Australia is no longer a Biltong backwater. We’ve got a proud panoply of wine regions and products just begging to be guzzled (or artfully consumed).
We’ve also got a growing population of vino enthusiasts who enjoy studied appreciation of the good stuff on the regular. We’re even, believe it or not, finally leaving some of the silly and snobbish Australian wine myths that used to persist in the past.
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There’s also been a growing movement away from guessing what’s good down at your local bottle-o (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and towards ordering your wine, if not Netflix style, online clothes shopping style.
It’s easier, in many cases cheaper (literally), and also fits well with the growing trend of doing wine tours of the Barossa or the Hunter (or Margaret River), discovering what you like, and actually developing a palette and developing a strong sense for what you like, rather than relying on the whims of a BWS near you (and simply assuming the more you spend the better).
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There’s a lot more to his dizzy game than shedding shekels. Finding a good wine to buy is a complex task. Hundreds of years of history, personal preferences, time of year, food pairings, social scenarios and much more all need to be taken into account if you want to find the best Australian wine, for you, to buy right now.
To guide you through this process of finding a top-notch Australian wine, for each month of the year, DMARGE got in touch with an Australian wine expert – Peter Nixon.
Peter is the former head of Dan Murphy’s Wine Panel. He also used to be the Category Manager of International Wine at Dan Murphy’s.
Peter provides DMARGE with his top wine picks for Australians each and every month.
Whether you’re looking to leave the heavy reds of winter behind with a bang (or not leave them behind at all), or whether you are looking for some light and easy summer drinking (think: whites, Chardonnays), Peter has included a perfect fit for you.
He’s also included a couple of wildcard overseas picks to keep you on your toes (as well as a champagne that will go perfectly with any kind of lockdown picnic).
Oh and – naturally – there is one unashamedly Australian shiraz in there for those of you who never tire of Big Reds.
In this story…
- December 2021
- November 2021
- October 2021
- September 2021
- August 2021
Leeuwin Estate ‘Prelude’ Chardonnay – Margaret River, WA
It’s older sibling, the “Art Series”, might be one of Australia’s priciest and finest expressions of Chardonnay, however this is certainly no second-fiddle – a top-notch mod-Oz Chardy. I defy anyone yet to discover Australian Chardonnay, to dislike this wine, including the most stubborn Kiwi Savvy drinkers – not over-oaked, not ripe or heavy. It smells as refreshing and enticing as Margaret River’s wildflower scented sea-breeze in Spring. Very Moreish. Fantastic with roast turkey and pan-fried hazelnuts.
In short: A luxe, modern Australian Chardonnay.
Price: $36 (rrp)
Henschke Johann’s Garden Grenache Blend – Barossa, SA
What other day of the year should you pay homage to one of Australia’s oldest, most recognisable and well-respected wine names? Henschke wines are classic rather than old-fashioned, an expression of some of South Australia’s most prized vineyards. The Johann’s, is a complex blend, sourced from some of the Barossa’s oldest dry-grown vineyards, aged in high-quality premium oak. Ripe plum, white pepper, charcuterie and cedar, atop a bed of velvet-like tannins. Ensure to give this wine a good spell in a large decanter (a jug will do), to see it reveal its full magnificence. Perfect with ham, turkey, roasted mushroom salad, or any of the traditional Christmas accoutrements.
In short: Australian winemaking royalty.
Price: $52 rrp
Bleasdale est 1850 Sparkling Shiraz NV – Langhorne Creek, SA
A style born in Australia over a century ago, now considered to be an Australian Christmas essential. Langhorne Creek Shiraz possesses a plummy, fruit-cake profile – almost like liquid Christmas cake. A great match for Christmas ham or Peking duck pancakes – or really anything meaty or umami – including mushrooms. Still proudly family-owned, and a bargain to boot. Also makes a great sangria. Serve cold.
In short: The perfect on-arrival Christmas-day selection. Looks and tastes like Christmas in a glass. Rich, fruity and fresh.
Price: $20 rrp
Pewsey Vale ‘The Contours’ Riesling 2015 – Eden Valley, SA
The “standard’ Pewsey Vale Riesling may rate as one of the best-value white wines in the country (decades after its first release, and single-vineyard status), but the limited “Contours” cellar-release, shows it is also one of the best and most age-worthy wines in the county. Over five-years bottle-age, has made the palate irresistibly succulent, dry but juicy – a full-flavoured mouthful of lemon-curd, lime zest and toastiness, kept in check by electric acidity. 100% delicious. Perfect with freshly-shucked oysters and sour-mango dressing, or cold fresh king prawns with lime zest aioli.
In short: Dry, intense and complex, yet still fresh AF.
Riesling Freak No. 4 Riesling Eden Valley, SA
G&T tannins leading Australian winemaker John Hughes crafts one grape, and one grape only (hence his brand name), but he does it so, so well. Slatey, chiselled minerality runs alongside juicy, pristine lemongrass, lime leaf and lime-juice. Drink as a youthful, crisp, fresh expression on its own, or with herby, spicy South-East Asian Salads, or fresh Tiger Prawns and Lime-Chilli Mayo.
In short: Bone-dry, pure.
Price: $23 rrp
Unico Zelo Esoterico – Gumeracha, SA
Orange, cloudy, skin-contact wine, textured for extra pleasure. A supercharged blend of Zibibbo, Moscato Giallo, Gewurztraminer & Greco, with a little boost to the mouthfeel from their old friend Fiano. Great as a conversation starter (drink out of chilled tumblers) or enjoy it with a Middle Eastern inspired dish of Cumin Lamb Mince and Pine Nuts, or Sticky Teriyaki Eggplant.
In short: The freshness and aromatics of white wine, together with red-wine like tannins.
Price: $24 rrp
Garagiste Merricks Vineyard Cuve Béton – Mornington Peninsula, VIC
Fermentation and ageing in oak, has resulted in plush, rounded, concentrated Nebbiolo-like tannins, atop an elegant, floral, pretty, yet complex expression of Pinot Noir. Enjoy with Peking Duck Pancakes or Wild Mushroom Ragout.
In short: Single-vineyard, concrete tannins.
Price: $45 rrp
Swinney Syrah – Frankland River, WA Spicy, Intense & Powerful Remarkably
The Swinney family have been in WA’s Frankland River region for over almost a 100 years. Today, bush-vines litter their property, providing A-grade fruit for their delicious wines. These age-worthy wines can be enjoyed young with plenty of breathing time and a rich slow-cooked stew.
In short: Fine-boned, yet inky and concentrated.
Price: $42 rrp
Dandelion Wishing Clock Sauvignon Blanc – Adelaide Hills SA
Marlborough Sauvignon may have dominated the world of Sauvignon over the last decade or so, but many Australians are now looking for a less in-your-face style of savvy. Adelaide Hills is considered by many to be the leading region for the grape in Australia, and one sip of this and you can see why. Less ripe tropical, more passionfruit, cut-grass, lemongrass and micro-herbs. It is light and deft on its feet, leaving the palate refreshed. Perfect with fresh herb-based Vietnamese salads or fresh prawns and lime mayo.
In short: Crisp, zesty & spring friendly savvy. Crunchy, grassy; enthrallingly fresh.
Price: $27 rrp
2016 Piccini Antica Cinta Chianti Riserva Oro DOCG – 100% Sangiovese – Tuscany, Italy
2016 was a cracking vintage for Tuscany, and this ‘Reserve’ example is a terrific value example. Aged in large old oak, this wine displays complex savoury characters of leather, forest floor, spice, red fruits, and charcuterie, with those infamous formidable food-friendly Italian statuesque tannins, There is something hauntingly classical about these traditional wines of Italy – think dusty old libraries, and chesterfield couches. The classic food match of Tuscany (seen in the best restaurants of Florence) is Bistecca alla Fiorentina (grilled T-Bone) served with white (Cannellini) beans – drizzled with the finest virgin olive oil, just before serving.
IMPORTANT NOTE: One caveat, give the wine hours of breathing (air) before serving – a wide mouth jug will suffice. As the wine opens up, it reveals more complexity, perfume and freshness.
In short: An Italian classic. Serve with Bistecca alla Fiorentina and dream of Florence.
Price: $27.50 (plus shipping). Buy as a case of 6.
Champagne Frerejean Frères Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru NV – 100% Chardonnay
Irresistibly French-sounding (a roller-coaster ride of vowels and consonants?) and looking, this is equally delicious in the glass. Champagne Ruinart might sponsor more art galleries, but this is a worthy contender for the title of best Champagne Blanc de Blancs NV available. Complex and minerally, with lively-fresh acidity. Flavour for days. Perfect with Oysters, Caviar or Gravlax.
Please note: this Champagne is now available at Vintage Cellars, however has yet to be included online (this will happen though).
In short: As good as it gets. Ruinart-Slayer.
Price: $150 rrp
Château Martinolles Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay – Limoux FRANCE
Its less expensive sibling – Domaines Astruc – might be a long-standing favourite of Australians looking for a more traditional ‘buttery’ style of Chardonnay, but this more recent addition to their range, is worth the step-up. Vieilled Vignes – translating to Old Vine (magic). Rich, creamy concentrated white peach, almond and coconut macaroon flavours, tucked-in tightly by crisp lemon citrus. Very Moreish. Fantastic with roast chicken and pan-fried hazelnuts.
In short: Old fashioned, buttery chardonnay. Think Californian-style Chardonnay.
Price: $25 rrp
Chris Ringland CR Shiraz – Barossa, South Australia
Chris Ringland Shiraz fans border on the cult-like. Few winemakers in Australia, let alone anywhere on the planet, can produce red wine as plush and powerful as he can. From the first sip, the palate is flooded with flavour. Big in flavour and concentration, yet superbly balanced, oak is certainly present, but doesn’t dominate. Sumptuous and enveloping, what this lacks in subtlety, it certainly makes up for in Australian larrikin charm. Swathes of blackcurrant and black peppery goodness, atop a soft, juicy palate. Drink with charey rib-eye or smokey, bourbon-basted American BBQ.
In short: Australian Shiraz powerhouse. Unashamedly Australian Shiraz
Price: $25 per bottle rrp