sweet fruit wound through fine tannins and nice oak.
Region: Eden Valley and Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2007
Drink with: Roast veal

2000 Seville Estate Pinot Noir  
94 points, $23.50
One of the pioneers of the cool, red soil side of the Yarra Valley now owned by Brokenwood. Good colour, clean cherry and plum fruit, and sympathetic oak handling lead into a palate with harmonious mouthfeel and balance, sustained by sweet plum and spice fruit. Oozes development potential.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: 2003-2009
Drink with: Rare breast of squab
 
1998 Mount Helen Cabernet Merlot   
93 points, $24
A curious remnant of a once-proud brand, nearly orphaned, but of real quality and style. Medium to full red-purple, it has attractive, gently cedary/spicy fruit and oak aromas flowing into an elegant, medium-bodied palate with ripe berry/cassis fruit, fine tannins and good length.
Region: Central Victorian Mountain Country
Best drinking: 2003-2008
Drink with: Lamb shoulder

2000 Diamond Valley Yarra Valley Pinot Noir   
93 points, $24.50
David Lance has been making great Pinot Noir for over 15 years, and didn't miss out on this vintage. The bouquet has intriguing savoury bacony oak aromas alongside plummy fruit. The palate follows suit with complex flavour and texture, providing a mix of savoury/foresty/dark plum flavours and silky tannins.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: 2002-2007
Drink with: Game pie
 

Reds over $25

1999 Coriole Shiraz   
94 points, $26.99
Year in, year out, Coriole produces stylish yet unembellished Shiraz. Vivid purple-red, the bouquet emanates black cherry fruit with oak in the background. The palate is a replay, with an exceptional concentration of black cherry fruit, particularly given the somewhat indifferent vintage, and avoids the high alcohol trap.
Region: McLaren Vale, SA
Best drinking: 2003-2009
Drink with: Daube of lamb

1999 Houghton Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon   
95 points, $27.95
A multi-trophy, gold medal-winning testimony to the quality of the 1999 vintage. A massive dark berry/blackcurrant/chocolate charged bouquet foretells a similarly awesome but luscious palate, with loads of sweet dark berry fruit. Amazingly, the tannins are soft, the oak submerged in the fruit.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: 2004-2014
Drink with: Braised ox tail

2000 Wedgetail Estate Pinot Noir  
94 points, $28
A high-flying newcomer with his third vintage, Guy Lamothe has a rare touch. A fragrant/savoury/sappy lift to the core of sweet plum on the bouquet and palate is the key to a wine with delicious freshness, fragrance, length and persistence. Drink while the 2000 Reserve (95 points, $55) matures.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2004
Drink with: Roast quail

2000 Kings Creek Reserve Pinot Noir   
95 points, $30
A bargain in the rarefied atmosphere of top reds, reaffirming to the quality of the vintage. Bright purple-red; a complex, fragrant bouquet of dark plum and spice then a palate with excellent fruit-weight and varietal character showing ripe (but not jammy) plum, fine tannins and subtle spicy oak.
Region: Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Best drinking: 2002-2006
Drink with: Roast pigeon
 
1998 Metala Original Plantings Shiraz   
95 points, $30
The black label signifies the special nature of this wine made from vines planted in the 1890s. Like the Turkey Flat, a wine of true finesse though abundant flavour, with a fragrant and enticing mix of red berry, chocolate, spice and particularly well-handled American oak. Great value.
Region: Langhorne Creek, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2010
Drink with: Eye fillet of beef

1999 Turkey Flat Shiraz   
94 points, $32
From a vineyard first planted in 1847; the spotlessly clean, scented bouquet offers an array of cherry, spice, earth and vanilla; the particularly harmonious balance and extract of the palate is constructed around the red berry fruit at its core, amplified by spice, chocolate and soft tannins. A bargain.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2004-2020
Drink with: Braised beef

1998 Orlando St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon   
95 points, $32
Amongst many other awards, winner of the coveted Montgomery Trophy at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show 2000. Most appealing ultra-clean, supple, perfectly ripened blackcurrant/cassis varietal fruit on the bouquet followed by a quite delicious palate, with excellent structure aided by cedar/vanilla oak and soft, ripe tannins.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2012
Drink with: Rack of lamb

1998 McWilliams Mount Pleasant O'Shea Shiraz  
96 points, $35
Sourced from the Old Hill Vineyard planted in 1880, an absurdly low-priced flagship rightly named in honour of legendary Maurice O'Shea. The savoury, complex spice, licorice and earth aromas are reflected in the latent power of the long, lingering, intense palate, with fine tannins running through its length.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: 2005-2020
Drink with: Ragout of veal

1997 Seppelt Great Western Shiraz   
96 points, $37.40
It's a strange world when you see this superlative red discounted down to $27 when it's a steal at $37. Old vines and 18 months in new French oak produce a wondrously complex array of dark berry, plum, leather, licorice and chocolate aromas and flavours, the concentration of the fruit offset by savoury tannins.
Region: Great Western, Vic
Best drinking: 2004-2017
Drink with: Braised ox cheek

1999 Charles Melton Nine Popes   
94 points, $38.90
In my book, Charlie Melton is the Pope of Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre blends in Australia, seldom - if ever - missing a beat. The bouquet is spicy and lively, with excellent fruit and oak balance and integration, the juicy/spicy palate likewise, complex but elegant and long, a true reflection of southern Rhone style.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2002-2009
Drink with: Roasted veal kidney

1999 Alkoomi Jarrah Shiraz   
96 points, $39
A new label for one of the Great Southern's longest-established and best producers. Bright purple-red; abundant dark cherry and licorice aromas are followed by a classy palate with a savoury cool-climate twist of spice, fine tannins and restrained oak. Finesse and subtlety, not raw power.
Region: Great Southern, WA
Best drinking: 2004-2009
Drink with: Roast venison

1999 Lenswood Vineyards Pinot Noir   
95 points, $45.65
Tim Knappstein has continued to hone his wine making techniques with his Pinot Noir, reaping the rewards as this wine matures in bottle. A highly fragrant and intense bouquet is matched by a long, powerful palate of plum, cherry and spice, finishing with emphatic authority.
Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Wild mushroom risotto

2000 Moorooduc Wild Yeast Pinot Noir   
95 points, $46
The lure of wild yeast (often tamed and living peaceably in the winery) to one side, this is a purist's pinot, light in colour and body, yet with tremendous intensity to its fragrant, savoury foresty bouquet and its complex, beguiling and long sappy/savoury foresty palate.
Region: Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2005
Drink with: Duck salad tiede

2000 Freycinet Pinot Noir   
95 points, $50
Exceptionally consistent producer of high class pinot with equally consistent longevity. Fragrant plum spice and herb aromas, then a vibrant palate, intense, complex and driven by sappy, plum and cherry pip fruit carrying through powerfully to a long and lingering finish. Oak a sideline player.
Region: East Coast, Tas
Best drinking: 2002-2007
Drink with: Jugged Hare

2000 Paringa Estate Pinot Noir   
95 points, $52.50
Lindsay McCall is one of the great Pinot Noir makers, painting Pinots in the Rubens school. Medium purple-red, a rich, complex, high-toned plum and spice bouquet leads into a powerfully-framed palate, crawling with character and ripe plummy fruit running right through to the emphatic finish.
Region: Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Best drinking: 2002-2007
Drink with: Braised duck and wild mushrooms

1996 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz  
95 points, $60
A quintessential Barossa Shiraz which enfolds you in its embrace from the first whiff to the last sip. Hedonistically sweet and opulent cherry fruit on the one side is offset by sweet chocolate, vanillin oak and perfectly weighted tannins on the other, providing great texture and structure.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Kangaroo fillet
 
1998 Brand's Stentiford's Reserve Old Vines Shiraz   
96 points, $60
Produced from the vines planted in 1896 by former sea captain Captain Stentiford. Deep, bright purple-red; abundant plum, cherry and spice fruit is cradled in quality French oak on the bouquet, followed by a palate with outstanding texture, balance and structure from its black cherry, acidity and lingering tannins.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2003-2013
Drink with: Rack of lamb

1998 Wirra Wirra Vineyard Series Penley Cabernet Sauvignon   
97 points, $67
Only 269 dozen bottles made, but par for the course for the eclectic but superb Vineyard Series. Full red-purple, concentrated and dense cassis blackcurrant fruit on the bouquet leads into a luscious, long, smooth, red and blackcurrant palate which has soaked up the new French oak; fine tannins.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2003-2013
Drink with: Roast rosemary-studded leg of lamb

1999 Pipers Brook The Lyre Pinot Noir   
96 points, $69.30
With The Blackwood, stands at the top of the Pipers Brook range, taking its name from the trellis used. Strongly coloured, the powerful, complex spicy/tangy/savoury bouquet is less opulently sweet than The Blackwood, but has a remarkably intense, complex and structured palate, finishing with fine, lingering tannins.
Region: Northern Tasmania
Best drinking: 2002-2012
Drink with: Coq au vin

1999 Cullen Cabernet Merlot   
96 points, $75
Di and Vanya Cullen consider 1999 to be one of the greatest vintages, and it shows in this imperious wine. Strong purple-red, the powerful but pristine bouquet proclaims the blackberry/blackcurrant/cassis fruit of the palate framed by the inimitable Cullen tannins which run through from the mid-palate to the finish.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: 2004-2020
Drink with: Braised ox tail

1998 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon   
94 points, $77
Shaw & Smith talk about cerebral Chardonnay; this is the thinking man's Cabernet, a subtle tapestry of texture and flavour. The bouquet offers a complex array of blackberry, earth, spice and oak, the palate powerful savoury/earthy fruit with persistent tannins, but fractionally sweetened but the deft handling of French oak.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: 2003-2013
Drink with: Beef with olives

1996 Hardys Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon   
96 points, $79
Festooned with trophies, and released when five years old, having initially spent almost two years in French oak. Still dense and strong in colour, the bouquet is primarily powered by sweet blackcurrant fruit, the palate packed with dense blackcurrant/blackberry fruit, the tannins still to fully soften but in balance.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2006-2026
Drink with: Leave it in the cellar

1998 Hardys Eileen Hardy Shiraz  
95 points, $90
An utterly prolific trophy and gold medal winner which spends 24 months in French oak. Dense and brooding when first released, it has already evolved into a highly sophisticated marriage of fruit and oak on bouquet and palate; the latter's excellent savoury tannin structure balances the lashings of opulent fruit.
Region: McLaren Vale, SA
Best drinking: 2003-2013
Drink with: Game pie

1999 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz  
96 points, $90
An acknowledged classic from an excellent (dry) Hunter vintage which takes no prisoners. Medium to full red-purple, oak is quite assertive on the complex bouquet, but the wine comes together on the palate which, while trenchantly demanding patience, has masses of earthy black fruit supported by excellent tannin management.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: 2006-2024
Drink with: Char-grilled rump

1998 Wynns Coonawarra John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon   
97 points, $90
A towering, uninhibited celebration of a truly great Coonawarra cabernet sauvignon vintage. Impenetrable red-purple; rich, concentrated and luscious blackberry/blackcurrant/cassis fruit on both bouquet and palate has largely - though not entirely - subsumed the oak. Likewise, the tannins are there, but are in perfect balance.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2015
Drink with: Roast kid


Champagne

NV Devaux Grande Reserve Brut   
93 points, $48
From the largest producer in the Aube Valley of Champagne, a blend of two-thirds pinot noir and one-third chardonnay which spends three years on yeast lees. A fragrant and lively bouquet of apple, pear and herbs is followed by a crisp, apple-accented palate and fresh acidity to close.

NV Lanson Black Label Brut   
92 points, $50
Has always taken an aggressive stance on price, fuelled these days by the Millennium aftermath. Light yellow-green, it has an aromatic mix of bready, yeasty autolysis characters offset with citrus and apple fruit on the bouquet, followed by a lively and fresh palate, closing with lingering, bracing acidity.

NV Billecart-Salmon Brut   
93 points, $60
Near-clinical winemaking techniques, closer to the New World than traditional Champagne, produce a distinctive but extremely user-friendly wine style. Crystal clear lemon and ripe apple aromas are repeated on the crisp, almost crunchy, palate through to a long, translucent finish.

NV Alfred Gratien Brut   
94 points, $65
A wine at the opposite end of the spectrum to Billecart-Salmon, the base wine entirely fermented in old oak barrels, hand-riddled and manually disgorged - all made possible by the tiny production of 12 500 cases. A complex, rich and bready bouquet is matched by the round, mouthfilling palate which, however, avoids heaviness.

NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Mis en Cave 1997   
95 points, $68
A Clayton's non-vintage, for you know the year (1997) the wine was tiraged (bottled), and hence it is based on the great 1996 vintage, with lesser quantities of 1995 and 1994. Immediately obvious bready complexity is matched by the structure of the delicate but penetrating ripe apple/citrus fruit of the palate, and the harmonious finish.

1993 Pol Roger Vintage Brut  
95 points, $70
Pol Roger's 1990s were great, but the 1993s are not far behind; a toss-up between this and the Rose. A perennial favourite in Australia, and invariably immaculately made; fragrant and fresh, it has a delicate but intense, fairy-gossamer feel, and a diamond-pure finish. A bonus is the way the wine develops with age.

1995 Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial   
95 points, $89.95
A blend of 45 per cent Pinot Noir, 40 per cent Chardonnay and 15 per cent Pinot Meunier, ever reliable and often under-appreciated for this reason alone. The deep and rich bouquet has ripe melon/stonefruit plus bready autolysis complexity (three years on yeast lees) and a perfectly balanced palate with ripe fruit and fluid acidity.

1990 Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires   
96 points, $120
The Millennium hangover must be monumental: this marvellous wine was in last year's Top 100, and here it is again, $10 per bottle cheaper. Glowing yellow-gold, gloriously pure Chardonnay provides a seamless flow of citrus, stonefruit and gentle toasty autolysis, and a perfect finish and aftertaste.

1990 Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Churchill    96 points, $175
Few Champagnes have been more eagerly awaited than this wine, and it does not disappoint. The cepage (blend) has always been a secret, but the authority of pinot noir is an unmistakable part of a concentrated, strawberry/bready flavour, which floods the mouth in a truly Churchillian fashion.

1995 Bollinger Grande Anne Rose   
96 points, $199.95
Roughly 60 per cent Pinot Noir and 40 per cent Chardonnay, the rose colour coming from the addition of red wine from Bouzy. Full salmon, it has a powerful, spicy, strawberry-accented bouquet, not the least aldehydic. The palate is surprisingly elegant, with lovely juicy berry fruit on the mid-palate, then a long, lingering finish.

1995 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut   
97 points, $240
In most countries, Cristal is on strict allocation, seldom seen on a retailer's shelves, and then at a price far exceeding all others. For the record, an estate-grown blend of 55 per cent Pinot Noir and 45 per cent Chardonnay, intensely fragrant and fine, with a mix of apple and strawberry followed by an exceptionally long, ever-expanding palate and lingering aftertaste.

1993 Dom Perignon   
97 points, $200
I was torn between this and the equally pointed Krug Grand Cuvee, the style of each being so utterly different as to make comparison impossible. So it was price: $245 for Krug, a mere $200 for Dom. This is the most seductive of all Champagnes, a Bo Derek 10. Spice, toast and citrus, immaculately balanced and structured and the longest imaginable finish. Anywhere, anytime . . .

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