Top 100 wines of 2003

Whites $20 and Under

2002 Tahbilk Marsanne   
90 points    $13.40
Hallelujah, a screwcap to protect one of the best but least recognised varietal cellaring specials; if you doubt me, buy a bottle of the 1998 (on re-release). The wine has lemon and honeysuckle flavours, and great balance of fruit and acidity, guaranteeing its future, however attractive it is now.
Region: Goulburn Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2012
Drink with: Antipasto

2000 Vintage Cellars Robe Chardonnay    
92 points    $13.50
No, this is not advertorial. Rather, reflects the inability of big companies to deal with small parcels of exceptional wine. Vintage Cellars could not believe its luck when it was offered, for it is pure class from start to finish, tangy and intense cool-grown chardonnay in a cradle of high quality French oak.
Region: Limestone Coast, SA
Best drinking: Now
Drink with: Robe lobster

2003 Preece Sauvignon Blanc    
91 points    $14.95
It seems an eon ago that the first Preece Chardonnay took the market by storm, and the range of Preece wines has grown steadily since. This wine came as a surprise, however, with strongly varietal herb, gooseberry and asparagus aromas, and an equally flavoursome palate.
Region: Goulburn and King Valleys, Strathbogie Ranges, Vic
Best drinking: Now
Drink with: Trout Mousse

2002 Jacob's Creek Reserve Chardonnay    
90 points    $14.95
Although no specific regional claims are made on the label of this wine, I would not be surprised if the Limestone Coast regions had made a contribution. A complex bouquet supports the sustained, pure varietal citrus and stone fruit flavours of the palate; developing slowly and with grace.
Region: South Eastern Australia
Best drinking: Now-2007
Drink with: Sauteed prawns
2003 Leasingham Bin 7 Riesling   
93 points    $15.99
Seems to be a permanent part of the Top 100, but you can't ignore it: old vines and lots of winemaking experience are a potent combination. A clean and precisely chiselled bouquet leads into a palate with considerable intensity and length, lime/citrus with a flinty underlay. Generous but not heavy.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2013
Drink with: Grilled fish

2001 Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Early Release Semillon   
93 points    $16
The first Elizabeth to be experimentally sealed with a screwcap, sold through Vintage Cellars, and a great vintage to start with. Glowing yellow-green; intense varietal aromas are already building complexity, and the palate, too, has lots of herb and lemon fruit, the honey to come later. Great length and style.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2011
Drink with: Tempura

2003 West Cape Howe Unwooded Chardonnay    
92 points    $16
Unwooded chardonnay is usually infinitely boring, as ubiquitously present as is KFC (which suits it). This, however, is an exception, aromatic and lively, with cool-grown grapefruit and stone fruit aromas and flavours, finishing with cleansing acidity. Fully deserved its gold medal at the Qantas Wine Show of Western Australia.
Region: Great Southern, WA
Best drinking: Now-2005
Drink with: Shellfish

2003 St Hallet Eden Valley Riesling   
93 points    $16.50
Another worthy follow-up to the 2002 vintage, which snared plenty of medals and plaudits. A crystal clear and clean bouquet, followed by classic regional lime and lemon juice flavours; fluid and even in the mouth, and a long, lingering finish, appropriately dry and crisp.
Region: Eden Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Carpaccio of tuna

2001 Chalkers Crossing Tumbarumba Chardonnay   
96 points    $18
How this wine is still available beats me, but it has not suffered - indeed it has improved - during its time in bottle since last year. Still bright straw-green; ultra-fine citrus blossom aromas flow into a palate of finesse and intensity, with perfect balance of oak, fruit and acidity.
Region: Tumbarumba, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2008
Drink with: Gravlax
2003 Hill Smith Estate Eden Valley Sauvignon Blanc    
92 points    $18.95
One of the first commercial plantings of sauvignon blanc in Australia, dating back to 1982. Varietal character in the wine fluctuates somewhat, but this is clean (no sweaty armpits), the middle palate laden with ripe tropical and gooseberry fruit, and - almost against the odds - doesn't cloy on the finish.
Region: Eden Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Fresh mussels

2003 Tower Estate Hunter Valley Semillon   
93 points    $19
A very low pH and strong natural acidity providing a rust-proof frame for long aging. Has a spotlessly clean and crisp bouquet, then a long, lingering and intense steely palate, with herbs lurking in the background. A prayer that the corks will allow it to achieve full maturity.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: 2008-2018
Drink with: Leave it in the cellar

2002 Lillydale Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay    
93 points    $19.50
A fine example of the cool growing season and small crops in the vintage. Gently complex barrel fermentation aromas drive the bouquet, but on the palate appealing citrus, melon and stone fruit flavours take over; excellent mouthfeel and intensity through to a long finish.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2009
Drink with: Avocado

2003 O'Leary Walker Watervale Riesling   
94 points    $19.50
I marginally prefer this to its Polish Hill River sister wine,  a preference which is probably politically incorrect. The bouquet offers firm, focussed, herb, citrus and slate aromas, then a generous but not flabby palate, with excellent balance, mouthfeel and length. Right in the slot.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2013
Drink with: Seared scallops

2002 Turkey Flat Marsanne Semillon   
93 points    $19.95
A blend unique to Turkey Flat and, I suspect, to Australia, and which has developed slowly but surely over the past year, with more in the tank. A touch of barrel fermentation adds spice to the lemon and mineral flavours, and the wine powers through to a strong finish.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2007
Drink with: Roast turkey breast

1998 Penfolds Reserve Bin Aged Release Clare Valley Riesling   
93 points    $19.99
An ancient mariner, but if all the bottles are as good as this, no problem. Glowing yellow, flecked with green; ultra-classic toast and kerosene aromas (don't be put off by the descriptor). Abundant mid-palate, gentle lime juice flavours, are perfectly balanced by quite soft acidity on the finish.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2008
Drink with: Seared scallops

2003 Crabtree Riesling   
93 points    $20
Thankfully, Robert Crabtree has moved to a screwcap closure, along with every other top Riesling producer in the country. Floral, lime blossom aromas to open with, then rich, luscious, mouthfilling lime and tropical fruit; at the rich end of the vintage style, and totally seductive. No holds barred, now or later, stuff.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2009
Drink with: Fresh asparagus with hollandaise sauce

2003 Shadowfax Viognier   
92 points    $20
Viognier and I have what is best described as an uneasy relationship: the wines frequently either lack character or go right over the top, becoming oily and broad. This neatly bridges the gap, with ripe pastille, apricot and peach fruit; good length, mouthfeel and cleansing acidity.
Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
Best drinking: Now-2005
Drink with: Seafood risotto

Whites Over $20

2003 Freycinet Riesling   
94 points    $21
From one of Tasmania's foremost pinot noir producers (watch out for the superb 2002) but also with a history of first class rieslings. Intense spicy/minerally aromas lead into a super-intense, long, lemony/minerally palate, with a lingering crisp and dry finish. A cellaring special.
Region: Tasmania
Best drinking: Now-2013+
Drink with: Seared scallops

2002 Diamond Valley Yarra Valley Chardonnay    
94 points    $21.50
Built around grapes supplied by Yarra Valley growers with a long relationship with Diamond Valley, the very cool vintage and low yields ideal. Fragrant but fine, the tangy bouquet has melon and citrus aromas, the palate with irresistible pure fruit; great line and length.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2008
Drink with: Coquilles St Jacques

2003 Geoff Weaver Lenswood Riesling   
95 points    $22
All the Weaver white wines have the hallmark of finesse, and this is no exception. The bouquet is pure crystalline fragrance, the palate in the same mode. Zippy, lively and crisp, with flecks of chalk and slate through the fruit core of lime and apple, it has immaculate balance and length.
Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Fresh asparagus

2002 Merum Semillon   
94 points    $22
Like all well-bred semillons, has developed markedly - gaining complexity - over the past year, winning gold at the 2003 Qantas Western Australia Wines Show. The bouquet is complex, rich, stylish and tangy, the palate bursting with flavour, helped by the clever blending in of ten per cent chardonnay.
Region: Great Southern, WA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Poached scallops

2003 Ferngrove Cossack Riesling    94 points    $23
A more than convincing follow-up to the all-conquering 2002 version, underlining the symbiosis between the Frankland River subregion and riesling. A spotless, highly fragrant lime and mineral bouquet leads into a crisp, bone-dry palate, with great structure, length and finesse for the classicists.
Region: Great Southern
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Steamed crab

1998 Peter Lehmann Reserve Riesling   
96 points    $24
Happily follows in the footsteps of the all-conquering 1993 Riesling which ended up with a room-full of trophies. Glowing yellow-green, the bouquet is literally jam-packed with apple, lime, mineral and toast, the palate similarly rich and flooded with flavour; great balance and complexity.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2008
Drink with: Chinese prawns

2000 Wellington Chardonnay    
94 points    $24
Tasmanian chardonnays are seldom flashy in their youth, due in no small measure to the high levels of natural acidity the climate provides. Glowing yellow-green, this wine has developed slowly over the past three years, now with super-elegant stone fruit, citrus, the barest touch of oak, and crunchy acidity.
Region: Tasmania
Best drinking: Now-2008
Drink with: Trout gravlax

1998 Pewsey Vale The Contours Riesling   
96 points    $24.95
A fascinating contrast with the Peter Lehmann riesling, the latter cork finished, this with a screwcap, and showing every bit as much development. Brassy coloured, it has potent bottle-developed kerosene aromas, the equally potent palate with long, toasty bottle-developed flavours, tightened by citrussy acidity.
Region: Eden Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2013
Drink with: Vegetarian

1998 Tyrrell's Reserve Stevens Semillon   
94 points    $25
Six gold medals to date for a wine just starting to seriously hit its straps is testimonial to the quality of the Stevens vineyard. Brilliant colour, and powerful herb and lanolin aromas herald a wine which is still remarkably fresh, owing in part to its spine of minerally acidity.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: 2007-2017
Drink with: Blue swimmer crab

2003 Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Riesling   
97 points    $27.75
These wines mature magnificently in bottle, but I cannot remember a current vintage wine to equal this - it went straight into my shopping basket. The intensely fragrant bouquet is at once steely yet flowery; the fine lime and mineral flavours build progressively through a gloriously long palate.
Region: Henty, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2018
Drink with: Antipasto

2003 Keith Tulloch Semillon   
96 points    $28
Won the trophy for Best Current Vintage Dry White Wine at this year's Hunter Valley Wine Show. Herb, spice and lanolin aromas lead into a classic Hunter semillon, but with much more flavour and texture (a touch is barrel-fermented) than usual. Lemon, lemongrass and crunchy acidity to close.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2015
Drink with: Teppanyaki seafood

2002 Cullen Sauvignon Blanc Semillon   
96 points    $29
Vanya Cullen rates the 2002 as the best vintage in a decade for this wine. Multi-dimensional and complex, the barrel ferment is evident but not over the top; sweet citrus and passionfruit run through a very long palate, the lingering finish due entirely to natural, unadjusted, acidity.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: Now-2012
Drink with: Sugar-cured tuna

2000 Metier Tarraford Vineyard Chardonnay    
95 points    $32
Martin Williams crafts all his wines with great care, the emphasis on subtlety and finesse. Bright green-yellow, the wine is still youthful, developing slowly: melon and citrus aromas have a subtle oak infusion, the lovely mouthfeel provided by a gently creamy centre to the surrounding melon and citrus fruit.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2009
Drink with: Fresh abalone

2002 Shaw & Smith M3 Vineyard Chardonnay    
95 points    $37
Michael Hill Smith freely acknowledges the sauvignon blanc makes itself, but not so this wine, which demands all of Martin Shaw's considerable skills. The bouquet shows complex but not aggressive barrel ferment inputs, the melon and cashew palate supple, smooth and long, the result of sophisticated craftsmanship.
Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
Best drinking: Now-2009
Drink with: Lobster salad

2003 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling  
97 points    $39
It's nigh on impossible choosing between Grosset's wines; in some prior years the semillon sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and/or Gaia have prevailed. Not so this time: The Polish Hill Riesling sweeps all before it, intense, fine and long, with great mid-palate flavour, beautiful acidity and fantastic mouthfeel.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2015
Drink with: Grilled whiting

1998 Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon   
96 points    $44
"Two trophies, nine golds and still counting" say the advertisements, and I don't doubt more are on the way. The clean toast and lemon-accented bouquet lead into an immaculately balanced palate with the first signs of honey and other mature flavours starting to emerge, then the lemony acidity on a great finish.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: 2006-2020
Drink with: Fine fish dishes

2000 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay    
96 points    $76
Notwithstanding the challenges of Yattarna, Giaconda, Petaluma tiers and so forth, Leeuwin is my choice as Australia's best chardonnay. It always starts off life as a fine, focussed, elegant wine, slowly unfolding as it ages in bottle, building on the long and seamless fusion of nectarine, grapefruit and oak.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: 2005-2015
Drink with: Cold smoked salmon

2000 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay    
96 points    $100
Made with same grape sourcing philosophy as Grange, taking the best cool climate grapes available each vintage. The best Yattarna so far released, with penetrating stone fruit and citrus aromas flowing through to a palate with excellent attack, line and length, the French oak seamlessly integrated throughout.
Region: South East Australia
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Pan-fried veal
Reds $25 and Under

2002 Lindemans Cawarra Merlot   
87 points    $7.80
Do not think this is a great wine, but two recent tastings make me rate it as great value. It is user-friendly in every way, with plenty of sweet, juicy soft red fruit flavours, and minimal tannins. A reflection of the excellent 2002 vintage in the Riverland.
Region: South Eastern Australia
Best drinking: Now
Drink with: Takeaway

2001 Carbunup Crest Cella Rage Shiraz   
93 points    $12
One major gold medal after another, including the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge, combined with the price, makes this the best value wine in the Top 100. Brimming with plum, blackberry, prune, spice and chocolate, the tannins are soft, oak minimal. Available cellar door phone/fax (08) 9754 2618.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: Now-2011
Drink with: Roast venison

2002 McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Shiraz    
89 points    $12
you will doubtless find this wine selling for much less than $12, notwithstanding its trophy at the 2003 Royal Brisbane Wine Show. Fresh and lively, driven by blackberry, plum and cherry fruit, and just enough oak and tannin, its screwcap will underwrite cellaring if you are so inclined. Smashing value.
Region: South Eastern Australia
Best drinking: Now-2007
Drink with: Aussie barbeque

2002 Western Range Old Vine Grenache   
89 points    $14.30
Closed with a screwcap, part of the reason why the colour is vivid red-purple, the bouquet fragrant, the palate lively and fresh, with ripe raspberry, cherry and spice flavours, uncomplicated by oak or tannins. This is one of two wineries transforming the profile of the Perth Hills.
Region: Perth Hills, WA
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Pizza
2000 Lindemans Reserve Padthaway Cabernet Sauvignon    
88 points    $14.40
One of a number of well-priced wines from Lindemans, the cheaper 2002 Bin 50 Shiraz and 2002 Bin 45 Cabernet also appealing. Clear cut and bright varietal fruit comes through strongly on both bouquet and palate, with cassis/blackcurrant running through to a creditably long finish.
Region: Padthaway, SA
Best drinking: Now-2009
Drink with: Marinated beef

2002 Warby Range Estate Durif   
91 points    $15
The recent rash of durif plantings in the Riverland and Riverina areas are a testimonial to the power of the variety, amplified here at Glenrowan (and at Rutherglen). Densely coloured, it is packed with blackberry, licorice, prune and spice fruit, the generous tannins on the finish now beginning to soften
Region: Glenrowan, Vic
Best drinking: 2006-2016
Drink with: Rare rump

2002 Flying Fish Cove Margaret River Shiraz    
94 points    $16
Acts as a contract winemaker for others (including Carbunup Crest) as well as producing 'own 'label' wines of great quality such as this gold medal winner from 2003 Western Australia Wine Show. Abounding with black cherry, blackberry fruit, ripe tannins, it is silky smooth and long. Contact winery (08) 9755 6600.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: Now-2012
Drink with: Ragout of beef

2000 Huntington Estate Shiraz Bin FB24   
92 points    $17.50
One of the doyens of Mudgee, with vineyards up to 30 years old, and noted for the sheer honesty (and value) of its wines. Clean but complex black fruit and vanilla aromas, then attractive ripe but not jammy blackberry/cherry/raspberry fruit, plus fine tannins.
Region: Mudgee, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Rump steak

2002 Annie's Lane Clare Valley Cabernet Merlot    
92 points    $19
It wouldn't be hard for Annie's Lane to garner four or five slots in the Top 100 year in, year out. Deeply coloured, it has powerful super-rich, concentrated and luscious blackcurrant, plum and prune fruit, ample soft tannins and oak somewhere in the depths. Great value.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2015
Drink with: Ox kidney

2001 d'Arenberg d'Arry's Original Shiraz Grenache   
91 points    $19.95
This year (2003) marks d'Arry Osborne's 50 years with the winery founded by his father in 1912; both he and the wine are original if not institutional. Complex dark fruit/plum/spice aromas, then a similarly rich and complex palate with ample structure; good tannins to close.
Region: McLaren Vale, SA
Best drinking: Now-2011
Drink with: Kangaroo fillet

2001 Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc   
93 points    $23
Yet another of the top range Blass wines to use the screwcap; if ever you doubt the suitability of this closure to red wine, try this wine. It has a sophisticated, elegant and seamless marriage of fresh red and black fruits, oak and fine, supple tannins. Delicious now or in ten years.
Region: Adelaide Hills, SA
Best drinking: Now-2011
Drink with: Roast lamb

2001 Lillydale Estate Cabernet Merlot    
94 points    $23.50
First tasted eight months ago, outstanding then and now. Medium-bodied, it has strong affinities with good Bordeaux reds; the aromas are pristine, ripe but not over-ripe, anchored on blackcurrant and cassis, the perfectly balanced palate with impeccable line and length, finishing with the finest tannins.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: 2006-2016
Drink with: Veal

2000 Balnaves Cabernet Merlot   
93 points    $24
Pete Bissell is a highly gifted winemaker, crafting immaculate wines for both Balnaves and Majella. The bouquet has developed cedary, earthy spicy overtones to the core of blackberry and mulberry fruit, the supple but deep palate with a touch of chocolate joining all the flavours promised by the bouquet.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2012
Drink with: Calf's liver Italian style

2002 Hackersley Merlot   
94 points    $24
One of the newer arrivals in the Geographe region, selling part of the grapes, and having the best bits made for itself. Has lovely raspberry and blackcurrant fruit in abundance, the palate very smooth, the tannins fine. A supremely elegant wine, wining gold at the 2003 Qantas Western Australia Wine Show.
Region: Geographe, WA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Milk-fed lamb

2002 Diamond Valley Yarra Valley Pinot Noir    
93 points    $24.90
This wine and the Paringa Estate handsomely demonstrate you don't have to pay a fortune for high quality pinot noir from a top vintage. Starting to show development, with very complex berry/sappy/oak/spice aromas and a lively, intense, savoury palate of considerable length.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2007
Drink with: Wild mushroom risotto

2002 Paringa Estate Peninsula Pinot Noir    
94 points    $24.95
Former school teacher Lindsay McCall is now a true professor of pinot noir, with an exceptional intuitive feel for the variety. The bouquet has pure, vibrant and focussed fruit, the red fruit palate the hallmark length and texture of Paringa, finishing with silky fine tannins.
Region: Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2008
Drink with: Braised duck

2001 Houghton Crofters Shiraz    
93 points    $24.99
A good example of the ever-reliable Crofters range. The bouquet is complex, with an infusion of soft, toasted oak through plum and spice fruit; the long palate has abundant sweet blackberry fruit, savoury, rippling tannins and well-handled oak.
Region: Mount Barker/Ferguson Valley, WA
Best drinking: 2006-2016
Drink with: Braised beef

2002 Hewitson Ned & Henry's Shiraz    
94 points    $25
Another great wine from Dean Hewitson, finishing fermentation and maturation in French oak, and with ten per cent old vine mourvedre blended in prior to bottling. Rich blackberry, licorice and spice fruit provides velvety mouthfeel to a delicious and seductive wine. Great value; Stelvin capped.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2006-2016
Drink with: Roast saltbush lamb

2002 Mitchell Peppertree Vineyard Shiraz   
92 points    $25
It's quickly becoming clear screwcaps are as suited to red wines as to white, slowing the rate of development and retaining fruit freshness. Deeply coloured, the wine is flooded with blackberry, licorice, and a touch of tar; excellent length and mouthfeel.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2017
Drink with: Devilled kidneys

Reds over $25

2002 Shadowfax Werribee Shiraz    
95 points    $26
From the estate vineyard surrounding the winery; most of the Shadowfax wines come from other cool climate regions. Dense, impenetrable colour; licorice/anise, dark plum and blackberry aromas; and a palate laden with black fruits, a touch of chocolate, and soft, dense tannins.
Region: Geelong, Vic
Best drinking: 2007-2017
Drink with: Wild game

2002 Tamar Ridge Pinot Noir    
94 points    $26
Recently acquired by Gunns Limited, Tasmania's largest timber company, bringing Dr Richard Smart on board as semi-resident viticulturist. Very deeply coloured, saturated dark plum aromas, and an immensely concentrated (but not over-extractive) palate, with layers of plum and black cherry.
Region: Tasmania
Best drinking: 2005-2010
Drink with: Venison pie

2000 Houghton Frankland River Shiraz    
96 points    $28.99
A great wine from a less than perfect vintage, which continues to impress every time it its tasted. The fragrantly complex bouquet has intermingling dark cherry, spice and plum aromas; the palate adds a dash of licorice, with excellent texture, depth and mouthfeel aided by fine tannins.
Region: Great Southern, WA
Best drinking: 2004-2010
Drink with: Aged beef

2001 Port Philip Estate Pinot Noir    
95 points    $30
Gold medals at the National Wine Show and the local derby, Southern Victorian Wines Show, are not the least surprising. The bouquet is still fresh and bright, with spicy/sappy red fruits, the long and lingering palate with delicious strawberry and plum flavours; great elegance.
Region: Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2008
Drink with: Quail
2001 Wirra Wirra McLaren Vale Shiraz    
94 points    $30
A toss up between this and Wirra Wirra's top-of-the-range RSW Shiraz, gaining its place on price rather than quality. The bouquet offers seamlessly integrated blackberry, plum and oak, the supple, medium-bodied palate following suit, with the fruit offset by fine, ripe tannins.
Region: McLaren Vale, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2015
Drink with: Lamb shanks

2001 De Bortoli Yarra Valley Pinot Noir    
94 points    $31
At the opposite end of the style spectrum to the Tamar Ridge, but has developed very well over the past 12 months. Very complex and fragrant cherry and strawberry aromas, the palate has a sweet fruit core surrounded by savoury, silky tannins. Strange that it hasn't won more gold medals.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2006
Drink with: Duck casserole

2000 Barwang Special Release Merlot   
94 points    $31.50
The Plantagenet Rocky Horror Vineyard Merlot is the opposite of this wine, which is a subtle as the Plantagenet is assertive, but then all the Barwang wines have a family link of subtlety. Savoury, olivaceous, earthy notes meld with fully ripe berry fruit and the finest possible tannins.
Region: Hilltops, NSW
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Roast veal

2002 Farr Rising Mornington Pinot Noir    
95 points    $34
Made (in Geelong) by 'son of a gun' Nick Farr, following in Gary Farr's footsteps, taking select parcels of grapes from both regions. Fresh, fragrant, lively and tangy cherry aromas are mirrored in a long, vibrant and intense palate, with plum, cherry and spice; style and finesse.
Region: Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2009
Drink with: Roast squab

2002 Henschke Johann's Garden Grenache Mourvedre Shiraz    
95 points    $34
The German-born pioneering vignerons used to call their vineyards 'gardens' and this wine has all the multiplicity of smells and flavours of a garden: berries, herbs, spices and tobacco aromas, the supple, smooth and elegant palate flowing effortlessly across the tongue.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: Now-2010
Drink with: Ragout of veal

1999 Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Shiraz   
95 points    $34.95
As befits the Hill Smith family, headed by the imperious Robert Hill Smith, this label has an illustrious history dating back to 1962. Cassis, chocolate and raspberry fruit aromas and flavours fill a wine with excellent structure, weight, texture and balance; a long lingering fruit-driven finish shows the deft use of oak.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2020
Drink with: Rare roast beef

2001 Best's Bin O Shiraz    
94 points    $35
Not in the Olympian but nigh on unprocurable Best's Thomson Family Shiraz class, but an ever-reliable evocation of Great Western terroir. Savoury, gently earthy, edges to blackberry/cherry aromas blend into a supple palate; the fruit has a very long carry, the tannins fine and soft.
Region: Grampians, Vic
Best drinking: 2005-2011
Drink with: Irish stew

2001 Domaine Chandon Green Point Reserve Pinot Noir    
95 points    $37
Each vintage of the Green Point table wines from the Yarra becomes more convincing after a slightly uncertain start. Clean, fragrant red fruit, spice and forest aromas lead into a stylish and tangy palate, with a silky texture, opening like the proverbial peacock's tail on the finish and aftertaste.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: Now-2009
Drink with: Breast of duck

2001 Plantagenet Mount Barker Shiraz   
95 points    $38
From the best Great Southern vintage for many years, a winner of multiple gold medals and much critical praise. Strong, deeply coloured, it oozes blackberry, black cherry and spice aromas, the palate at once plush yet elegant, perfectly proportioned and weighted, finishing with fine, ripe tannins.
Region: Great Southern, WA
Best drinking: 2005-2011
Drink with: Saddle of hare

Plantagenet Rocky Horror Vineyard Merlot   
95 points    $38
A toss up between this and the Cabernet Franc, both from a new vineyard previously inhabited by boulders which were smashed and returned to the soil. Impressive colour, bouquet, palate and finish all signal a merlot in heroic style, with layers of blackcurrant, olive and substantial, but balanced, tannins.
Region: Great Southern, WA
Best drinking: 2006-2016
Drink with: Roast kid

2001 Haan Wilhelmus   
94 points    $39.50
Just so you know, a blend of 38 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 24 per cent merlot, 22 per cent cabernet franc, ten per cent malbec and six per cent petit verdot, with same attention to detail as all the Haan wines. It is laden with red and blackcurrant, mulberry, soft tannins and spicy French oak, supple and elegant.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2015
Drink with: Milk-fed lamb

2001 Kilikanoon Oracle Shiraz    
94 points    $40
Last year Kilikanoon scooped the trophy pool at the Clare Valley Wine Show; this year it became the first producer to win two gold medals in the Great Australian Shiraz Challenge. The maximum possible amount of lusciously sweet red and black fruits, vanilla oak and soft tannins have been crammed into the bottle.
Region: Clare Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2007-2017
Drink with: Beef in black bean sauce

2001 Bannockburn Shiraz    
96 points    $48
Gary Farr employs some of the techniques he uses for his pinot noirs, always to excellent effect. The complex bouquet ranges through spice, licorice, earth, pepper and black fruits much like Cote Rotie. The palate is at once elegant and sensual, the flavours rippling to a long finish.
Region: Geelong, Vic
Best drinking: 2006-2016
Drink with: Roast marinated venison

2000 Jamiesons Run Winemakers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon   
96 points    $55
Another cabernet to prove the frailty of vintage charts. The winner of four trophies at the 2001 Limestone Coast Wine show, it has flourished since in bottle. Perfectly ripened cabernet is the base for a Bordeaux-inspired wine, still in the first flush of life, ripe tannins and French oak in restrained support.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2020
Drink with: Butterfly leg of lamb

1999 Petaluma Coonawarra Merlot   
95 points    $58
A wine which was excellent when first released and is, if anything, better still now. The aromatic bouquet ranges from cedar, spice and herb to sweet cherry/raspberry; the quite delicate palate is silky but replete with red fruits, supported appropriately by fine but persistent tannins on a long finish.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: Now-2009
Drink with: Rack of veal

2001 Yering Station Shiraz Viognier   
96 points    $58
The inclusion of viognier with cool-grown shiraz is not simply a trendy fad; Australian winemakers are finding is near-magical synergy with shiraz. Bright purple-red, the fragrance leaps from the glass, red and black cherries intermingling with a suite of spices; the palate is superbly balanced and impressively long.
Region: Yarra Valley, Vic
Best drinking: 2006-2016
Drink with: Truffle risotto

2000 Vasse Felix Heytesbury   
95 points    $65
A multi-blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot, shiraz and cabernet franc which has developed extra legs over the past 12 months. A cascade of red and black fruits jostle with touches of olive, spice and leaf, giving the wine both stature and complexity; oak plays a role but in no way dominates.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: 2005-2015
Drink with: Beef Bordelaise

1999 Saltram No. 1 Shiraz    
96 points    $66.50
Sure, this is a 'show style'- how else would it have eight gold medals on its label - but it is a very, very good one. It has an alluring, Joseph's Coat rainbow of aromas, the palate sumptuously rich, layered and textured. Dark chocolate, dark fruits and ripe tannins ripple harmoniously through the supple palate and finish.
Region: Barossa Valley, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2019
Drink with: Rich casserole

2000 Majella The Malleea   
96 points    $70
Most recently comfortably topped the Bordeaux blend class in the recent Tri Nations Wine Challenge. Young red wine is seldom as exuberantly joyful as this, fragrant cassis and cedar swirls from the glass, the exceptionally supple palate with a flawless, seamless marriage of fruit, oak and tannin.
Region: Coonawarra, SA
Best drinking: 2005-2020
Drink with: Rack of spring lamb

2001 Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot   
96 points    $80
A great red wine vintage, dry but with even temperatures leading to flawless physiological ripening. Named in honour of the late Di Cullen, Vanya's mother, its sheer class shines through the trappings of extreme youth, a controlled explosion of blackcurrant, spice and blackberry, ripe tannins and French oak.
Region: Margaret River, WA
Best drinking: 2010-2020
Drink with: Braised ox tail

2001 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz    
95 points    $90
A veritable icon, from a low yielding, single vineyard, and not made every year. Even when it is, quantities vary widely. The black fruits of the bouquet have touches of regional earth backed by subtle oak; the palate offers much sweeter flavours, mixing blackberry and cherry through to a long finish. Surprising finesse.
Region: Hunter Valley, NSW
Best drinking: 2006-2021
Drink with: Rare rump steak

1998 Penfolds Grange   
97 points    $400
The hype and astronomic auction prices for the Imperial bottles of this great wine are already part of history. Deep purple-red, it oozes blackberry, blackcurrant and licorice from every pore, the palate a sumptuously smooth velvet cushion of small black fruits. It will outlive anyone who can afford to buy it.
Region: South Australia
Best drinking: 2010-2040+
Drink with:  Aged fillet mignon

Australian Sparkling

NV Jacob's Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir    
87 points    $9.95
Is there no end to the rabbits Orlando can pull out of the Jacob's Creek hat? Every year the brand produces surprises, this time a sparkling wine with totally unexpected finesse and delicacy. The citrus and spice palate has good balance and length, presumably the reason why it claimed a double gold medal from the San Francisco Wine Fair.

NV Seppelt Fleur de Lys Chardonnay Pinot Noir Pinot Meunier    
88 points    $12.90
In very different style to the Jacob's Creek, largely because it is bottle-fermented, and also because of the inclusion of pinot meunier in the blend. Spicy, nutty aromas, then a palate with abundant flavour and complexity, the slightly sweet dosage offset by pleasing acidity on the finish.

NV Brown Brothers Pinot Noir Chardonnay    
90 points    $18.30
The grapes come from the King Valley, possibly in part from Brown Brothers' high altitude Whitlands vineyard. A fragrant, flowery, citrussy bouquet is followed by a lively, fresh, crisp and lingering palate. Seemingly not bottle-fermented, which would explain the freshness and also the two important show (Adelaide, Canberra) gold medals in 2002.

1999 Hardys Sir James Vintage Pinot Noir Chardonnay    
94 points    $25.99
Winemaker Ed Carr's brilliance is evident right through the Hardys sparkling wine range this mid-price wine has won three trophies and ten gold medals, a spectacular performance in the uncertain seas of sparkling wine judging in Australian shows. Gently nutty/bready malolactic and yeast lees aromas flow into a delicate yet complex palate, cashew and citrus providing counterparts on the long, intense finish.

1999 Domaine Chandon Blanc de Blancs   
94 points    $32.95
A last minute change of heart led to the choice of this rather than the equally good 1998 Rose or 1999 Vintage Brut, in part because this wine will particularly repay cellaring. Bright yellow-green tinged, it has excellent mousse, the delicate and fresh stone fruit aromas repeated on the still light and crisp palate; the all-important length of finish is also there.

1999 Clover Hill Pipers River   
95 points    $35
The base wine is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, part matured in (old) oak casks before blending and tiraging, whereafter it is given three years on yeast lees prior to disgorgement. A classic mineral, nectarine and brioche bouquet is followed by a delicate but intense stone fruit palate, lengthened by lingering acidity.

1999 Yarrabank Cuvee   
95 points    $35
An ultra-complex blend, 88 per cent from the Yarra Valley, the remainder from four other regions, blending 52.7 per cent chardonnay and 47.3 per cent pinot noir, the reserve wine from 1998 and 1997 - all unmistakably a French approach.  Light, bright straw-green, the finely structured wine has apple, stone fruit and citrus intermingling with creamy/toasty notes.

1999 Yellowglen Cuvee Victoria    
95 points    $35
Upset a high class field in the recent Tri Nations Challenge (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) emerging as a clear winner, with support from all three judges. It has excellent mousse, the bouquet a cornucopia of baker's shop bready/yeasty aromas, the palate refocussing on punchy, crisp fruit. Confusingly, the wine is not from Victoria, but the Adelaide Hills. 


NV Charles Joubert   
88 points    $29.99
Yes, you read correctly; a champagne for less than $30. Tom Stevenson's newly revised World Encyclopaedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wines makes no mention of it, and it is almost certainly one of many labels from one of the co-operative producers. Whatever, it has no claims to complexity, but is clean, well-balanced, with light simple apple, stone fruit and mineral flavours.
NV Devaux Grande Reserve Brut   
93 points    $55
Having recovered from a massive post-millennium hangover, champagne prices are rising rapidly, the plethora of NV wines priced just under $50 a thing of the past. Devaux is the joint venturer with Yering Station in Yarrabank. The bouquet has spice, toast and apple aromas, the palate with good length and balance, a faint touch of sweetness adding to the mouthfeel.

NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Mis en Cave 1996   
95 points    $75
The 'Mis en Cave' date is a Clayton's vintage, for it in fact signifies the year in which the wine is bottled (tiraged), and the major part of the base wine always comes from the prior year (in this case 1995). While a laudable innovation, it has caused considerable market confusion. However, the wine (also available in magnum) is simply delicious, the flavour and aftertaste of mineral, citrus, toast and dried fruits lasting long after the wine is swallowed.

1996 Lanson Grande Reserve Brut   
94 points    $75
Strong straw-green colour is a promising start, confirmed by the near-luscious stone fruit, baked apple and spice aromas of the bouquet; just when you think the wine is going to be over the top, intense, lingering acidity cuts right across the fruit, giving a zesty juiciness to the palate. One of many brilliant wines to come from the justly revered 1996 vintage.

1995 Pol Roger   
95 points    $75
I cannot wait for the 1996 Pol Roger, which has produced a steady stream of absolutely outstanding vintage wines over the decades, indeed back to the fabulous 1921 and 1914, vintages, both of which I have tasted. The ultra-fragrant bouquet marries apple, autolysis yeast and spice, the palate a blend of fresh fruit and creamy softness, all with exquisite finesse.

NV Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut   
94 points    $85
Whether or not you particularly like the unmistakeable Bollinger style, you have to respect it. Pinot noir (60 per cent) and pinot meunier (15 per cent) drive the wine, augmented by fermentation in old oak barrels. The result is a complex spicy, bready, toasty, baked apple bouquet, the palate complete and round, with an unexpected touch of delicacy, and a pleasing, dry finish.
NV Billecart-Salmon Rose   
96 points    $100
This is by far my favourite rose, so fresh and mouthwatering. It is made without the addition of red wine (as are most); instead it is a blend of 35 per cent pinot noir, 35 per cent pinot meunier and 30 per cent chardonnay, cold-fermented in stainless steel with cultured yeasts. The intensely flowery bouquet is followed by a palate crammed with strawberry and dried flower flavours, then a joyous finish.

1996 Veuve Clicquot Vintage Reserve    
96 points    $120
Veuve Clicquot has been on a roll in recent years, and hasn't let the opportunities provided by the 1996 vintage slip by. A blend of two-thirds pinot noir, and one-third chardonnay, its glowing yellow-green colour announces a gloriously poised and balanced wine. Citrus, stone fruit and a touch of biscuit fuel the very long palate and lingering aftertaste.

1995 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs   
97 points    $180
Those enamoured of this wine will hear no argument to the contrary in rating it above Krug, Dom Perignon, Roederer Cristal, etc. Citrus and apple blossom aromas, with a touch of toasted brioche, fill the glass, easily surpassing the effect of the CO2 (which, of course, is always there with sparkling wine). The palate is unique, at once feathery, creamy and intensely fruity, the aftertaste as pure as a spring day in mountain air.

1988 Moet et Chandon Dom Perignon Vinotheque   
98 points    $260
The absolutely stunning 1995 Dom Perignon, laden with toasty brioche flavours, had the misfortune to come up against this special, recently disgorged release from Dom Perignon, akin to the Krug Collection concept, and which will be a permanent part of the future. Paler than even than the 1995, it has extraordinary fragrance, and utterly immaculate balance. Indeed, conventional descriptions do not do justice to the ultimate finesse of the wine.

NV Krug Grand Reserve  
97 points    $260
This most complex of all champagnes is a mandatory selection, whenever it is submitted. Around 50 different base wines are routinely blended to make each vintage batch of Grand Reserve. Moreover, up to half of the volume will be reserve wine from six to ten vintages, all having been fermented in old oak barrels. Small wonder it is so complex, with a melange of honey, dried fruits, nuts and brioche, swelling in the mouth before a surprisingly youthful spine of acidity.

1996 Louis Roderer Cristal Brut   
97 points    $280
Curiously, it is much easier to find Cristal in Australia than it is in the United States, where it is prized in much the same way as it was by the Russian Tzars. Typically 55 per cent pinot noir and 45 per cent chardonnay from Roederer's own Grand Cru vineyards, this vintage proclaims its class and complexity from the first sniff, yeast/brioche/fruit aromas followed by a super-concentrated palate which paradoxically also has feathery delicacy and ethereal acidity.

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Special Value

Wines considered to offer special value for money.