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

Reds Under $20

326 wines submitted
55 shortlisted
20 selected

Apart from a dearth of good pinot noirs under $20, this was another selection auto da fe. Three excellent rosés for the coming summer and two pinots left room for five shirazs and two shiraz blends, three cabernet sauvignons and five cabernet blends. Missing in action are the Spanish and Italian varietals that might have been expected, but just failed to find a way in.

Rosé: Rosés come in many shapes and hues, sometimes bits and pieces of leftover wines or grapes, the best made from the ground up, and not reliant on sweetness. Here are three of the best.

Turkey Flat Barossa Valley Rosé 2011
94 points, $18, Screwcap, 12.5% alc
The wine has pale fuchsia colour and the usual blend of grenache, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and dolcetto. The bouquet is fragrant, with the same small red berry fruits that are found on the palate; the finish is fresh and clean, with a hint of citrus on the well-balanced finish. Drink with almost anything over the coming 12+ months. Consistently at the very top of Australian rosés.

From Barossa Valley, SA
Drink to 2012 with tapas

Willow Bridge Estate Madam Dragonfly Rosé 2011
95 points, $18, Screwcap, 13% alc
A wine that came as a complete surprise, given its regional and varietal base. An unusual bright pink blend of tempranillo, merlot and sangiovese with a fragrant bouquet of rose petals and warm spices, then an intense but very well balanced palate with nougat/Turkish delight/red berry fruit flavours; the dry finish has a twist of citrussy acidity.

From Geographe, WA
Drink to 2012 with prosciutto and melon

Sandalford Margaret River Rosé 2011
94 points, $18.99, Screwcap, 12.5% alc
Made from 100% cabernet sauvignon purpose-picked on the first days of vintage. Bright puce-pink; has the balance lacking in many eastern states' rosés in 2011, its raspberry and cherry fruit aromas and flavours finishing dry, acidity providing a framework for the sweet fruit on the back-palate and perfectly balanced, lingering finish.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2012 with smoked fish

Pinot Noir: Finding good pinot noirs under $20 is increasingly difficult; the two selected are in very different styles, but share the invitation to drink now or over the next couple of years (thanks to their screwcaps).

Yering Station Little Yering Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010
92 points, $18, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
The name Little Yering was not used in the nineteenth century heyday of Chateau Yering, but Little Neuchatel was — hence this oblique reference. Light but clear colour; attractive early drinking style, with purity and freshness to its red and black cherry fruit; the tannins are fine and supple, and 12 months in French oak has mainly contributed to the mouthfeel.

From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink to 2014 with veal kidneys

Hoddles Creek Estate Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2010
94 points, $18.99, Screwcap, 13.2% alc
The clear crimson-purple colour is a promising start to a wine with the purity of flavour that is the hallmark of all Hoddles Creek wines, and invests them with energy and drive. The gently spicy red cherry fruit is wonderfully fresh, but the wine will benefit from a few more years in bottle if you can keep your hands off it, a difficult task once you have tasted it.

From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink to 2016 with wild mushroom risotto

Shiraz and blends: The competition in this category is intense; grape surpluses have their upside as well as downside. It is arguable that shiraz and shiraz blends are under-represented.

Deakin Estate Shiraz 2010
90 points, $10, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
Large estate vineyards (373 ha) and the skill of winemaker Dr Phil Spillman ensure the consistency of the Deakin Estate wines. Light red-purple, bright and clear; the bouquet has fragrant red berry aromas, the light- to medium-bodied palate with similar fruit enhanced by fine but persistent tannins. Practised handling of large volumes of grapes and wine, given an extra point for its freshness and elegance.

From Murray Darling, Vic
Drink to 2014 with braised oxtail

Jacob's Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2008
89 points, $11.50, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
An astonishing blue-gold medal at the Sydney International Wine Competition ’11, that must have surprised as much as it pleased the Jacob's Creek team, and must have led to an additional print of blue-gold stickers. It is a very pleasant wine, some winery skill resulting in its modest alcohol in that never-to-be-forgotten vintage, with a gently savoury/herbal edge to its light-bodied black fruits, the balance good.

From various regions
Drink to 2012 with roast beef

Chapman Grove Dreaming Dog Margaret River Shiraz 2009
94 points, $15, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
The Dreaming Dog wines are the bottom tier of three. This export-focused business, with 267 ha of vineyards, and a 450 000-dozen production flies under the radar in Australia. Good depth to the colour; has an abundance of gently spicy dark plum fruit aromas and flavours supported by fine, soft tannins and subtle oak. Trophy Best Small Producer Named Vineyard Sydney Wine Show '11.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2014 with stir-fried Asian-style beef

McPherson Basilisk Shiraz Mourvedre 2010
93 points, $17.99, Screwcap, 14% alc
Mourvedre fills a role similar to viognier, with only 5% making the difference. The wine has the excellent colour that is the hallmark of most vintages of this over-delivering blend. Black cherry and spicy tannins are woven through the stylish medium-bodied palate, which has a long finish. Good any time over the next five years.

From Central Vic
Drink to 2016 with Irish stew

Mount Langi Ghiran Vineyards Billi Billi Shiraz 2009
94 points, $18, Screwcap, 14% alc
A singularly impressive entry point for the Langi Ghiran shirazs. Bright, clear red-purple; the scented and fragrant bouquet has a warm spice and pepper introduction to the fleshy red and black cherry fruit of the perfectly balanced medium-bodied palate; the quality of the wine comes through on the lingering finish and aftertaste. Drink whenever you like.

From Grampians, Vic
Drink to 2019 with kangaroo fillet

The Islander Estate Vineyards Shiraz 2009
94 points, $18, Screwcap, 14.5% alc
Established in 2000 by French Flying Winemaker Jacques Lurton as an ultimate retirement (from travel) home and business. Medium red-purple; a complex bouquet and palate with spice, red and black cherry/berry fruit cradled by positive French oak and plentiful but ripe and balanced tannins; a slightly savoury aftertaste adds another dimension.

From Kangaroo Island, SA
Drink to 2024 with beef Provencale

Teusner The Riebke Northern Barossa Shiraz 2010
96 points, $19, Screwcap, 14.5% alc
Ex Torbreck winemaker Kim Teusner and brother-in-law Michael Page create the remarkable Teusner wines. Crimson-purple; the fragrant bouquet exudes plum and blackberry fruit, promptly picked up by the stylish medium-bodied palate; here those flavours are joined by perfect tannins, oak purring along in the background. So great is the balance that the wine will live forever, however enjoyable it is now.

From Barossa Valley, SA
Drink to 2030 with venison

Cabernet Sauvignon and blends: As hotly contested as the shiraz group; with cabernet shiraz, cabernet merlot and varietal cabernet sauvignon all with serious credentials.

Oxford Landing Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2010
88 points, $8.95, Screwcap, 13% alc
Custom-made and branded bottles and sophisticated label and capsule design were introduced for this vintage, and draw the eye and the hand to the retail shelf. Ludicrously good value. Light, bright red-purple; fresh black and redcurrant fruit leads the way, and brings up the rear. This is all about fruit flavour, not tannins, not oak, nor artifice, yet works brilliantly.

From South Australia
Drink to 2014 with braised lamb shanks

Jacob's Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
88 points, $11.50, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
There is no question the current Jacob's Creek range is at the forefront of its price and volume peers, assuming, of course, there is no significant variation in different bottling runs. The wine has good hue, and of moderate depth. It has very clear varietal character (assuming a touch of mint is acceptable) courtesy of its blackcurrant fruit, the appropriate tannin support for its target market.

From South Australia
Drink to 2013 with lamb cutlets

Mike Press Single Vineyard Adelaide Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
94 points, $14, Screwcap, 14% alc
A wine that underlines the flexibility of the Mike Press vineyard, small though it may be. Bright crimson; has the elegance that has marked the Mike Press wines since day one, and the irresistible price; fragrant blackcurrant fruit is the driver, cedary oak and fine tannins bring up the rear in fine style. From estate vines now 13 years old.

From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink to 2017 with lamb backstrap

Haselgrove First Cut McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
94 points, $18, Screwcap, 14% alc
This is the third tier (of four) in the Haselgrove portfolio; what a vintage 2010 was! Bright crimson-purple; shows (again) what McLaren Vale can do with cabernet sauvignon given the right seasonal climate and intelligent winemaking. Here cassis/blackcurrant fruit has been matured in appropriate oak, and the tannin extraction judged to perfection.

From McLaren Vale, SA
Drink to 2020 with parmagiana

Majella The Musician Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz 2010
94 points, $18, Screwcap, 14.5% alc
This 55/45% blend has seemingly welded itself to the under $20 red list for the Top 100. The vivid crimson-magenta colour and fragrant black fruit bouquet lead into a vibrant palate with excellent length and balance. Fruit tannins and oak all play their role in a classic medium-bodied frame; drink any time over the next nine years.

From Coonawarra, SA
Drink to 2020 with ox kidney

Willow Bridge Estate Dragonfly Cabernet Merlot 2010
95 points, $18, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
At the Perth Wine Show in September, it won the trophy for Best Dry Red Blend prevailing over 200+ wines (regardless of price). Bright red-purple; a classic example of the blend, with blackcurrant, redcurrant, dried herbs and black olive balanced by a nice touch of cedary oak, the tannins fine and ripe.

From Geographe, WA
Drink to 2016 with butterfly leg of lamb

Chalice Bridge Estate The Estate Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2008
94 points, $19.95, Screwcap, 14% alc
Developed colour, consistent with its age; the bouquet is a fragrant offering of red and black fruits plus a waft of oak, the palate following suit with a seductive mix of cherry, cassis, cedary oak and fine tannins. Close on perfect balance given the ripeness of the fruit. Ready now.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2015 with barbecued lamb

Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Quartage 2009
95 points, $19.99, Screwcap, 14% alc
This wine is a 52/24/18/3/3% blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot that spends 13 months in 85% French and 15% American oak. The colour is crimson-purple, the wine with remarkable intensity and drive to its blackcurrant, plum and licorice flavours that magically ascend on the finish. This label has a great show history.

From Barossa, SA
Drink to 2024 with lamb ragout

The most unlucky misses:

Rose Rating Price
Angove Nine Vines Grenache Shiraz Rose 2011 90 $15
Hay Shed Hill Pitchfork Pink 2011 92 $15
Devil's Lair Fifth Leg Rose 2011 91 $18
Wills Domain Margaret River Rose 2011 93 $19.50
De Bortoli La Boheme Act Two Yarra Valley Rose 2011 93 $20
Shiraz and blends Rating Price
Mike Press Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2010 93 $13
Penny’s Hill Thomas Goss McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 93 $16
Charles Cimicky Trumps Barossa Valley Shiraz 2009 94 $18
Hardys Oomoo McLaren Vale Shiraz 2009 93 $18
Larry Cherubino Mix Master Shiraz Grenache Mataro Viognier 2010 93 $18
Wise Margaret River Shiraz 2010 94 $18
Armchair Critic Heathcote Shiraz 2009 93 $19
d'Arenberg The Footbolt McLaren Vale Shiraz 2009 94 $19
Kirrihill Single Vineyard Tullymore Vineyard Clare Valley Shiraz 2009 94 $19
Teusner The Independent Shiraz Mataro 2010 93 $19
Hentley Farm Caretaker Barossa Valley Shiraz 2010 94 $20
Juniper Crossing Margaret River Shiraz 2009 93 $20
Rosemount Estate District Release McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 94 $20
Shottesbrooke McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 94 $20
Yelland & Papps Delight Barossa Valley Grenache Shiraz 2010 94 $20
Other reds Rating Price
De Bortoli Deen Vat 4 Petit Verdot 2009 91 $13
Happs Margaret River Merlot 2008 93 $20
Westend Estate 3 Bridges Winemakers Selection Durif 2009 93 $20

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