James Halliday's Top 100 Australian Wines of 2011

James Halliday, 2011

I know I’m not going to get much sympathy when I say this year’s selection for the Top 100 was a marathon effort, with a record 1887 wines entered. The 7am to 7pm tasting day went on relentlessly and seemingly endlessly, with a short lunch break and one or two hours between 3pm and 5pm to deal with the mountain of emails and other writing deadlines. I have christened my desk the Bermuda Triangle, where all sorts of letters, email print outs, and other important pieces of paper mysteriously disappear.

It’s a wild and uncertain world in which we live; the 300% increase in the size of the industry since 1990 has been very largely driven by exports, and currently they are in the thrall of a perfect storm. Few remember that the quality of our cheap and cheerful sunshine-in-a-bottle style wines was infinitely better than that of any French, Spanish, Italian or German wines with prices greater than those of Australia.

Indeed, the difference in quality and style was so striking that UK consumers hesitated for a short time before accepting them without reservation. The French seized on that hesitation, declaring ‘these are not wines at all; they are fruit juice with alcohol; soon they will realise they have been fooled, and will come to their senses and buy our wines once again.’

But the English public didn’t come to its senses, a high point between a French chardonnay from the Languedoc for a major supermarket chain proudly bearing the words ‘Made in the Australian fashion.’ Hercule Poirot might have deduced this was a critical clue pointing to the end of Australian’s domination. Australian Flying Winemakers (as they were called) had begun to show French cooperatives that there was something to be gained from trying to make good wine, rather than relying on EU subsidies for an end point of distillation into alcohol.

Before too long Chile and New Zealand had joined in the export game, South Africa following once apartheid bans had been lifted and the state-owned KWV monopoly was removed. Argentina awoke from its long slumber, and California’s E&J Gallo began throwing limitless amounts of marketing dollars behind its wines.

The English wine press finally had wines other than those of Australia to enthuse about, and by the time the new millennium arrived the Ides of March pointed to a gloomy future. The rate of planting of new vineyards in Australia had proceeded at such a tumultuous rate that the 30-year vision formulated in 1995 of an industry with $2.5 billion exports and $2 billion of domestic sales was achieved in 2002-03, 22 years early.

Then the three large vintages in a row of 2004, ’05 and ’06 occurred (normally a large vintage is followed by a small one) despite increasing water shortages and hence increased water costs. Next came a GFC Mark I; the massive floods breaking the 20-year drought; the soaring demand for our minerals by China driving the Australian dollar to unimagined heights, plunging a stake into the heart of all other exports (tourism, foreign student education, and manufacture products) other than iron ore, coal, gold and any other minerals headed to Asia.

This has caused Wine Australia to radically rethink its export (and domestic) marketing strategies. First came Regional Heroes, the aim to show that in the same way as France (for example) there are repeated patterns of links between climate, soil and variety. Next came Australia+, the current programme of placing maximum emphasis on fine quality Australian wines.

If nothing else, the 1887 samples submitted for this Top 100 show there is a wonderful range of high quality wines across the whole range of variety and styles to present to the world. Moreover, at the top end of the quality tree currency fluctuations are less important than they are for supermarket wines.

What, then will the short to medium-term future bring? The answer lies first-up with China, and thereafter India: unless there is a major cataclysm in financial and trade structures and systems, Australia will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of the explosion in Asian wealth.

Category Screwcaps Corks (including Diam and ProCork)
Under $20 Whites 99.3% 0.7%
Under $20 Reds 99% 1%
Over $20 Whites 97.8% 2.2%
Over $20 Reds 85% 15%
All Table Wines 93.1% 6.9%
A remarkable snapshot of the closures used for the table wines submitted this year. Those who suggest screwcaps are inferior to other closures are clearly of the view the world is out of step.

Whites Under $20

Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Wallflower Great Southern Riesling 2011
Wise Frankland River Riesling 2011
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Clare Valley Dry Riesling 2011
Bellarmine Pemberton Riesling Dry 2011
McGuigan Bin Series No. 9000 Hunter Valley Semillon 2011
Scarborough Wine Co Green Label Semillon 2011
Brokenwood Hunter Valley Semillon 2011
De Bortoli Sacred Hill Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Mike Press Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Cumulus Rolling Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011
Rosily Vineyard Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Wise Margaret River Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011
Millbrook Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Mike Press Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2011
Bellarmine Pemberton Chardonnay 2010
Petaluma Bridgewater Mill Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2010
Tahbilk Marsanne 2011
Serafino Bellissimo Pinot Grigio 2011
Riposte The Stiletto Adelaide Hills Pinot Gris 2011
Landhaus Estate The Diva Savagnin 2010

View tasting notes for Whites Under $20 >>

Reds Under $20

Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Rose 2011
Willow Bridge Estate Madam Dragonfly Rose 2011
Sandalford Margaret River Rose 2011
Yering Station Little Yering Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010
Hoddles Creek Estate Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010
Deakin Estate Shiraz 2010
Jacob's Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2008
Chapman Grove Dreaming Dog Margaret River Shiraz 2009
McPherson Basilisk Shiraz Mourvedre 2010
Mount Langi Ghiran Vineyards Billi Billi Shiraz 2009
The Islander Estate Vineyards Shiraz 2009
Teusner The Riebke Northern Barossa Shiraz 2010
Oxford Landing Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2010
Jacob's Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Mike Press Single Vineyard Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Haselgrove First Cut McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Majella The Musician Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz 2010
Willow Bridge Estate Dragonfly Cabernet Merlot 2010
Chalice Bridge Estate The Estate Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2008
Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Quartage 2009

View tasting notes for Reds Under $20 >>

Whites Over $20

Howard Park Porongurup Riesling 2011
Henschke Julius Eden Valley Riesling 2011
Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011
Tyrrell’s Johnno's Basket Pressed Semillon 2011
Brokenwood ILR Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 2006
Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Museum Reserve Semillon 2005
Shaw & Smith Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Vasse Felix Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011
SC Pannell Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Larry Cherubino ‘Cherubino’ Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009
Stella Bella Suckfizzle Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007
Bay of Fires Pinot Gris 2011
Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2010
Shaw & Smith M3 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2010
Vasse Felix Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay 2009
Oakridge 864 Lusatia Park Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Chardonnay 2008
Penfolds Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2009
Cullen Kevin John Margaret River Chardonnay 2009

View tasting notes for Whites over $20 >>

Reds Over $20

De Bortoli Riorret The Abbey Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010
Kooyong Estate Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2009
Mayer Close Planted Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010
Oakridge 864 Bateman Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010
by Farr Sangreal 2009
Mount Avoca Pyrenees Shiraz 2009
Tintara McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008
Shaw & Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2009
John Duval Entity Barossa Shiraz 2009
Hewitson Private Cellar Barossa Valley Shiraz Mourvedre 2009
Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz 2009
Tahbilk 1860 Vines Shiraz 2006
Penfolds Grange 2006
Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Etcetera Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2010
West Cape Howe Book Ends Great Southern Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Davis Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Houghton Gladstones Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Vasse Felix Heytesbury 2008
Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Belgravia Vineyards Orange Merlot 2010

View tasting notes for Reds over $20 >>


Dominique Portet Yarra Valley Brut Rose LD NV
Yarrabank Cuvee 2007
Domaine Chandon Brut Rose Vintage 2008
Jansz Tasmania Premium Vintage Cuvee 2006
Petaluma Croser Late Disgorged Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2000
Arras Brut Elite Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV
Primo Estate Joseph Sparkling Red NV
Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 1999

View tasting notes for Australian Sparkling >>


Cattier Brut Premier Cru NV
Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Selection Belles Années Premier Cru NV
Champagne Devaux Blanc de Noirs NV
Jacquesson Cuvee No. 734 NV
Pierre Gimmonet & Fils Special Club Premier Cru 2004
Champagne Taittinger Cuvee Brut Prestige Rose NV
Bollinger Rose NV
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose NV
Bollinger La Grande Année 2002
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1998
Krug Grande Cuvée NV
Dom Pérignon Rose 1998

View tasting notes for Champagne >>

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