James Halliday's Top 100 Wines of 2011 - Reds over $20

Reds Over $20

700 wines submitted
82 shortlisted
20 selected

Solomon’s wisdom not available online, I was left with the utterly invidious task of making a balanced (varietal) selection of 20 wines, leaving 680 out in the cold. Even if, hypothetically, I had limited my selection to shiraz, it would still have been a nightmarish task. Likewise, the list of unlucky misses could have been immense. Merlot earns a place in the selection with a rare impressive example.

Pinot Noir: 2010 came as a welcome relief for the Yarra Valley after the fire and smoke-ravaged ’09 vintage, and its winemakers took full advantage of it.

De Bortoli Riorret The Abbey Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010

97 points, $42, Diam, 13% alc
The Riorret (‘terroir’ backwards) pinots of Steven Webber push the envelope, and don’t always succeed. This does. Light, clear, bright red; has the red berry and spice characters of its less expensive sibling (Estate Pinot Noir), except that the volume of fruit is immeasurably greater, the flavours correspondingly more intense and long; cherry and plum have a dusting of savoury spices, but no more. Has stupendous length.

From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink to 2017 with roast breast of squab

Kooyong Estate Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2009
96 points, $49, Diam, 13% alc
Dark in colour, and dark and sultry in character, loaded with black fruits and Asian spice on the bouquet; the palate reveals fresh black cherry, crunchy acidity and an assertive ironstone mineral component; long, taut and unevolved, this is serious big-boned Pinot Noir, and will continued to open up and expand over the years ahead.

From Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Drink to 2018 with saddle of hare

Mayer Close Planted Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010
97 points, $60, Diam, 13.5% alc
Crystal clear crimson; a distinguished pinot almost living up to the cheeky label (inspired by that of Rousseau’s Grand Cru Chambertin); it is very intense, with red and black cherry fruit, spice and perfectly judged savoury/earthy nuances to the fine tannins on the exceptionally long palate.

From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink to 2019 with wild mushroom risotto

Oakridge 864 Bateman Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010
97 points, $60, Screwcap, 12.5% alc
Bright, clear crimson-purple; the bouquet is wonderfully fragrant and pure, but it is the astounding length and drive of the palate that makes this wine so special; red fruits and fine spicy tannins are spun together like a silk brocade. Winemaking of the highest calibre by David Bicknell brings this special site to life.

From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink to 2020 with deboned quail

by Farr Sangreal 2009
97 points, $65, Cork, 13% alc
Although the label doesn’t tell you so, this is indeed pinot noir. Deep purple-crimson; the bouquet has a rich and complex array of dark berry fruits, shifting up a gear on the positively voluptuous palate, which opens strongly and does not back off at any stage. Despite all this, it is a wine of finesse, very different to Farrside (the other Gary Farr pinot).

From Geelong, Vic
Drink to 2020 with roast kid

Shiraz and blends: These eight wines come from seven regions spread across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, a testament to the flexibility of shiraz in adapting to almost any combination of climate and soil. There is every reason to suppose it will be unruffled by such climate change as may occur over the next 50 years.

Mount Avoca Pyrenees Shiraz 2009
96 points, $27, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
Winemakers John Harris and Cameron McPherson continue to lift the bar at this long-established (1970) winery. Bright crimson-purple; the bouquet has the special fragrance that comes from co-fermented viognier, bright yet also complex; whole bunch shiraz  fermentation (plus the viognier) has worked brilliantly, giving the wine great texture, length and balance.

From Pyrenees, Vic
Drink to 2024 with Wagyu

Tintara McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008
96 points, $27, Screwcap, 14% alc
Strong crimson-red; the label does not show the Hardy (now Accolade) ownership, but this is a classic Hardy McLaren Vale style, the bouquet promising a seamless mix of juicy black fruits and quality oak on a medium- to full-bodied palate, and that is precisely what you get, with extra nuances of cedar and spice carried in the orbit of fine tannins. Great value.

From McLaren Vale, SA
Drink to 2035 with beef cheek

Shaw & Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2009
97 points, $40, Screwcap, 14.5% alc
Deep colour, vibrant hue; deep and compelling levels of ripe black fruits, savoury spices and well handled toasty oak; the palate is unctuous and silky, with black and red fruits combining with silky fine-grained tannins expanding across the palate with true grace and harmony; long and luscious. Exceptional track record in international tastings over the past year.

From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink to 2025 with grain-fed beef

John Duval Entity Barossa Shiraz 2009
96 points, $48, Screwcap, 14.5% alc
Former Penfolds Grange maker John Duval has access to high quality, old vine shiraz; wines such as this are the almost inevitable outcome. Crimson-purple; the perfumed bouquet proclaims the class of the wine, its array of blackberry, plum and spice fruit duly delivered on the medium-bodied palate; silky tannins and quality oak complete the picture.

From Barossa, SA
Drink to 2030 with game pie

Hewitson Private Cellar Barossa Valley Shiraz Mourvedre 2009
97 points, $99, Screwcap, 14% alc
Light, clear crimson; given the medium-bodied weight of the wine, the intensity and length of the wine is prodigious; unlike the '08, red fruits are the main theme, rather than black, on the aromatic bouquet and through the palate. Made from very old vines, and comes with a 20-year cellaring guarantee; French oak and fine tannins complete the story of its ultra-limited production.

From Barossa Valley, SA
Drink to 2034 with prime eye fillet

Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz 2009
96 points, $150, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
Much work on the Graveyard Vineyard since its acquisition from Hungerford Hill has paid huge dividends. Excellent crimson-purple; has a fragrant plum and cherry bouquet, then an intense and very long palate moving into a savoury black fruit spectrum; exemplary tannin and French oak management underpins the line and balance of a wine destined to outlive many who taste it.

From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink to 2040 with initial extreme restraint

Tahbilk 1860 Vines Shiraz 2006
97 points, $212, Screwcap, % alc
Exceptionally bright, clear crimson with no hint of colour change; this one of the best 1860s Vines ever made. It has effortless power that invests the palate with extreme length, the red and black cherry fruit responsible for all the aroma and flavour, oak merely a vehicle, the tannins superfine. The number of vines killed by frost in 2007 is a tragedy of monumental proportions.

From Nagambie Lakes, Vic
Drink to 2030 with braised oxtail

Penfolds Grange 2006
98 points, $650, Cork, 14.5% alc
Deep crimson; its bouquet has a strikingly complex array of black characters that run all the way from the first whiff to the finish and aftertaste: licorice, tar, bitter chocolate, blackberry, prune and plum. The tannins are prominent, and play their part with each successive sip of the steadily building impact on the very long palate, but they are in balance with the fruit and oak of an extremely powerful Grange.

From SA blend
Drink to 2050 with rich game dishes

Cabernet Sauvignon, blends and merlot: The domination of West Australian cabernet sauvignon will continue to be a fact of wine life, with only Coonawarra able to keep the pressure on. Remarkably, a merlot (from Orange) made it to the top.

Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Etcetera Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2010

95 points, $21, Screwcap, 14% alc
Noticeably deeper colour than most of its peers, but the hue on the rim is vibrant. The delphic back label says 'Cabernet merlot.... and the rest', the ‘rest’ being 4% malbec and 2% petit verdot (added to the 65% cabernet sauvignon and 29% merlot). An altogether more powerful and layered wine, fruit, not alcohol or excessive tannins, driving the wine. Any lack of finesse is easily forgiven at this price.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2025 with rare char-grilled rump steak

West Cape Howe Book Ends Great Southern Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
95 points, $24, Screwcap, 14% alc
Follows in the footsteps of the equally good 2008 wines, with the same compelling value for money. Deep, vivid crimson-purple; a distinguished cabernet, with pristine blackcurrant fruit on the bouquet, joined by some plum on the palate; 18 months in French oak has added cedary complexity, and the overall structure and balance is admirable.

From Great Southern, WA
Drink to 2024 with lamb casserole

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Davis Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
96 points, $49.99, Screwcap, 14% alc
Deep purple; this wine immediately stamps its authority, no surprise given that the cabernet vines were planted in 1957 (the second-oldest in Coonawarra) and completely rejuvenated in ’03. Its surging blackcurrant fruit is supported by tannins and French oak in perfect balance. It is true the 2008 John Riddoch is a better wine again, but it is justifiably more expensive.

From Coonawarra, SA
Drink to 2030 with roast saltbush lamb

Houghton Gladstones Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
97 points, $70, Screwcap, 14% alc
Named in honour of Dr John Gladstones, whose vision led to the first vines being planted in Margaret River in 1967. Still holds a youthful, clear purple-crimson hue; from the Wilyabrup area, this is as near a perfect evocation of this part of Margaret River as you can find, with an all too rare purity to the cassis/blackcurrant fruit, framed by perfectly balanced and integrated French oak and fine, persistent tannins.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2030 with herbed rack of lamb

Vasse Felix Heytesbury 2008
96 points, $88, Screwcap, 14.5% alc
The wine is simply called Heytesbury because the percentages of the varieties used changes from year to year. The inclusion of petit verdot (13%) and malbec (10%) with the cabernet sauvignon has also been introduced by Virginia Willcock, it is the synergy of the blend that is so important. It is a complex, layered wine that nonetheless retains finesse, its predominantly blackcurrant and plum fruit given texture and structure by outstanding ripe tannins and cedary French oak; exemplary length and balance.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2028 with steak and mushroom pie

Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
98 points, $110, Screwcap, 14% alc
From the single Justin Vineyard in the Frankland River; this speaks of its place of origin even more eloquently than the Gladstones Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon. The cabernet is effortlessly focused and powerful, the balance, texture, structure, line and length of this beautiful wine certain to carry it long after I have had my ashes scattered.

From Frankland River, WA
Drink to 2040 with slow-braised lamb

Belgravia Vineyards Orange Merlot 2010
96 points, $30, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
Impressive colour and bouquet with a distinct bramble aroma and perhaps wild rose; the palate lifts the wine another notch higher, blackcurrant fruit, powerful but balanced tannins, and quality oak all in play. An Australian merlot that a Left Bank producer in Bordeaux would instantly relate to, sweet plum fruit nowhere in the profile.

From Orange, NSW
Drink to 2025 with pork belly

The most unlucky misses:

Shiraz and blends Rating Price
Larry Cherubino Ad Hoc Middle of Everywhere Frankland River Shiraz 2010 94 $21
Penny’s Hill Cracking Black McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 95 $22
West Cape Howe Two Steps Great Southern Shiraz 2009 95 $24
Mitchell Peppertree Vineyard Clare Valley Shiraz 2008 96 $26
Greenstone Vineyard Heathcote Shiraz 2008 96 $30
Mount Langi Ghiran Vineyards Cliff Edge Shiraz 2009 96 $30
Mount Langi Ghiran Vineyards Moyston Hills Vineyard Shiraz 2008 96 $30
Tower Estate Horse Paddock Vineyard Barossa Valley Shiraz 2009 96 $35
Romney Park Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2008 96 $36
Yering Station Yarra Valley Shiraz Viognier 2010 96 $38
John Duval Plexus Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre 2009 96 $39
Charles Cimicky The Autograph Barossa Valley Shiraz 2009 96 $40
Head The Blonde Single Vineyard Stonewell Shiraz Viognier 2010 96 $40
Mistletoe Reserve Hunter Valley Shiraz 2009 97 $40
St Hallett Blackwell Barossa Shiraz 2009 96 $43
Alkoomi Jarrah Frankland River Shiraz 2007 96 $45
Pepper Tree Tallavera Limited Release Hunter Valley Shiraz 2010 96 $45
Petaluma Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2008 96 $45
Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Shiraz 2009 96 $45
Paradise IV Moorabool Estate Dardel Geelong Shiraz 2010 96 $49
Chateau Pâto Hunter Wine Country DJP Shiraz 2009 96 $50
Foxeys Hangout Mornington Peninsula Shiraz 2010 96 $50
Kangarilla Road Vineyard Scarce Earth Project McLaren Vale Shiraz 2009 96 $50
Ferngrove The Stirlings Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 96 $60
Moppity Vineyards Reserve Hilltops Shiraz 2009 97 $60
SC Pannell McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008 96 $60
Willow Bridge Estate Black Dog Geographe Shiraz 2009 96 $60
d'Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz 2008 96 $65
Larry Cherubino Frankland River Shiraz 96 $65
Kellermeister Wild Witch Barossa Shiraz 2008 96 $65
Wirra Wirra RSW McLaren Vale Shiraz 2009 96 $65
Hewitson The Mad Hatter McLaren Vale Shiraz 2009 96 $70
Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Hunter Shiraz 2010 97 $70
Dalwhinnie Southwest Rocks Shiraz 2008 96 $75
Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Hunter Shiraz 2009 97 $80
Dandelion Vineyards Red Queen of the Eden Valley Shiraz 2008 96 $85
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Michael Limited Release Shiraz 2008 97 $90
Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2008 96 $115
Penfolds RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2008 96 $175
Cabernet Sauvignon and blends Rating Price
Cape Mentelle Trinders Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2009 96 $32
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 96 $35
Fraser Gallop Estate Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 96 $37
Yering Station Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 96 $38
Katnook Estate The Caledonian 2009 96 $45
Kerrigan + Berry Mt Barker Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 96 $55
David Franz Georgie's Walk Cellar Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 96 $63
Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 96 $70
Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 97 $90
Parker Coonawarra Estate Terra Rossa First Growth 2008 96 $110

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Wines considered to offer special value for money.