Top 100 wines of 2007

From feast to famine, from surplus to shortage: what a difference a year makes. Everywhere we turn, there are prophecies of doom driven by the ongoing drought, and the consequent parlous state of the Murray Darling water system. And they are prophecies which have to be taken very seriously.

The surplus came from three record vintages in a row; each of the '04, '05 and '06 harvests yielded between 1.8 and 1.9 million tonnes, luckily of high quality wines. Drought, unprecedented frosts and bushfire smoke taint reduced the 2007 vintage to a little over 1.5 million tonnes, and even as the last grapes were picked, forecasts for 2008 suggested another similar harvest.

But since then the situation has worsened: in 2006 the Riverina and Riverland irrigation areas produced 856.000 tonnes, 48% pf the Australian crush. In the short term, the Riverina will suffer less pain than the Riverland, but the latter accounted for 480,000 tonnes in 2006. On September 24, the Winemakers Federation of Australia announced that modelling done by the Wine Industry Drought Taskforce showed a vintage of between 800 000 tonnes and 1.3 million tonnes.

The problems don't end there: the killer frosts through many parts of southeast Australia last year were triggered by clear skies at night (no rain, no clouds) and bone dry soils. When writing these words early last month [Ed ie. October], there seemed every likelihood of more of the same this year, the risk running through to December in the absence of serious rain.
So what does this all mean for the consumer in the future? First and most obviously, you should make hay while the sun shines (granted, an odd expression in this context) with the '04, '05 and '06 wines on the market, plus the '07 whites. Just as export prices per litre are rising as bulk shipments are fast disappearing, so will domestic prices follow suit. The cleanskin and deep discount advertisements will decrease sharply, and the major chains (notably those of Woolworths and Coles) won't be able to exert as much downwards price pressure on the no longer over-stocked big companies.

Wherever you look at this year's Top 100, you will find wines which over-deliver at their price point. This is true whether your budget runs to $10, $15, $20, $40 or above per bottle. It also holds true for all of the varietal and style ranges, from the trendy categories of rose, semillon sauvignon blanc and exotic red varieties through to the classics. I wish you good drinking within the National Health and Medical Research Council recommended limits of four standard drinks per day for men, and two for women.

Whites Under $20

Following my self-set rules of engagement, I have selected three each of riesling, semillon, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay; four semillon sauvignon blanc (simply because of the number judged, thus reflecting the popularity of the blend) and one each of marsanne, pinot gris (grudgingly), Verdelho and viognier. Wirra Wirra was the most unlucky winery, with three wines just missing out on selection.

Oxford Landing Sauvignon Blanc 2007
89 points, $7.95, S, 12.5°alc
A special yeast strain (not genetically modified) has been created which enhances the varietal character of sauvignon blanc, allowing wines such as this to be made in theoretically unsuitable warm climates. It has clear-cut varietal character and excellent balance, even if it is not particularly intense. Unbeatable value.
From Riverland, SA
Drink Now with fried whitebait

Jindalee Estate Circle Collection Chardonnay 2006
88 points, $8.95, S, 13.5° alc
Jindalee has 500 hectares of vines up to 30 years old in the Riverland, and crushes close to 10 000 tonnes of grapes annually. It has long been able to produce workmanlike chardonnay at low prices; this has an abundance of soft, peachy fruit offset by citrussy acidity and an airbrush of oak. The screwcap is a great aid in locking in the freshness   of the wine.
From Murray Darling, Vic
Drink Now with takeaway chicken

Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2006
90 points, $11.95, S, 13.5° alc
A wine which demonstrates Yalumba's long experience with what can be a troublesome variety to handle in both vineyard and winery. Fresh, if light, honeysuckle, apricot and musk aromas are replayed on the fore-palate, the crisp finish leaving the mouth fresh, not oily.
From South Australia
Drink Now with lemon chicken

Plantagenet Hazard Hill Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007
91 points, $12, S, 13° alc
The star performer for those looking for value in this supremely popular blend. It has a spotlessly clean bouquet (sweatiness or reduction is not uncommon with sauvignon blanc) with fragrant passionfruit aromas, semillon coming through on the lively citrussy palate; has the crisp delicacy so important to the style.
From Western Australia
Drink Now with lemon-marinated fish

Tyrrell's Lost Block Semillon 2007
93 points, $13 S, 11° alc
An absurdly cheap semillon, reflecting the embarrassment of riches in the Tyrrell's stable these days; I am happily working my way through a case of the '96. Has all the fruit of the '07 vintage without sacrificing finesse; fine, long lemony fruit plus crisp acidity.
From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink Now-2017 with cold seafood antipasto

Charles Sturt University Chardonnay 2007
94 points, $13.20, S, 13.5° alc
Given the extraordinary value the Charles Sturt Chardonnay usually offers it is no surprise it is a regular in the Top 100, but this has to be the best yet. It has lovely cool climate nectarine, grapefruit and melon flavours supported by a touch of French oak; terrific length.
From Orange, NSW
Drink Now-2011 with avocado and prawn salad

Chateau Francois Pokolbin Mallee Semillon 2000
95 points, $14, C, 11° alc
This has simply got better over the past 12 months, the only caveat being a bottle with a quality cork and no ullage as was this one. Still pale and vibrantly fresh, it has a zesty citrus, herb and mineral palate, with a touch of honey for good measure. A worthy successor to the lovely '97.
From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink Now-2010 with stir-fried prawns
Fax (02) 4998 7805

T'Gallant Juliet Pinot Grigio 2007
89 points, $14, S, 12.5° alc
Grumbling and mumbling to myself about the shortcomings of pinot grigio (same thing as pinot gris, but sells better) I can at least point to the modest price. Light-bodied, it is a true seafood style flowing with no interference, the low alcohol and dry finish both distinct pluses.
From Mornington Peninsula, Vic
Drink Now with oysters or pippies

Tahbilk Marsanne 2007
93 points, $14.90, S, 12.5° alc
Tahbilk has been growing marsanne for generations; its 1927 plantings are among the oldest in the world. It is a past-master in making long-lived wines, now aided by the screwcap. Clean, fresh and fragrant, mineral, spice and honeysuckle cohabit, leading into a long, crisp finish. No hint of smoke taint or phenolics.
From Nagambie Lakes, Vic
Drink Now-2020 with smoked eel

Chalice Bridge Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007
94 points, $16.95, S, 12.5° alc
The stranglehold of Western Australia on this style is no surprise, nor is the dominance of semillon over sauvignon blanc in the blend. Fine and intense, it has lovely fruit flavour and balance; grassy/minerally semillon provides the structure, sauvignon blanc the sweet lemon juice and passionfruit.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2009 with blue lip mussels

Wise Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007
95 points, $17, S, 13.5° alc
The large spread of vineyards owned or leased by Wide (40 ha from Margaret River to Donnybrook) underpins the invariably high quality of the white wines of Wise. Here a fragrant citrus and passionfruit bouquet leads into a long palate with perfect clarity and intensity, and a lingering aftertaste.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2008 with poached pippies

Chalkers Crossing Sauvignon Blanc 2007
94 points, $18, S, 13° alc
The current range of Chalkers Crossing wines, all made by Celine Rousseau, are utterly remarkable for their consistent quality and style. Here partial barrel ferment and lees contact has given spicy, smoky (not bushfire) overtones to a sweet gooseberry/tropical fruit mix, followed by a clean, dry finish.
From Tumbarumba, NSW
Drink Now-2008 with salad Nicoise

McLeish Estate Semillon 2007
95 points, $18, S, 11.8° alc
The extremely early Hunter vintage produced semillons of unusual depth of flavour at alcohol levels typically 1? higher than usual, no problem for master winemaker Andrew Thomas. Bright green-yellow, It has an intensely aromatic lemon and grass bouquet, a deliciously expressive palate of vibrant fruit, and a touch of spritz.
From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink Now-2013 with carpacchio of salmon

O'Leary Walker Sauvignon Blanc 2007
95 points, $18.50, S, 12.5° alc
There is no question Adelaide Hills is one of the foremost regions for sauvignon blanc, notwithstanding the variety's reach from Margaret River to Tasmania. This wine has a fragrant and expressive bouquet of stone fruit and passionfruit, precisely reflected in the long, perfectly balanced palate, finishing with crisp, citrussy acidity.
From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink Now with sugar-cured tuna

West Cape Howe Riesling 2007
95 points, $19, S, 12° alc
Shows once again that the southern regions of Western Australia are formidable challengers to the rieslings of the Clare and Eden Valleys (as, indeed, is Tasmania). A spotlessly clean bouquet is followed by a fine and taught palate with lemon, lime and mineral flavours, then a long, lingering, zesty finish. Great potential.
From Great Southern, WA
Drink Now-2014 with crab cakes

Ashbrook Estate Verdelho 2007
93 points, $19.99, S, 14° alc
West Australia's Verdelhos are better than any others, the exception proving the rule coming from the Hunter Valley in good vintages. Bright green-yellow, this wine has a distinctively aromatic tropical fruit bouquet, then a palate with added passionfruit and citrus nuances, giving it character and length.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2010 with Margaret River abalone
Tel (08) 9755 6262

Delatite Sylvia Riesling 2006
95 points, $19.99, S, 9° alc
Joins a growing number of riesling producers from cool regions (Bellarmine, Hood Wines, et al) making wine in the style of the Kabinetts from Mosel, Germany, stopping the fermentation early, leaving significant residual sugar. This is a beautifully balanced example, the sweet lime juice fruit offset by perfectly balanced acidity.
From Upper Goulburn, Vic
Drink Now with any Chinese seafood

Fifth Leg Chardonnay 2006
94 points, $19.99, S, 13° alc
This chardonnay has to be one of the best second-label wines going, reflecting both its Margaret River origin and experienced winemaking. White peach tinged with grapefruit flavours seamlessly marry with a light but balanced input of French oak; balance and length are thus guaranteed.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2012 with salmon risotto

Poverty Hill Cellar Matured Riesling 2001
95 points, $19.99, S, 11.1° alc
You can buy the lovely 2007 Poverty Hill Riesling for $18 (or vintages in between) or have all the trouble of prolonged cellaring avoided for only $2 more. Brilliant, glowing yellow-green, it has intense classic lime and toast aromas, joined by a touch of honey on the palate before moving to a bone-dry but satisfying finish.
From Eden Valley, SA
Drink Now-2011 with calamari tempura

Stella Bella Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2007
94 points, $19.99, S, 13° alc
Winemaker Janice McDonald has guided Stella Bella from a minnow to a large fish in the Margaret River scene without missing a beat. Nowhere is this more evident than with this wine, with its classically modelled mix of herb, grass, citrus and gooseberry; great line and flow through to the finish.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2009 with yabbies

Reds Under $20

It is in this group of wines in particular that the silver lining of the grapes surplus (plus the very good 2006 and '05 vintages) has led to wines which over-deliver in their price brackets. Moreover, while the $9.99 price point is a critical one for big volume, it is interesting to see wines at $15, $16, $18, $19 and $19.95 in stark contrast to the regimented price bands of the United Kingdom.

Mount Hurtle Rose 2007
88 points, $8, S, 13° alc
Were it not for the giveaway price of this wine, Angove's Nine Vines Rose would have been selected. Here vivid fuchsia colour heralds a wine with super-abundant fruit flavour, and which (unusually for rose) demands brasserie summer food to cover the slightly tough finish from McLaren Vale.
From McLaren Vale, SA
Drink Now with pasta

Lindemans Bin 50 Shiraz 2006
89 points, $9.95, S 13.5° alc
This won the trophy (and gold medal) for Best Early Drinking Red at the 2006 Perth Wine Show. The screwcap has in fact preserved its fragrance and freshness, along with its surprisingly deep and supple black fruits; there is an airbrush of oak and virtually no tannins, superfluous to the style.
From Southeast Australia
Drink Now with lasagne

Angove's Long Row Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
89 points, $9.99, S 14° alc
The wine comes from various parts of South Australia, not solely from Angove's vast Nanya Vineyard in the Riverland. Brightly coloured, it has a clean bouquet (no reduction), then attractive, juicy red and black fruits with a savoury twist of tannins and oak on the finish.
From South Australia 
Drink Now with lamb kebabs

Jacob's Creek Shiraz 2006
89 points, $9.99, S, 14° alc
One of the (so far) enduring labels in domestic and export markets alike. Given the price, a remarkably complete wine with plenty of varietal fruit in a soft, plummy frame before finishing with a tickle of spice and good acidity. This is the 'I've been everywhere wine'.
From Southeast Australia 
Drink Now with pizza

Warburn Estate Stephendale Shiraz 2006
91 points, $11, S 14° alc
A particularly pointed example of the consequences of the grape surplus, allowing this Riverland winery to venture to the Barossa Valley and buy shiraz at a bargain basement price. Medium-bodied, it has blackberry, licorice and plum fruit, with good texture and mouthfeel and a jab of American oak.
From Barossa, SA
Drink Now-2011 with beef spare ribs

McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Shiraz Viognier 2005
91 points, $11.95, S, 13.5° alc
Here is yet another side to the surplus, still available at least nine months after release, yet from the deservedly trendy blend of shiraz and viognier. Bright, clearly coloured, it punches well above its weight, with supple black cherry, spice and blackberry fruit lifted on both bouquet and palate by the viognier component.
From Southeast Australia 
Drink Now-2010 with spaghetti bolognaise

Angove's Nine Vines Shiraz Viognier 2006
92 points, $15, S, 14.5° alc
The Nine Vines brand comes from Angove's former vineyard at Tea Tree Gully, resumed many years ago for housing, leaving nine vines intact. The viognier has a marked impact on the bouquet, joining abundant black cherry and plum on the palate, which has good tannin and oak support.
From South Australia 
Drink Now-2012 with rare roast beef

Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise 2006
91 points, $15, S, 14.5° alc
A multi-region blend of shiraz (the major component), cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot which spends 12 months in French and American oak. It is a lively and generous medium-bodied wine with good fruit focus and intensity, offering a mix of well-structured blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, and a long finish.
From South Australia 
Drink Now-2012 with lamb ragout

De Bortoli Windy Peak Pinot Noir 2007
92 points, $15.99, S, 13° alc
Cold maceration pre-fermentation and whole bunches add finesse and class to this wine which was by far the best pinot under $20. Bright but deep purple-red, it has ripe red and black cherry aromas and flavours, the palate with excellent texture, structure and length. Will improve further.
From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink Now-2009 with quail

West Cape Howe Rose 2007
92 points, $16, S, 13.5° alc
Unthinkable that a producer would line-price its rose with its cabernet merlot? No more. Made from merlot and pinot noir, it has a come-hither pale bright pink colour, and a totally delicious palate with a fresh cascade of strawberry and redcurrant fruits plus a twist of citrussy acidity. To be gulped, not sipped.
From Western Australia 
Drink Now with whatever takes your fancy

West Cape Howe Cabernet Merlot 2005
93 points, $16, S, 13.5° alc
The exhortation on the back label to drink this with friends at the next barbecue sells the wine short, however enjoyable it might be. Clear purple-red, it abounds with cassis and blackcurrant fruit intermingling with spicy notes, the structure provided by subtle oak and ripe tannins.
From Western Australia 
Drink Now-2012 with roast baby kid

Orlando Gramp's Shiraz 2004
95 points, $16.99, C, 14.5° alc
Gold at the National Wine Show '06 and two important trophies at the Sydney Wine Show '07 mark the career of this stellar wine, the best value in the Top 100. Medium- to full-bodied, perfect ripeness to the dark, spicy fruit and perfect oak integration, the palate finishing with fine, long tannins.
From SA
Drink Now-2014 with beef provencal

Gemtree Tatty Road 2006
94 points, $18, S, 14.5° alc
Gemtree's red wines in the Top 100 tasting were uniformly excellent; this blend of cabernet, petit verdot, merlot and cabernet franc, grown on red loam over limestone no exception, with a strikingly pure array of blackcurrant and redcurrant on a long, silky palate.
From McLaren Vale, SA
Drink Now-2016 with veal kidneys

Wrattonbully Vineyards Tempranillo 2006
92 points, $18.55, S, 14° alc
Tempranillo is the most distinguished Spanish indigenous variety, now popping up all over Australia, but still finding its way, young vines still to offer their best. Bright and clear, it offers a delicious, fresh and supple panoply of red fruits, spices and tannins, uncomplicated and seductive.
From Wrattonbully, SA
Drink Now with milk-fed lamb

Brookland Valley Verse 1 Rose 2007
93 points, $18.99, S, 12.5° alc
Skilfully crafted from early-picked merlot and cabernet franc, its roots going back decades to Houghton Cabernet Rose. Vividly coloured, it has wonderful mouthfeel, intensely fruity yet finishing bone dry with crystalline acidity driving the lingering finish and aftertaste.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now with spring sunshine

Coriole Sangiovese 2006
92 points, $19.95, S, 14° alc
Coriole was the pioneer of sangiovese in Australia, planting the first vines in 1985. While not as capricious as Italy's other great grape, nebbiolo, it is no pushover. The fragrant red cherry fruit of the bouquet flows into the fore-palate before savoury, powdery tannins run through to the finish.
From McLaren Vale, SA
Drink Now-2011 with anything Italian

Gemtree Uncut Shiraz 2006
95 points, $19.99, C, 14.5° alc
From 40-year-old vines, open-fermented, basket-pressed and aged for 16 months in French and American oak. Deeply coloured, it has an opulent but not jammy bouquet and palate, with a range of blackberry, licorice and dark chocolate fruit supported by positive, though not aggressive oak and ripe tannins.
From McLaren Vale, SA
Drink 2008-2015 with grilled T-bone steak

Arakoon Sellicks Beach Shiraz 2005
95 points, $19.99, S, 14.5° alc
First tasted soon after bottling, it has evolved splendidly over the ensuing six months — note, notwithstanding its screwcap. Still deep red-purple, it is a plush, velvety, richly textured wine with multi-flavoured black fruits, a wrapping of regional dark chocolate adding to the strong sense of place the wine exudes.
From McLaren Vale, SA
Drink 2008-2018 with kangaroo fillet
Tel (08) 8323 7339

Neagles Rock Misery Grenache Shiraz 2006
93 points, $19.99, S, 14.5° alc
Produced from 35-year-old grenache and from Duncans Block shiraz, which evidently enjoyed the '06 vintage conditions; has much more tension and focus than prior years and the Clare generally; has attractive red fruits and a long finish, with particularly good acidity (rather than tannins) holding the palate together.
From Clare Valley, SA
Drink Now-2011 with beef casserole

Poverty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
95 points, $19.99, S, 15° alc
One of the newer stars in the Eden Valley, producing high quality wines across the range, all over-delivering. From how-yielding mature vines, and spends 18 months in old oak hogsheads. It has intense, pure, blackcurrant/cassis fruit through a long palate with drive and vibrancy, plus soft, ripe tannins; no alcohol heat.
From Eden Valley, SA
Drink 2010-2025 or leave it in the cellar

Whites Over $20

With 205 wines vying for selection, and only a handful ruling themselves out of contention (mainly through cork-related issues), this was as difficult a task as any this year. While I have deliberately spread the varietal net to include four rieslings, three semillons, two sauvignon blancs, two sauvignon blanc semillons and a viognier, the heart of this group is the eight superb chardonnays — even at this number grossly underrepresented if quality were to be the sole yardstick.

Yering Station Chardonnay 2006
95 points, $23, S, 13° alc
Winemaker Tom Carson is one of many cool climate chardonnay makers to decide to pick the grapes earlier to reduce the alcohol and to decrease the amount of new oak. That said, this is an intense wine, bringing strong stone fruit, melon and citrus cool climate characters augmented by barrel ferment and lees inputs on the long palate.
From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink Now-2011 with Chinese-style baked fish

Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007
95 points, $24, S, 12.8° alc
Voyager makes a practice of over-delivering across the full range of its wines, and this is no exception. As usual a blend of 55% sauvignon blanc and 45% semillon, the fragrant, delicate bouquet moves through a tropical to passionfruit to citrus spectrum, repeated on the long and fine palate, also reflecting its modest alcohol.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2010 with tempura

Howard Park Riesling 2007
96 points, $25, S, 12.5° alc
Year-in, year-out, one of Australia's best rieslings, and has a future as long as that of Bay of Fires thanks to its screwcap. As usual, has flawless aromas and flavours of passionfruit, lime and apple, the palate long and perfectly balanced, the aftertaste as fresh as a spring day. One of the champions of Great Southern riesling.
From Great Southern, WA
Drink Now-2020 with seafood antipasto

Tower Estate Semillon 2006
95 points, $26, C, 10.5°alc
Made from 30-year-old hand-pruned vines and hand-picked grapes; one of only a couple of Hunter Valley semillon makers still persisting with corks. Bright, light straw-green, it is an exceptionally intense wine with a cascade of citrus, grass and minerally flavours running through a very long palate and zesty finish.
From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink Now-2013 with sautéed scallops

Bay of Fires Tigress Riesling 2007
96 points, $26.50, S, 11° alc
Riesling, sparkling wine and pinot noir are Tasmania's trump cards, and will withstand the challenges of climate change better than most. Floral hints of lime and passionfruit on the bouquet lead into a vibrant palate stacked full of those flavours running through to a long, perfectly balanced finish; natural acidity underwrites a long future for Tasmania.
From Tasmania
Drink Now-2020 with Tasmanian salmon carpacchio

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Riesling 2007
96 points, $27, S, 12° alc
Judi Cullam is a tireless champion of riesling and terroir, thus it's wholly fitting that this exemplary wine should come from the near-20-year-old estate vines. Powerful aromas of lemon and lime, plus touches of spice, all followed by an even more powerful and intense palate with dominant citrus flavours and great length.
From Frankland River, WA
Drink Now-2017 with asparagus terrine

Ashbrook Estate Chardonnay 2006
96 points, $29, S, 13.5° alc
Fifty percent of this wine was barrel-fermented in new French oak and given six months maturation in that oak; the remainder was fermented in stainless steel. Bright green-yellow, it is an extremely complex wine with some deliberate funky aromas reminiscent of white burgundy. Grapefruit and nectarine drive the palate, with the oak well-balanced and integrated.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2012 with grilled spatchcock
Tel (08) 9755 6262

Oakridge Fume Blanc 2007
95 points, $29, S, 11.5° alc
A slightly unfashionable name, perhaps, but denoting whole bunch-pressed juice, 100% barrel-fermented with wild yeast. From the cool Upper Yarra, which has provided the gooseberry and passionfruit flavours able to match the textural complexity derived from the barrel fermentation. Skilled and sophisticated winemaking by David Bicknell.
From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink Now-2009 with hollandaise sauce

Heggies Reserve Chardonnay 2005
96 points, $34.95, S, 14° alc
Most discussion on new Burgundian clones concerns pinot noir, but it is arguable the chardonnay clones which arrived around the same time are better. Here clones 76, 95 and 96 are planted on a 1.3-ha block, and produce a dazzlingly clear wine, with a seamless flow of fruit, oak and acidity, the finish and aftertaste exhilarating.
From Eden Valley, SA
Drink Now-2013 with abalone

Leo Buring Leonay DWK17 Riesling 2007
95 points, $36.95, S, 11.5° alc
In historical terms, the greatest riesling brand in Australia, with a track record back to the mid 1960s, spanning both the Clare and Eden Valleys. This is the brand leader, the bouquet with lime blossom and spice, then a fine and elegant palate full of regional lime juice, finishing dry.
From Eden Valley, SA
Drink Now-2017 with soft shell crab

Geoff Weaver Ferus Lenswood Sauvignon Blanc 2005
96 points, $38, S, 13° alc
Majestically breaks all the rules by spectacularly improving since it was bottled, and which shows that sauvignon blanc can be fashioned into stunning complexity. It was 100% barrel-fermented in French oak and spent 12 months on yeast lees, had no added acid, yet retains the hallmark Weaver elegance through to its long, fresh finish.
From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink Now-2010 with salmon risotto

Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay 2006
97 points, $38, S, 13.5° alc
Sophisticated winemaking by Martin Shaw sees whole bunch-pressed grapes, partial barrel fermentation and maturation for 12 months, part wild yeast, long lees contact and partial malolactic fermentation. Super-fine and elegant, all the components are seamlessly married, nectarine and citrus fruit the primary driver through to the long, lingering finish.
From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink Now-2012 with sweetbreads

Cape Mentelle Walcliffe Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2005
96 points, $40, S, 13° alc
This wine very deliberately pushes the envelope with wild yeast fermentation and maturation in 100% new and used French oak, going through a full malolactic fermentation. It has got greater depth and richness than all other Margaret River blends, though time in bottle also helps; a beautifully balanced and poised wine, strongly reminiscent of white Bordeaux.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2011 with mild-fed veal

Tyrrell's Single Vineyard HVD Semillon 2001
96 points, $42, C, 10.7° alc
The HVD (Hunter Valley Distillery) vineyard was planted in 1908 on the free-draining sandy soils common to almost all the great semillon vineyards in the Hunter Valley. Classic semillon, both in terms of its maker and near-100-year-old vines; just starting to pick up honey and lemon notes, toast in the background, all on a base of freshness and finesse.
From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink Now-2015 with blue swimmer crab

Clyde Park Reserve Chardonnay 2006
96 points, $44, S, 13° alc
The difference between the Clyde Park varietal and Reserve releases is substantial, which is as it should be. This wine is 100% barrel-fermented in and matured for up to 14 months in French oak; it matches and marries finesse and complexity, never easy. Finely focused citrus and melon fruit is enfolded in a fine web of oak, the palate long, the aftertaste lingering.
From Geelong, Vic
Drink Now-2011 with avocado and prawn salad

Yalumba The Virgilius Eden Valley Viognier 2006
96 points, $44.95, S, 14.5° alc
This, says Yalumba, is the pre-eminent white wine of its portfolio. It proclaims its class and power on the first whiff of the bouquet, and makes an emphatic varietal statement on the palate with pear, apricot and musk, tied together by citrussy acidity; barrel ferment adds texture and structure.
From Eden Valley, SA
Drink Now-2010 with pork neck

Brokenwood ILR Semillon 2002
95 points, $45, C, 11.3° alc
Brokenwood has switched to screwcap since 2002, its only regret not doing it sooner, as up to one-third of the ILR (Iain Leslie Riggs) releases were discarded each year (oxidation). Pale, bright green-straw, this is a superbly fine, crisp and delicate wine, still to fully show its wares, honey and toast to come.
From Hunter Valley, NSW
Drink Now-2013 with sautéed scallops

Oakridge 864 Chardonnay 2006
96 points, $49, S, 13.5° alc
Yet another wine to showcase the exemplary winemaking skills of David Bicknell, fermented in large French oak barrels using wild/indigenous/natural yeast (different words, same thing). It is a superbly built wine, created with white burgundy in mind, but relying on high quality fruit, tightly controlled oak inputs, then minimum interference resulting in seamless line and flow.
From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink Now-2012 with fresh Tasmanian salmon

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2004
97 points, $92, S, 14.5° alc
A collective sigh of relief greeted the release of this great wine under screwcap. In a tasting earlier this year I wrote the fruit literally sings (like Leeuwin's annual concerts); white peach, nectarine and grapefruit are the sopranos, barrel ferment and limited malolactic fermentation the orchestra behind. Over the intervening six months the wine has moved into an even higher register of perfection.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink Now-2019 with Margaret River marron

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2004
97 points, $120, S, 14.5° alc
This is the unchallenged jewel in the crown of Penfolds' white wines, always intended to sit alongside Grange. It shares many of the flavours of the Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay, seamlessly integrated with quality French oak and perfectly balanced acidity. The screwcap will check the unduly rapid development of some of the earlier releases.
From Cool climate blend
Drink Now-2019 with truffled pheasant

Reds Over $20

This was a full-blown nightmare. Remember that all these wines come from a shortlist of wineries with a track record of top-class wines. The only way I could see, full of imperfections and injustices though it may be, was to allocate positions more or less in proportion to the number of each varieties or styles submitted. Thus I ended up with three pinot noirs, ten shirazs (out of 169 submitted), two shiraz viogniers, one merlot, three cabernet sauvignons and one cabernet merlot. The newer alternative varieties simply couldn't force their way in, commendable though some were.

De Bortoli Gulf Station Shiraz Viognier 2006
94 points, $21, S, 14° alc
A toss up between this wine and the Yering Station, decided as much on overall airplay (Yering has its day elsewhere) as price or quality: both wines are outstanding. Highly aromatic, scented and spicy; a vibrant palate with clarion-clear line and length to its effusive red fruits, fine tannins and subtle oak.
From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink Now-2015 with veal ravioli

Grant Burge Cameron Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
95 points, $22.95, C, 13.5° alc
There is an embarrassment of riches with cabernet sauvignon ex 2004 from McLaren Vale and the Barossa, Clare and Eden Valleys. This wine has exceptional colour and a great bouquet, the delicious but serious cabernet palate with blackcurrant and cassis offset by savoury tannins and quality French oak.
From Barossa Valley, SA
Drink Now-2014 with braised lamb shanks

Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz 2005
94 points, $23, S, 14.5° alc
All the artistry of the Blass red wine team under the direction of Caroline Dunn is used at this price point as well as $100-plus versions: small batch fermentation and later selection and blending. Bold flavours of blackberry, plum and licorice are packaged with satiny oak and supple tannins.
From Barossa Valley, SA
Drink Now-2015 with beef shashlik

Leasingham Bin 61 Shiraz 2005
95 points, $24, S, 13.5° alc
A label with a proud 40-year history, and which won a gold medal at this year's Sydney Wine Show, demonstrating that great colour and flavour don't require high alcohol. Vivid deep purple-red, its powerful, focused and perfectly balanced dark berry fruit is supported by ripe tannins and good oak.
From Clare Valley, SA
Drink 2010-2025 with char-grilled rump steak

Yering Station Pinot Noir 2006
95 points, $24, S, 13.5° alc
Yering Station's big three wines are chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz viognier, each with a Reserve version when justified; all are models of consistency. A bright, and clear colour leads into a classic pinot bouquet, flavour and structure; the oak is restrained, with fruit to the fore, then silky tannins on the long finish.
From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink Now-2013 with coq au vin

Hewitson Ned & Henry's Shiraz 2006
95 points, $25, S, 14.5° alc
Dean Hewitson has made very post a winner since leaving Petaluma in 1996, ferreting out patches of old vines, then making the wines with flair. This entry-point, medium-bodied wine has fresh plum, black cherry and blackberry fruit flavours, polished tannins and subtle oak; impressive length and balance.
From Barossa Valley, SA
Drink Now-2020 with kangaroo fillet

Ferngrove Majestic Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
95 points, $26, C, 15° alc
Has flowered in bottle over the past 15 months, winning trophies and/or gold medals at the National Wine Show, Perth and Qantas Wine Show of Western Australia. Ripe, dense blackcurrant fruit, ripe tannins and cedary oak have now seamlessly welded and balanced; quality cork is reassuring.
From Great Southern, WA
Drink Now-2-15 with herbed rack of spring lamb

Lillydale Estate Pinot Noir 2006
95 points, $26, S, 14.5° alc
This McWilliam's-owned winery has gone about its business with a minimum of fanfare, but consistently makes elegant wines across the full range, with significant show success. Has very appealing, high-toned cherry/red fruit aromas with the palate following precisely the same track; the structure and length are admirable.
From Yarra Valley, Vic
Drink Now-2013 with roast squab

Best's Bin 1 Shiraz 2005
94 points, $27, S,14.5° alc
This is the middle wine in the three-tiered shiraz releases of Best's (Bin O is top, a traditional label in a traditional winery). A super-refined light- to medium-bodied wine, its black fruits are supported by a fine web of silky tannins and perfectly judged French and American oak.
From Grampians, Vic
Drink Now-2020 with fillet of beef

Narkoojee The Athelstan Merlot 2004
95 points, $30, D, 13.5° alc
Narkoojee is aboriginal for place of flowers, Athelstan the name of winemaker Harry Friend's late father. This to one side, the wine has improved substantially over the past year into lovely varietal expression, with spicy raspberry and cassis-accented fruit supported by gossamer tannins on a long palate.
From Gippsland, Vic
Drink Now-2014 with pan-fried veal

Tarrington Vineyards Artemisia Shiraz 2006
95 points, $35, S, 13.7° alc
Tamara Irish may not be known to many, but once met (or even spoken to), never forgotten. Self-taught, she crafts small quantities of Chablis-like chardonnay, focused pinot noir, and shiraz. Deeply coloured, elegantly textured and supple, its smooth spiced black fruits and ripe tannins run through a very long palate.
From Henty, Vic
Drink Now-2026 with poached game

Turkey Flat Shiraz 2005
95 points, $45, C, 14.5° alc
The backbone of this perennial favourite is provided by vines planted in 1847 (plus younger vines), which finishes its fermentation in and is matured in French oak. Deeply coloured, it offers dark fruits ranging through blackberry, plum and a dash of licorice on a restrained but focused palate. Has thrown a crust and needs decanting.
From Barossa Valley, SA
Drink Now-2015 with osso buco

Peter Lehmann The 1885 Shiraz 2005
96 points, $55, S, 14.5° alc
It is wholly appropriate that Peter Lehmann, the most fierce defender of Barossa Valley grape growers, should make this wine from 122-year-old vines, tended by six generations. It has excellent intensity, balance and focus, redolent of blackberry, plum, mint and spice; very good texture and structure.
From Barossa Valley, SA
Drink Now-2020 with Barossa Valley smoked beef

Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz 2005
96 points, $58, C, 14.3° alc
Dalwhinnie's shiraz vines are now 30 years old, but even when young they produced outstanding wine. It is no surprise that this vintage should flood the mouth with perfectly ripened black cherry, plum and blackberry fruit, the oak positive but seamless, the tannins likewise. A delicious wine with great mouthfeel, line and length.
From Pyrenees, Vic
Drink Now-2020 with beef cheek

Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2005
96 points, $60, S, 14° alc
Site selection is very important for pinot noir in the Adelaide Hills; one of the best (and oldest) vineyards is that of Ashton Hills. This is a particularly striking wine, offering a complex and long mix of plum, cherry, spice, stem and forest notes, with the power and structure to develop over many years.
From Adelaide Hills, SA
Drink Now-2015 with wild mushroom risotto
Tel (08) 8390 1243

Wirra Wirra RSW Shiraz 2005
96 points, $60, S, 14.5° alc
This wine shows why Wirra Wirra was recently given the title of Best Red Winemaker in the World at the International Wine Challenge Awards in London. It has an exceptionally long and intense palate; red and black fruits, with strong regional dark chocolate, are supported by fine tannins.
From McLaren Vale, SA
Drink Now-2025 with Irish stew

Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
96 points, $72.95, S, 13.5° alc
Winemaker Sue Hodder has succeeded brilliantly in refining and focussing all the Wynns reds, none more so that Michael Shiraz and this truly lovely wine. Richness in terms of the multilayered texture first up, then multifaceted nuances of different levels of ripeness provide harmony in the long palate and sheer class on the finish.
From Coonawarra, SA
Drink 2009-2029 with butterfly leg of lamb

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2006
96 points, $80, S, 14° alc
This is the 15th release by Tim Kirk, who blazed the shiraz viognier trail for the galloping herd to follow. Six per cent co-fermented viognier gives the usual bright, crystal clear colour, and a silky mouthfeel to the luscious, spicy red and black fruits on the extremely long palate; precise tannins and oak balance.
From Canberra District
Drink Now-2020 with roast venison

Cullen Diana Madeline 2005
96 points, $90, S, 14° alc
Vanya Cullen only knows how to make great wine, here juggling cabernet sauvignon (75%), merlot, malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot. In archetypal Cullen style, it has a backbone of ripe but persistent tannins to the array of black fruit flavours, which have the density and intensity to easily carry the wine through to its very long plateau of maturity.
From Margaret River, WA
Drink 2010-2030 with roast saltbush lamb

Penfolds Grange 2002
97 points, $500, C, 14.5° alc
Starred in the October 2007 Rewards of Patience tasting, just as it did when first released. A wonderful bouquet of a multitude of dark fruit aromas, the palate with impeccable texture and balance; a seamless array of blackberry, spice and licorice flavours, oak perfectly pitched. Destined to become of the great Granges.
From South Australia 
Drink Now-2042 with Wagyu beef

Australian Sparkling

There is no question the quality of Australian sparkling wines continues to improve year in, year out. Moreover, compared to Australian still table wines, they are underpriced both in terms of the cost of their production and their quality. Indeed, the higher-priced wines offer the best value for money. That said, the points for these sparkling wines cannot re equated with those of the Champagnes.

Deakin Estate Brut NV
87 points $9.99
Ten years ago a sparkling wine at this price point would have been made from anything but chardonnay and pinot noir, and not been estate-grown. It has surprisingly fine bead (or mousse), and is clean and fresh with citrus and stone fruit (ex chardonnay) to the fore; the balance is good, the touch of sweetness what the market wants.

Hardys Sir James Brut de Brut NV
90 points, $15.99
A blend of predominantly cool-grown pinot noir and chardonnay which spends two years on yeast lees, and is made for serious consumers. Pale straw-green, with a fine mousse, it has the complexity most wines at this price point lack, even though the focus is on the fresh, lively citrussy fruit which drives the wine through to its quite long and dry finish.

Jansz Tasmania Premium Rose NV
91 points, $22.95
This was one of the first sparkling wines to come from Tasmania. The precise varietal make-up is not specified, but given it is 100% Tasmanian and is based on several vintages, it is fair to assume it is a pinot-dominant wine as the pale salmon colour and red fruit flavours suggest; bready/toasty notes plus a dry finish complete a quality wine.

Petaluma Croser 2004
94 points, $35
It's a sign of the times that this wine is significantly cheaper than many of the super-premium Australian sparkling wines, once it was one of the most expensive. A blend of 68% pinot noir and 32% chardonnay, it has flourished in bottle over the past year, still with flowery blossom and brioche aromas, but more weight and length to the palate, and the lingering, dry finish.

Domaine Chandon Vintage Brut 2004
95 points, $39
This contains no less than 30 base wine components spanning pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, which then spent 30 months on lees prior to disgorgement. Pale straw, flecked with green, it has ripe, but not heavy, stone fruit with a creamy texture and a surprisingly delicate and fresh finish. A very attractive wine (as is the Tasmanian Cuvee).

Clover Hill 2003
96 points, $41.99
The wine is based on a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier (in that order), partially aged in oak before being bottle fermented, spending three years on lees. Glints of gold run through the straw colour and introduce a palate with a rippling of stone fruit, ripe apple, red berry and spice flavours augmented by a touch of brioche, followed by a long, well-balanced finish.

Yarrabank Late Disgorged 1999
96 points, $45
Both the 1998 and '99 Late Disgorged Yarrabanks (spending up to seven years on lees) are superlative wines. Incredibly bright green-straw, it is as fresh and lively on its feet as the colour suggests, with flavours and aromas of spice, citrus, apple and brioche before moving through to a quite brilliant finish and aftertaste. The zero dosage (ie no added sugar when disgorged) has paid big dividends.

Bay of Fires Arras 2001
96 points, $9.99
This is the seventh vintage release of Arras, originally under the Hardy brand, but now taken to its birthplace in Tasmania. Here over five years on lees and the usual plethora of gold medals tell part of the tale for a wine with a deliciously fine and intense array of fruit aromas and flavours running through the length of the lingering palate, notes of cashew, brioche and cracked wheat no more than a background zephyr.


Selecting a mere 12 Champagnes from so many glittering wines a fiendishly hard task; another 20 or more were equally deserving. All I can do is write a column closer to Christmas to do some justice to those omitted. That said, two things stood out. First, the demand-pulled increase in prices for many of the wines; second, the premium attached to the rose version of all producers bar one. Once again, rapidly increasing global demand is at work.

Pol Gessner Reserve NV
90 points, $35
This is one of 200 labels used by the recently (2006) acquired giant Marne et Champagne, based in Epernay (see Bruno Paillard entry). It produces 1 million cases, but only 10 000 Pol Gessner. Bright straw-green, with good mousse (gas) and a flowery bouquet, it is distinctly Champagne (not always so at this price) with good length, balance and style. There is nothing to be gained by cellaring it; buy today and drink tonight.
Imported by Champagne Lanson
Tel (07) 5527 2768

Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee NV
93 points, $69.99
The distinctive red label of the wine is frequently seen around the traps, partly because this is the cheapest Grand Marque brand. But it also has the legacy of master Champagne maker Daniel Thibault who redefined the style in the late 1980s, making it richer and fruitier. Strong straw-gold, it has a level of intensity greater than all others at its price point. Gently ripe stone fruit and a touch of brioche provide a supple mouthfeel and satisfying finish.
Imported by Maxxium
Tel (02) 9418 5000

Bollinger Special Cuvee NV
94 points, $90
Compared with the startling $350 for the 1999 Grande Année, this wine looks almost indecently cheap for such a deservedly famous house. Typically 60% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay and 15% pinot meunier, a substantial part is still fermented in old oak barrels; this, plus the inclusion of around 7% reserve wines up to 15 years old, makes this the most complex and most instantaneously recognisable non vintage. 'Bolly' fans are as loyal as club members of an AFL team.
Imported by Fine Wine Partners
Tel (02) 8335 8000

Pol Roger Extra Cuvee de Reserve 1998
96 points, $99.95
Who could have imagined that Pol Roger could so quickly produce a wine equal to, let alone better than, its glorious '96? Well, it's done so according to the authority of Champagne, Tom Stevenson, and I don't for one moment disagree. Deep but luminous green-yellow, it caresses and floods the mouth with an array of fruit flavours ranging from citrus to stone fruit and the expected touch of yeast-derived toast in the background. Despite the depth of flavour, it is beautifully poised and balanced.
Imported by Negociants
Tel (08) 8112 4200

Bruno Paillard Brut Premier Rose NV
96 points, $110
Bruno Paillard was the first, and so far only, person to build a fully-fledged Champagne negociant-manipulant house in the modern era, but that feat paled into insignificance when the Paillard group purchased Lanson and Marne et Champagne. This wine was disgorged in June 2005, evidently after a considerable but unstated time on lees. The pale salmon colour tells you the wine achieved its colour by skin contact with the 85% pinot noir (rather than the post-ferment addition of red wine). It is deliciously bright and fresh, with wonderful length and finish, the dosage perfect.
Imported by Haviland Wine Merchants
Tel (02) 9929 3722

Louis Roederer Brut Millésimé 2000
96 points, $125
This outstanding producer owns 190 hectares of vineyards which supply 80% of its total make, a luxury which none of the other Grand Marques enjoy. It is the reason why its eagerly-sought (at any price) Cristal is made virtually every year, even if the quantity varies. The Vintage Brut is made from two-thirds chardonnay and one-third pinot noir (likewise uncommon), accounting for its pale green-straw colour, its beautifully focussed stone fruit flavours in a perfectly balanced and composed palate, and its long, lingering finish.
Imported by Red+White
Tel (08) 8232 9455

Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs NV
95 points, $140
It is true that I could have followed past years and selected the Rose, rightly regarded in all parts of the globe as the pacemaker, but the purity of the Billecart style (turning on specially cultured yeasts and cool, slow fermentation in stainless steel) lends itself equally well to Blanc de Blancs. Pale straw-green, and with persistent mousse which shows no signs of diminishing over time in the glass, it has very intense and fine citrus/stone fruit flavours forged in the heart of its 100% chardonnay base. But there are also nuances of honey, toast and brioche which will give the wine great complexity if it is cellared for another 3-5 years.
Imported by Domaine Wine Shippers
Tel (03) 9878 7848

Ayala d'Perle d'Ayala Brut 1999
96 points, $170
An old Grand Marque spectacularly revitalised since its acquisition by Bollinger. This remarkable wine is 100% from Grand Cru vineyards, 80% Chardonnay from Mesnil-sur-Oger, Cramant and Chouilly, with 20% pinot noir from Ay, in each case the best of the best. It was hand-disgorged (a rarity mong the larger houses these days) in February 2006. Bright, light green-gold, it has exceptionally fine mousse, and a no less super-fine, intense palate. Here the flavours range through brioche and shortbread to ripe apple, nectarine and citrus. While delicately poised, this wine will drink superbly for years to come.
Imported by Fine Wine Partners
Tel (02) 8335 8000

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1998
97 points, $239.95
Taittinger has also been in the takeover news, with the splitting of its business interests, and the repurchase of the Champagne section by Claude and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger. This wine has been the jewel in the Taittinger crown since its first vintage in 1952, although the rare Rose version (first made in 1966) is of similar stupendous quality (and reliability). The '98 follows in the footsteps of Pol Roger in mirroring the great '96; bright, glowing green-yellow, it fulfils the vinous come-on of the colour, with a surging array of flavours ranging from grapefruit to nectarine, creamy notes from its yeast lees and tightened by acidity.
Imported by McWilliam's
Tel (02) 9797 1266

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1998
97 points, $250
It was no more than a toss of a coin to chose between this and the similarly priced '98 Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque; both are majestic wines with an impeccable pedigree. La Grande Dame comes exclusively from eight Grand Cru vineyards owned by the 27-year-old widow Nicole-Barbe Clicquot-Ponsardin in 1805, who drove the business to the very top tier of Champagne. The wine named in her honour was launched in 1977 to mark the bicentenary of the company. A glorious, glowing yellow-green, it is wonderfully rich, textured and layered, yet has finesse and a finish which goes on forever. Pure class from start to finish.
Imported by Moet Hennessy
Tel (02) 8344 9900

Krug Vintage 1996
100 points, $495
I have recently written about this wine, and the reasons why I have departed from 35 years or so of practice of giving the wine a perfect score. (I have also done so for the Seppelt 100 Year Old Para release (1907), it's unlikely there will be a third). Krug itself rates the 1928, '90 and '96 as the greatest vintages of the 20th century; I have tasted them all on more than one occasions, and although the '28 is now slowly declining, the three are (or were) sheer perfection. The '96 is incredibly intense, the length of its palate and aftertaste taking it into the vinous stratosphere, the seamless mix of ripe fruit, honey and brioche awesome.
Imported by Moet Hennessy
Tel (02) 8344 9900

Dom Perignon Oenoteque 1992
98 points, $520
It was not until Richard Geoffroy was appointed winemaker for and custodian of Dom Perignon that the idea of the Oenotheque programme was born, and has since evolved dramatically. There was a large library of back vintages of Dom, simply a testament to the prodigious size of each make. These were all bottles of Dom disgorged at the normal time (around five years after vintage) and went back to 1959 in sufficient quantity to justify commercial re-release under the beautiful Oenoteque label. Now vintages are held on lees for disgorgement when the time is right, this '92 vintage in 2004. The wine transcends the modest vintage conditions, astonishingly fresh and vibrant, perfectly poised, lingering in the mouth for an eternity. This and the '06 Krug are the greatest bargains on the international wine market of today.
Imported by Moet Hennessy
Tel (02) 8344 9900

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