New South Wales
JS Wine – Orange, NSW
I simply can't resist quoting the opening to the background information provided: 'Located on the west side of Australia's agricultural province of New South Wales'. JS Wines' estate is about eight kilometres from the centre of Orange, three hours' drive from Sydney'. The vineyard and the quality of the wines brings together three winemakers who have long-term firsthand knowledge of the Orange region. The estate’s natural basalt volcanic soil is afforded ample sunshine by day and the benefit of cooler night temperatures to create the ideal environment for producing quality local wine.
Peppergreen Estate – Southern Highlands, NSW
Established in 2016 in the bucolic Southern Highlands town of Berrima, Peppergreen Estate's proprietary vineyard is tucked away in nearby Canyonleigh at 700m elevation, complete with olive oil processing and a high-quality tasting room that serves modern cuisine. Pinot noir, shiraz, riesling and chardonnay are all grown on the estate’s holdings as the owners endeavour to appropriate ideal grape varieties to the cool climate of the region. As it stands, the traditionally crafted sparkling wines show promise, having spent extended time on lees to impart a toasty complexity and creamy generosity to the twang of the cooler zone.
Stockman's Ridge – Orange, NSW
Stockman’s Ridge is a handy operation in Orange, providing a swag of well-crafted wines from the usual cadre of varieties. The dark horses are the grüner veltliner and zinfandel, grown at circa 800m elevation. The ‘groovy grüner’ (as American sommeliers called it in the late 1990’s when its fashionability rose to a crescendo) is pungent and fresh, an easy hop, skip and a jump for riesling drinkers. Zinfandel may seem idiosyncratic, but after years in the United States I can attest to its veracity. Neighbour David Lowe also crafts a fine example, suggesting the suitability of zin to Orange’s higher reaches and strong diurnal shifts. Live music happens of a weekend and accommodation is available at the on-site Swagman Homestead. Exports to the US.
Lake Cooper Estate – Heathcote, VIC
Lake Cooper Estate is a substantial venture in the Heathcote region, set on the side of Mount Camel Range with panoramic views of Lake Cooper, Greens Lake and the Corop township. In 2019, plans for the construction of a winery, cellar door, restaurant and accommodation were announced, with a complete overhaul of winemaking practices by the highly experienced Paul Boulden and Richard Taylor. Viticulturist Shane Bartel will oversee new plantings of shiraz and grenache and a move towards sustainable practices in the vineyard.
Payne's Rise – Yarra Valley, VIC
Tim and Narelle Cullen have progressively established five hectares of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris since 1999. They carry out all the vineyard work (Tim is also a viticulturist for a local agribusiness) and are planting new clones and rootstocks with an eye to the future. Narelle is responsible for sales and marketing. The contract-made wines have won both gold medals and trophies at the Yarra Valley Wine Show and the Victorian Wines Show. A recent cellar door and restaurant extension have been added, expanding the original 1860s homestead of the region's first settler, Thomas Payne.
Turners Crossing Vineyard – Bendigo, VIC
This outstanding, mature vineyard was named to remember the original landholder, Thomas Turner. During the 1800s, farmers and gold rush prospectors crossed the Loddon River beside the property, at what became known as Turners Crossing. During the Gold Rush period European settlers in the area started to plant vineyards, trusting that Bendigo’s terroir would reveal itself as a suitable site on which to grow grapes. And they were right to be so confident. Its alluvial composition of rich limestone soils and Mediterranean climate make it a happy home for viticulture in particular. Turners Crossing Vineyard now spans 42 hectares of mature vines. The vineyard is virtually pesticide and chemical free; warm days and cool nights allow the grapes to ripen during the day and the vines to recover overnight. The vineyard bears shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, viognier and picolit (a rare white Italian variety). Exports to the UK, Canada, Vietnam and China.
Wren Estate – Heathcote, VIC
Michael Wren, winemaker and owner of Wren Estate, has been making wine for over 18 years across multiple continents. For 10 years he was a Flying Winemaker for one of Portugal’s top wineries, Esporao, and was particularly struck by the use of lagares for top-quality wines. Lagares are low, wide, open red-wine fermenters that allow foot treading (or stomping) with the level of must little more than knee deep. The consequence is the very soft, yet high, extraction of colour, flavour and soft tannins. The red wine fermenters in the Wren winery are replicas of the traditional lagares. The vineyard (of 14.5 hectares) sits in a 52 hectare property and was planted in 2002, the shiraz with 16 different clone and rootstock combinations, giving Michael priceless information on the vagaries of the site. Each block is picked, fermented and aged separately, the best in a limited release single-block series. All the premium wines are individually barrel selected. Exports to the US.
Bowen Estate – Coonawarra, SA
Regional veteran Doug Bowen presides over one of Coonawarra’s landmarks, but he has handed over full winemaking responsibility to daughter Emma, ‘retiring’ to the position of viticulturist. In May 2015 Bowen Estate celebrated its 40th vintage with a tasting of 24 wines (shiraz and cabernet sauvignon) from 1975 to 2014. Exports to the UK, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Japan and NZ.
Claymore Wines – Clare Valley, SA
Claymore Wines is the venture of Anura Nitchingham, a medical professional who imagined this would lead the way to early retirement (which, of course, it did not). In ’96 a 16 hectare block at Penwortham was purchased and planted to shiraz, merlot and grenache; and the first wines were made in ’97. Since then their portfolio has expanded to approximately 140 acres, including five additional sites dotted from Auburn to Watervale, with vine ages ranging from 30–80+ years. The wine labels are inspired by music that moves them: U2, Pink Floyd, Prince and more. Exports to most major markets including the UK, US, Canada and across the EU.
First Drop Wines – Barossa Valley, SA
First Drop Wines HQ is in the striking 'Home of the Brave' building on the southern edge of Nuriootpa in the Provenance Barossa precinct. John Retsas is the man behind the dynamic brand, with its striking wine labels and delicious wines sourced from vineyards across the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale. There is a heavy emphasis on the 'alternative' (appropriate) varieties with Italian and Portuguese grape varieties making their savoury and delicious presence felt; of course, shiraz, grenache, cabernet sauvignon and mataro also play a role, with a contemporary slant. Exports to the US, Canada, the UK, Sweden, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Ukraine, Singapore, Hong Kong, Greece, Norway, South Korea and Japan.
Patritti Wines – Adelaide Zone, SA
A family-owned and run business founded by Giovanni Patritti in 1926, the year after he arrived from Italy. Today it has three vineyard locations with a mix of old and new plantings. The most historic are patches of grenache (1.3ha), shiraz (0.4ha), muscat gordo (0.5ha), and pedro ximénez and palomino (0.25ha combined), all held by a long-term lease from the City of Marion, the oldest vines planted 1906. Today they are encircled by businesses of all kinds, residential housing and scattered remnants of vineyards which are actively protected by most residents and local planning boards. The Blewitt Springs vineyard has 10.5 hectares of shiraz planted 1962 and one hectare of mataro planted 2020; Tatachilla has six hectares of grenache (circa 1962), eight hectares of shiraz (planted 2019/20) and two hectares of cabernet sauvignon (2020). There are six ranges of wines on sale at any one time. At the head is the Family Range, then follow the Fortified Wines, Urban Vineyard Collection, Discovery Range, Merchant Series and the Lavoro Range. Exports to the UK, Sweden, Germany, Poland, India and Vietnam.
Sister's Run – McLaren Vale, SA
Sister’s Run is now part of the Brooks family empire, the highly experienced Elena Brooks making the wines. The Stiletto and Boot on the label are those of Elena, and the motto ‘The truth is in the vineyard, but the proof is in the glass’ is, I (James) would guess, the work of marketer extraordinaire husband Zar Brooks. Exports to all major markets.
Flametree – Margaret River, WA
Flametree, owned by the Towner family (John, Liz, Rob and Annie), has had extraordinary success since its first vintage in 2007. The usual practice of planting a vineyard and then finding someone to make the wine was turned on its head: a state-of-the-art winery was built, and grape purchase agreements signed with growers in the region. Show success was topped by the winning of the Jimmy Watson Trophy with its 2007 Cabernet Merlot. If all this were not enough, Flametree has secured the services of winemaker Cliff Royle. Exports to the UK, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Hong Kong.
Flowstone Wines – Margaret River, WA
Veteran Margaret River winemaker Stuart Pym’s career constituted long-term successive roles: beginning with Voyager Estate in 1991, thereafter with Devil’s Lair, and finishing with Stella Bella in 2013, the year he and Perth-based wine tragic Phil Giglia established Flowstone Wines. In 2003 Stuart purchased a small property on the edge of the Margaret River Plateau in the beautiful Forest Grove area, progressively planting chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, gewürztraminer and touriga. From 2017, Flowstone leased a vineyard at Karridale, planted to long-established sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. The lease puts the vineyard on par with the estate plantings; the best fruit is retained, the balance sold. Thus Queen of the Earth Sauvignon Blanc appeared for the first time in 2017. Exports to the UK and Japan.
Smallwater Estate – Geographe, WA
Smallwater Estate was planted in 1993 by John Small and his late wife Robyn, with the intention of developing a marron farm and a vineyard to grow contract grapes. After selling grapes to other wineries for over a decade, in 2005 John decided to make wine under the Smallwater Estate label. The 2006 release was small (zinfandel, 250 cases), however since then, production has grown tenfold. Smallwater Estate focusses on shiraz, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.
Voyager Estate – Margaret River, WA
Voyager Estate is located on Stevens Road in the Boodjidup Valley, which is emerging as hallowed ground (Leeuwin, the western neighbour, Xanadu's Stevens Road vineyard and the vineyards of Voyager Estate complete the trinity of prestige in this neck of the woods). The estate was established in 1978 by viticulturist Peter Gherardi, and later purchased and expanded by the late mining magnate Michael Wright in 1991. In 2005, Michael’s daughter, Alexandra (Alex) Burt, took the helm at Voyager Estate. They are currently in transition to achieving certified organic status by 2023, and perhaps the most significant part of that ever-evolving story is the extensive clonal and varietal experimentation in the estate vineyards. The grounds are well known for their immaculate year-round grooming, as is the lavish, high-ceiling tasting room, built in a Dutch Colonial Cape Cod style complete with vast rose gardens, home to an award-winning restaurant with a rolling, seasonal degustation of local produce. At the top of the roundabout on the driveway is the massive Australian flagpole and flag – after Parliament House in Canberra, it’s the largest flagpole in Australia. Exports to all major markets.
Bream Creek Vineyard – Southern Tasmania
Until 1990 the Bream Creek fruit was sold to Moorilla Estate, but since then the winery has been independently owned and managed by Fred Peacock, legendary for the care he bestows on the vines under his direction. Fred’s skills have seen an increase in production and outstanding wine quality across the range, headed by the pinot noir. The list of trophies and medals won is extensive. Fred’s expertise as a consultant is in constant demand.
Jansz Tasmania – Northern Tasmania
Jansz Tasmania is part of Hill-Smith Family Vineyards and was one of the early sparkling wine labels in Tasmania, stemming from a short-lived relationship between Heemskerk and Louis Roederer. Its 15ha of chardonnay, 12ha of pinot noir and 3ha of pinot meunier in northern Tasmania correspond almost exactly to the blend composition of the Jansz wines. In December 2012 Hill-Smith Family Vineyards purchased part of the former Frogmore Creek Vineyard, and the property is now home to Jansz Tasmania's winery. Exports to all major markets.
Nocton Vineyard – Southern Tasmania
Nocton Vineyard is the reincarnation of Nocton Park. The 34 hectares were planted in ’99 and are predominately planted to pinot noir, chardonnay, merlot, chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc. Wines are released under the labels Nocton Vineyard and Willow Reserve Series. The quality across the two labels is very good. Exports to the US, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.