Best Value Winery of the Year

James Halliday by James Halliday
This award has never been about ‘cheap’ so much as the quality-price-ratio. Grosset, a previous winner, is a perfect example in that put these wines alongside others of similar quality from around the world, and they seem like bargains. This year’s Best Value Winery follows suit with beautiful, balanced wines, particularly cabernet and chardonnay, at extremely reasonable prices. Domaine Naturaliste is the brand of winemaker Bruce Dukes, who has been making top Western Australian wines via his consultancy business for decades. Now, he’s investing some of that talent and energy into a label and range of his own. Read on to hear what James Halliday has to say about his Best Value Winery of the Year.

James Halliday on his Best Value Winery of the Year


The devil is in the detail when it comes to value judgments. ‘I shouldn’t spend that much on wine,’ is different to, ‘That wine is not what I want.’ Neither has the implication that the wine is overpriced, and the second will remain so however much the price is reduced. Floating among all this is the purchaser’s actual ability to pay. In recent times prices at the upper end of the pyramid have crashed through the $100 barrier, with more than 250 Australian red wines retailing for $100 to $500, and – of course – Grange and Hill of Grace at $800-plus.

Short of those god-like wines, I used to find ‘great value’ or similar words springing to mind haphazardly at the end of a tasting note, only to be confronted with another wine of the same points and price without a value rating. So, to avoid that situation, a small algorithm was created to append the value rosette automatically.

Thus you can find wines at 89 points with a value rosette in this Companion, or even lower-pointed wines on the website, and you can find wines at 96, 97 or 98 points that don’t have a rosette as a function of a very high price. The elephant in the room is that it makes no attempt to cross-correlate varieties or favour old over young wines or vice versa.


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All but one of the 11 wines submitted received the value rosette, the points ranging from 93 to 97. Anyone with even a mere interest in these wines shouldn’t hesitate; wines of this class and price won’t be around next year.
And so, at last, we come to Domaine Naturaliste and its winemaker, Bruce Dukes. Bruce’s beginnings in wine were in the University of Western Australia and a degree in agronomy, followed by a master’s degree from the University of California (Davis). Five years at the extraordinary Niebaum-Coppola in the Napa Valley gave him a perspective few wineries anywhere in the world could match.

He returned to Australia to become part of a Margaret River consultancy and contract winemaking business, where his skills became readily apparent. The facility was set up to handle small and large amounts of wine, and he was at home with both ends of the spectrum.

In 2012 he established Domaine Naturaliste while continuing his consultancy winemaking work, with wife Nancy and sons Oscar and Tim at his side. All but one of the 11 wines submitted for this Companion received the value rosette, the points ranging from 93 to 97. Anyone with even a mere interest in these wines shouldn’t hesitate; wines of this class and price won’t be around next year.

Previous ‘Best Value Winery’ recipients were Hoddles Creek Estate (2015), West Cape Howe (2016), Larry Cherubino Wines (2017), Grosset (2018) and Provenance Wines (2019).

This extract is from the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion guide, published by Hardie Grant and available at all good bookstores.

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