Understanding Winery Ratings

How to use the Wine Companion

Winery name  

The name appearing on the front label as the producer is used throughout the book.

Winery rating  5 red star James Halliday winery rating

I look at the ratings for this and the previous two years; if the wines tasted this year justified a higher rating than last year, that higher rating has been given. If, on the other hand, the wines are of lesser quality, I take into account the track record over the past two years (or longer where the winery is well known) and made a judgement call on whether it should retain its ranking, or be given a lesser one. In what I call the mercy rating, in most instances a demotion is no more than half a star. Where no wines were submitted by a well-rated winery which had a track record of providing samples, I may use my discretion to roll over last year’s rating.

The percentages at the end of each rating is that of the total number of wineries in the Wine Companion database at the time of going to print. Two caveats: first, I retain a discretionary right to depart from the normal criteria. Second, the basis of the rating will best be understood on the website, where all wine ratings appear.

Some may think my ratings are too generous, but less than half (46.8%) of the wineries in our database, believed or known to be, active, are given ratings in this book, spread across the eight categories. Moreover, if I were to reduce the number of wineries in each category by (say) 50% the relative ranking would not change, other than a massive increase in the NR category, providing no useful guidance for the reader.

5 red star James Halliday winery rating Outstanding winery regularly producing wines of exemplary quality and typicity. Will have at least two wines rated at 95 points or above, and had a five-star rating for the previous two years. 282 wineries, 10%

Where the winery name is itself is printed in red, it is a winery generally acknowledged to have had a long track record of excellence in the context of its region — truly the best of the best. 102 wineries, 3.6%

5 star James Halliday winery rating Outstanding winery capable of producing wines of very high quality, and did so this year. Also will usually have at least two wines rated at 95 points or above. 204 wineries, 7.2%

4.5 star James Halliday winery rating Excellent winery able to produce wines of high to very high quality, knocking on the door of a 5-star rating. Will normally have one wine rated at 95 points or above, and two (or more) at 90 and above, others 87-89. 271 wineries, 9.6%

4 star James Halliday winery ratingVery good producer of wines with class and character. Will have two (or more) wines rated at 90 points and above (or possibly one at 95 and above). 311 wineries, 11%

3.5 star James Halliday winery ratingA solid, usually reliable, maker of good, sometimes very good wines. Will have one wine at 90 points and above, others 86-89. 102 wineries, 3.6%

3 star James Halliday winery ratingA typically good winery, but often has a few lesser wines. Will have wines at 86-89 points. 36 wineries, 1.3%

Winery not ratedThe NR rating mainly appears on www.winecompanion.com.au. The rating is given in a range of circumstances: where there have been no tastings in the 12-month period; where there have been tastings, but with no wines scoring more than 88 points; or where the tastings have, for one reason or another, proved not to fairly reflect the reputation of a winery with a track record of success. NR wineries in the book are generally new wineries with no wine entries. 4 wineries, 0.14%

Contact Details 

The details are usually those of the winery and cellar door, but in a few instances may simply be a postal address; this occurs when the wine is made at another winery or wineries, and is sold only through the website and/or retail.


A full list of Zones, Regions and Subregions is available on the website.  Occasionally you will see ‘Various’ as the region. This means the wine is made from purchased grapes, from a number of regions, often a winery without a vineyard of its own.


An important reference point, normally containing material not found (for space reasons) in this book.

Open M

Although a winery might be listed as not open or only open on weekends, some may in fact be prepared to open by appointment. Many will, some won’t; a telephone call will establish whether it is possible or not. For space reasons, we have simplified the open hours listings, taking out ‘or by appt’ as superfluous, also, convoluted opening hours dictated by winter, summer or whatever, do not appear. The assumption is the details can be found via their website.


In all but the smallest producers, the winemaker is simply the head of a team; there may be many executive winemakers actually responsible for specific wines in the medium to large companies (80 000 dozens and upwards). Once again, space constraints mean usually only two winemakers are names, even if they are part of a larger team.


Keep in mind that some makers consider the year in which they purchased the land to be the year of establishment, others the year in which they first planted grapes, others the year they first made wine, and so on. There may also be minor complications where there has been a change of ownership or break in production.


Shows the hectares of vineyard/s owned by the winery.


This figure (representing the number of 9-litre (12-bottle) cases produced each year) is merely an indication of the size of the operation. Some winery entries do not feature a production figure: this is either because the winery (principally, but not exclusively, the large companies) regards this information as confidential.


A winery steeped in tradition (with National Trust classification), which should be visited at least once by every wine-conscious Australian, and which makes wines – particularly red wines – utterly in keeping with that tradition…

Surely self-explanatory, except that I have tried to vary the subjects I discuss in this part of the winery entry.

New Wineries

The vine leaf symbol indicates the 92 wineries that are new entries in this year’s Wine Companion.


10 Best Value Wineries

In previous years, only one Best Value Winery was chosen. I have extended the choice to 10, but continue to award the top winery of this category.

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Special Value

Wines considered to offer special value for money.