The definitive guide to Australian Wines
Each week James Halliday selects a standout wine from his recent tastings.
40yo vines, hand-picked and sorted, crushed, destemmed without rollers (for whole berries), open-fermented, 5 days cold soak, cultured yeast, 14 days on skins, matured in French oak (20% new) for 18 months. The first reaction is the texture ex the whole berry/near whole berry fermentation; then you go back to the very good colour and aromas, completing the circle with the excellent spicy/savoury embroidery on the potpourri of black fruit flavours. Well above typical Clare Valley shiraz.
14% alc. / RRP $30 / 2034 / Crabtree Watervale Wines
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It is a masterclass in the use of French oak to amplify, not diminish, the fruit on the medium-bodied palate, with black cherry, plum and blackberry all in step; the tannins are no more than a gauze on the super-elegant finish.
13.5% alc. / RRP $60 / 2039 / Dalwhinnie
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A block on the Graveyard Vineyard, replanted in '02 with cuttings from the original vines, this the inaugural vintage. A mix of crushed/destemmed, with some whole berry and some whole bunch fermentation, matured in new and used French oak. If you doubt that earth can smell sweet, have a whiff of this; the full-bodied palate is crammed with black fruits, ripe tannins and some smart French oak, its drink-by date over the horizon.
14% alc. / RRP $75 / 2054 / Brokenwood
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Hand-picked, 25% whole bunches, 40% matured in stainless steel, the remainder in new and used French barriques for 9 months. Spun like a silk scarf from Rajasthan, the colours shifting endlessly, the cloth as light as a feather, yet warm on a cold night. Artistic skill of the highest order - and a steal (as in Rajasthan if you're on the spot).
13.5% alc. / RRP $25 / 2027 / Innocent Bystander
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From the King (80%) and Goulburn (20%) Valleys, picked and crushed at night, different parcels undergoing different treatments: mlf, fermented and matured in French oak, or extended time on yeast lees. Distinct pink tinge; this is a tour de force of winemaking, producing a wine full of interest from the first whiff to the last sip. Two questions arise: why is it called grigio, not gris? And why is it so cheap?
12.5% alc. / RRP $20 / 2017 / Dalfarras
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A 95/5% blend; named after Audrey Hepburn, a cat who often followed Chester Osborn around the winery, terrified of being forgotten. The unusual but meritorious nature of the wine is likely to be lost in the hubbub of the labels of this and its $200 Old Bloke sibling. This is a seriously interesting wine, which clears the savoury/tannin bar with some ease, although you wouldn't think so at the first sip. The perfect match for food, because it will simply want to make you eat more, not drink more.
14.3% alc. / RRP $200 / 2026 / d'Arenberg Wines
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Wines considered to offer special value for money.