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

Whites Over $20

402 wines submitted
54 shortlisted
20 selected

For those who think my points are too easily given, firstly think about the one in every 20 wines selected, and secondly about the sheer quality of modern Australian chardonnay over $20, recently praised to the skies by notoriously hard-to-please, but outstanding, English writer journalist and author Andrew Jefford. Squeezed between the rock of chardonnay and the hard place of high quality sauvignon blanc and sauvignon blanc semillon blends, riesling, semillon and a single remarkable pinot gris make a necessarily diminished contribution.

Riesling:  The wine that all professionals love to drink, the advent of screwcaps meaning you can drink it young, or in a few years (or a few decades) secure in the knowledge that neither oxidation nor cork taint will interfere with its majestic progress.

Howard Park Porongurup Riesling 2011

96 points, $30, Screwcap, 12% alc
Pale straw-green; each year the evidence increases that Porongurup is one of the best regions for long-lived riesling anywhere in Australia. This wine is typically exceptionally fine, and both it (and the track record of the region) tells you greatness awaits around the corner in five+ years time, and long thereafter. Do not be fooled by the reticence of its youth.

From Porongurup, WA
Drink to 2031 with tuna sashimi

Henschke Julius Eden Valley Riesling 2011
96 points, $33, Screwcap, 11% alc
This is one of the best of many examples proving the swings of the cool vintage prevailed over the roundabouts of disease in the well-managed riesling vineyards. Light straw-green; a perfumed wine of outstanding texture and structure that carry the cascade of lime and lime zest fruit through to the long, imperious finish. Great things in store.

From Eden Valley, SA
Drink to 2018 with blue swimmer crab

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2011
97 points, $49, Screwcap, 12.5% alc
Jeffrey Grosset was one of the first to announce he was thrilled by the quality of his rieslings in 2011. Light straw-green; a gently floral, perfumed bouquet is followed by a palate of great purity, with lime juice, and a hint of tropical fruit; the sheer intensity and extreme length is awesome, the after-palate persisting for what seems an eternity thanks to its core of minerality.

From Clare Valley, SA
Drink to 2026 with pan-fried scallops

Semillon: If possible, this variety has benefited even more from the slightly belated advent of screwcap than riesling. It is less exuberant than riesling in the first few years of its life, but grows exponentially thereafter, reaching its first optimum at five years — still youthful but very expressive — thereafter slowly building lightly browned buttered toast and honey flavours over the next 10-15 years.

Tyrrell’s Johnno's Basket Pressed Semillon 2011

96 points, $45, Screwcap, 11.4% alc
The vines were planted in 1908 on sandy flats; the hand-picked grapes were basket-pressed, reducing the volume of juice; and the bottle and label are a throwback to the ’60s and ’70s. It has all the vivid flavour of great young semillon, minerally acidity the turbo-charged energy that will drive the palate for decades to come.

From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink to 2036 with summer salads

Brokenwood ILR Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 2006
96 points, $48, Screwcap, 11% alc
Straw-green, still bright and relatively light; at the first moment of the emergence of honey and toast from its lime and mineral womb, but has many years before it becomes an adult. Thus you have the best of all worlds, drink it now, tomorrow, or in 10 years or more by which time the honey, toast and nut characters will be at their zenith.

From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink to 2026 with fresh Tasmanian salmon

Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Museum Reserve Semillon 2005
97 points, $65, Screwcap, 11.6% alc
Bright straw-green; a great example of a great vintage moving inexorably towards its full majesty; in the meantime its honeyed lemon flavours reach every corner of the mouth. A truly beautiful wine now, and will be so in the years to come. A prime example of the magic of screwcaps.

From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink to 2020 with seafood risotto

Sauvignon Blanc and blends, and Pinot Gris: The tsunami of Marlborough sauvignon blanc has curiously diminished the sales of other white varieties (especially semillon and riesling), but has had less impact on top-quality sauvignon blanc and sauvignon blanc semillon blends.

Shaw & Smith Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011
96 points, $25, Screwcap, 12.5% alc
Pale straw-green; the perfumed bouquet offers passionfruit, kiwi fruit and citrus aromas that set the scene for the palate, with a feline grace that would capture the most ardent despiser of sauvignon blanc. Mature vineyards and years of practice make this the most dependable Australian sauvignon blanc.

From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink to 2014 with scampi

Vasse Felix Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011
96 points, $25, Screwcap, 12.5% alc
An estate-grown blend, part-fermented in new French oak barriques, recent prior vintages having enjoyed outstanding show success. It not only has a greater degree of dazzling fruit flavours, but also the attention to detail and uncompromising attitude to quality that Virginia Willcock brings to her winemaking, from Heytesbury down to this wine. Gold medal Perth Wine Show ’11.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2015 with sugar-cured tuna

SC Pannell Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011
96 points, $27, Screwcap, 12.5% alc
The impish face and ready smile of Steve Pannell should not fool anyone; his escape from Hardys was perfectly timed. Pale straw-green; this is a very tightly focused and intense wine, with grapefruit, kiwi fruit and ripe citrus welded together, the finish and aftertaste of astonishing length and purity.

From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink to 2014 with tempura oysters

Larry Cherubino ‘Cherubino’ Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc 2011
96 points, $35, Screwcap, 13% alc
Bright straw-green; although The Yard gets a Burgundy bottle, this has a high-shouldered, dark green, Claret bottle, and the flavours are more towards the tropical end, although more finely structured and focused than The Yard, with a touch of ripe citrus, and great overall intensity and length.

From Pemberton, WA
Drink to 2014 with whitebait

Cape Mentelle Wallcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009
96 points, $45, Screwcap, 13% alc
A paradigm of  barrel-fermented sauvignon blanc (68%) semillon (32%); it is estate-grown on the original estate vineyard, hand-picked and cosseted; its marriage of fruit generosity and intensity with its long, elegant, layered palate. It is remarkable, too, for the relatively low alcohol that gives rise to this cornucopia of flavours.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2019 with grilled eggplant and zucchini

Stella Bella Suckfizzle Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007
96 points, $47.50, Screwcap, 13% alc
This is a 59.5/40.5% blend, whole bunch-pressed, briefly settled, then fermented in 100% new French oak. At the conclusion of fermentation, 50% is transferred to older oak. Deep green-gold, it is exceptionally complex, with multiple layers of toasty oak and ripe fruit, yet with a magical spine of citrussy acidity that gives the wine great length.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2014 with bouillabaisse

Bay of Fires Pinot Gris 2011
95 points, $31.50, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
Tasmania was one of the first out of the blocks with pinot gris; hand-picked grapes from mature vines are the engine room of this wine. Pale straw-green; a striking bouquet of pear, spice and ginger leads into an exceptional palate with quince added to the already complex array of flavours; the texture of the finish is also exceptional.

From Northern Tasmania
Drink to 2014 with lobster salad

Chardonnay: The best Margaret River chardonnay has a profound natural depth to its flavour that allows its makers free rein in choosing techniques to showcase its complexity. The Yarra Valley produces wines of exceptional length and persistence, but less depth and structure. The Adelaide Hills are the man in the middle, seeking to borrow the best facets of its metaphorical neighbours.

Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2010

96 points, $40, Screwcap, 13% alc
One of a series of individual vineyard wines carefully scultped by winemaker Steve Flamsteed. Light straw-green; the Tarraford Vineyard has some of the oldest chardonnay in the valley, reflected in the intensity and structure of this wine; has the depth of fruit that can be obtained at 13%, pointing the way for the future; here the grapefruit, nectarine and melon skin flavours are prominent, the oak a means to an end.
From Yarra Valley
Drink to 2020 with sweetbreads

Shaw & Smith M3 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2010
96 points, $40, Screwcap, 13% alc
The formula is tried and true: hand-picked, whole bunch-pressed in a cool environment; wild yeast barrel fermentation in a refrigerated cuverie, lees contact and partial mlf with a neutral innoculant; stone fruit, citrus, cashew and fig all combine seamlessly on the long and flawless palate.

From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink to 2018 with milk-fed veal

Vasse Felix Heytesbury Margaret River Chardonnay 2009
96 points, $55, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
Made with full solids juice and wild yeast fermentation, but no malolactic fermentation. Bright straw-green, it is an exercise in elegance from start to finish, white peach, nectarine, melon and a touch of grapefruit seamlessly married with the 82% new French oak in which it spent nine months.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2017 with marron

Oakridge 864 Lusatia Park Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
97 points, $72, Screwcap, 13.3% alc
Shares the bright colour of all three Oakridge ’10 chardonnays; this is a single vineyard, indeed single block, wine; like its sister 864 Pinot Noir, the flavour surges explosively in the mouth, and is amazingly long on the finish and — equally notably — on the prolonged aftertaste. A brilliant wine that showcases the ability of the Upper Yarra Valley to produce chardonnay of the highest quality.

From Yarra Valley
Drink to 2018 with cold smoked salmon

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River Chardonnay 2008
96 points, $89, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
Still pale quartz-green; the finesse of Art Series Chardonnay when it is young is every bit as enjoyable as is the complexity it gains after six or seven years in bottle (under screwcap), its future still assured. We know that good bottles from the mid-1980s are still glorious, although most are now a shadow of their former selves. What we don't really know is how long the wines such as this live and flourish under screwcap.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2028 with Margaret River abalone

Penfolds Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2009
97 points, $89.99, Screwcap, 12.4% alc
Despite the significant winemaker thumbprints on this wine, it has superb finesse and focus. The bouquet is super-fragrant and complex, with nectarine, white peach and apple blossom to the fore, oak spice to the rear; the tightly textured and structured palate has extreme length thanks to minerally acidity. Trophy for Best White Wine in the World, International Wine Challenge (London) 2011 in a field of 10 000 wines.

From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink to 2018 with avocado and prawn salad

Cullen Kevin John Margaret River Chardonnay 2009
97 points, $105, Screwcap, 13.5% alc
The 23- to 35-year-old vines were hand-picked over two weeks; the wine was wild yeast-fermented and spent nine months in new French oak that barely intrudes, so intense and focused is the mix of grapefruit, white peach and mineral flavours of the magnificently long and fresh palate. A wine of exceptional poise and purity.

From Margaret River, WA
Drink to 2024 with deboned spitchcock

The most unlucky misses:

Riesling Rating Price
Kilikanoon Mort's Block Watervale Riesling 2010 95 $22
Castle Rock Estate Great Southern Riesling 2011 96 $22.50
Pewsey Vale Prima Individual Vineyard Selection Eden Valley Riesling 2010 95 $25
Kerrigan + Berry Mt Barker Great Southern Riesling 201 94 $28
Pressing Matters R9 Riesling 2007 96 $29
Bay of Fires Riesling 2011 96 $31.50
Larry Cherubino Cherubino Great Southern Riesling 2011 95 $35
Semillon Rating Price
Peter Lehmann Margaret Barossa Semillon 2005 94 $30
Pepper Tree Alluvius Single Vineyard Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 2011 97 $32
Sauvignon Blanc and blends Rating Price
Larry Cherubino The Yard Channybearup Vineyard Pemberton Sauvignon Blanc 2010 95 $25
Cape Mentelle Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011 95 $28
Nepenthe Petraea Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2010 95 $28
Grosset Clare Valley Adelaide Hills Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2011 95 $32
Mayhem & Co Big Barrels Small Berries Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009 94 $32
Chapman Grove Atticus Wood Aged Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009 96 $60
Chardonnay Rating Price
Lenton Brae Southside Margaret River Chardonnay 2010 94 $24
Domaine Chandon Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2010 96 $28
Flametree Margaret River Chardonnay 2010 96 $30
Nepenthe Ithaca Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2010 94 $30
Port Phillip Estate Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2009 96 $30
Willow Bridge Estate Chardonnay 2010 96 $30
Hardys HRB Riesling 2009 96 $33
Higher Plane Margaret River Chardonnay 2010 95 $34
Hoddles Creek Estate 1er Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2010 96 $35
Dexter Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2010 96 $38
Cape Mentelle Margaret River Chardonnay 2010 96 $42
Larry Cherubino Cherubino Margaret River Chardonnay 2010 96 $49
Lenton Brae Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2009 95 $60
Tuck's Ridge Buckle Chardonnay 2009 96 $60
Stella Bella Serie Luminosa Margaret River Chardonnay 2009 96 $65
Stefano Lubiana Collina Chardonnay 2008 96 $75
Xanadu Reserve Margaret River Chardonnay 2010 97 $85
Petaluma Tiers Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay 2009 96 $115
Other whites and blends Rating Price
Tahbilk 1927 Vines Marsanne 2002 96 $45

Subscribe to Wine Companion today

Become a member

Let's Socialise Stay Connected

Get a 2015 Singlefile Cabernet Sauvignon & Cuvee chocolates worth $60*

Join today

For the full winecompanion.com.au experience, please update your web browser. to something less antiquated

Special Value

Wines considered to offer special value for money.