The 17th edition of Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines was back with a bang last week after a two-year absence. Held at Australia House, the London tasting showcased wine critic Jukes’ top wines that are available in the UK, across a range of categories from sparkling to fortified. Fellow Aussie wine expert, Roger Jones, was there for The Buyer and picks out his selection of wines that categorically have to be on your radar.
“100 Best Australian Wines is an essential event, not only for the trade and consumers alike but also for winemakers to judge their own status against their peers,” writes Jones.
Matthew Jukes is the Crocodile Dundee of the Australian wine industry searching for that rare or new wine that may have been hidden in the ‘outback’, under a rock. The only criteria to be in the report is that every wine on the list must be available in the UK, although many will be in tiny numbers, even more so once he starts his roadshow across the UK highlighting these wines to his fan club.
So what were the highlights in this seventeenth edition?
First, let me re-iterate in Jukes’ words “every wine listed has won its place by gaining immense scores in my notes,” 276 wineries have appeared in the Best 100 over the last 17 years, with 18 debut wineries in this edition, and only three wineries that have appeared in every edition: Penfolds, Tyrrell’s and Yalumba.
For those of you who have not seen sight of these reports in the past, let me assure you they are a wine collector’s dream, with each wine listed given the full Jukes attention with detailed notes not only on the wine but often with great background information, and certainly this year it became a full 34-page document as opposed to the booklets of past.
I will merely highlight my personal favourites from each grape style with brief notes, I urge you to get hold of Jukes’ report for his far more in-depth notes.
Idee Fixe, Premier Brut Blanc de Blancs 2019, Margaret River, WA 12% £36
Although Vasse Felix has been making sparkling wines since the mid-eighties, a new site and dedicated winemaker means it is taking this project rather seriously now, showcased by this stunning wine that oozes class, even the bottle has a big nod to Champagne – pure class with ocean sea freshness.
Bird in Hand, Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Adelaide Hills, SA 12.5% £15
Certainly a nod to the Loire, this is a serious Sauvignon that has minerality, clean focus with a fresh, bright finish.
Brokenwood, ILR Semillon 2015, Hunter Valley, NSW 11% £58
Tyrell’s, Vat 1, Semillon 2016, Hunter Valley, NSW 11% £51
Two world class Semillons both showcasing the magic of the Hunter Valley, don’t forget both wineries produce cheaper styles offering incredible value.
Lowboi, Riesling 2021, Porongurup, WA 12.5% £28
Based in the Great Southern of Western Australia near the town of Albany, this cool climate region is ideal for Riesling, pristine pure and focused, there is a mineral feel with crisp pucker acidity.
Other top Rieslings included Mount Horrocks, Henschke Peggy’s Hill, Gosset Polish Hill and The Florita Riesling all of which were exceptional.
Tahbilk, Marsanne 2021, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria 13% £14
Best value wine from Australia, and offers incredible freshness and precision, it’s worth having a look through the full list of its Marsanne stable.
Laissez Faire by Larry Cherubino Fiano 2021, Frankland River, WA 13%, £22
My notes stated “brilliant”, I have yet to try an Italian Fiano that can compete with Larry’s, he manages to pack both freshness and deep stone fruit intensity into the wine whilst balancing a delicate floral perfume and feel. Wow ! What a wine.
Yalumba, The Virgilius Viognier 2018, Eden Valley, SA 13% £42
World class, if you are not a convert compare this to your favourite Condrieu, and compare not only the price but the purity, texture and freshness of this Australian beauty.
19 Chardonnays are listed in the 100 Best Australian Wines, with mentions of a further 15 siblings> I loved the exceptional value 2021 Penfolds Bin 311(which ages beautifully), 2020 Tapanappa, 2021 Leeuwin Prelude, 2021 Yabby Lake, 2019 Kooyong Farrago, and 2020 Vasse Felix Heytesbury.
However top of the pops for me were
Savaterre, Estate Chardonnay 2018, Beechworth, Victoria 13.5%, £54
This is a stunningly luxurious wine, sourced from Beechworth which itself has many star Chardonnay producers including Giaconda and Brokenwood (Indigo Chardonnay). Drinking rather well at the moment.
By Farr, GC Côte Vineyard 2021, Geelong, Victoria 13% £92
OK it’s just shy of £100 a bottle, but worth every single penny, this was the best wine of the tasting, yes it has oak and it is plush, but the balance, depth, structure and sheer brilliance of this wine makes it a must have wine in your collection. However, if you are on a budget look at the 2021 Irrewarra Chardonnay, Western Victoria 13%, £48 – new to me but made by the Farr family, different to the luxurious Cote, more Chablis like but an excellent wine.
Paringa Estate Pinot Noir 2018, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria 14% £56
Perfumed and elegant, this is Paringa’s top offering, drinking well with just four years of age, Burgundian in style, complex with great balance and a range of flavours from truffle to precise berries. Do try also the good value Pinots in Paringa’s collection.
Lethbridge Pinot Noir 2019, Geelong Victoria 13.5% £37
This is a different style to the Paringa, think Kamado Joe BBQ, smoky and juicy bacon, dark red berries, lifted by an attractive perfumed nose; the mid-palate has a delicious mouthfeel, like chewing on a perfectly aged pork rib.
Parker Coonawarra Estate, Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Coonawarra, SA 14.5% £24
If you have the time buy this and age it for a decade, this is a bargain for a Cabernet that oozes quality; cassis, cedar, tobacco? A young Bordeaux ? No it’s Coonawarra at its best, and a real bargain.
Houghton, Jack Mann Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, Frankland River WA 14% £80
Wow what a superstar wine, needs time but this is so complete right now, showing sheer class, but it will still evolve beautifully over the decades. Not cheap but you are buying one of the best Cabernets from Australia that I have tasted in youth.
I would also highlight the 2020 Cullen, Diana Madeline, Wilyabrup, Margaret River, WA 13%, £105, again, a wine to age but just in the glass as it opened up you could see the class… no make that world class quality of this wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz – The Great Australian Red
Yalumba, The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2016, Barossa, SA 14.5% £42
The younger sibling of the £200 The Caley 2016, and at £42 for a 6-year-old wine on the shelf a bargain, I would still age it for another four or five years to see it at its best.
Can’t say that many people would choose a Durif but this wine is rather special
Campbells, The Barkly Durif 2016, Rutherglen, Victoria 14.5% £37
Called Petite Sirah in California, inky and plummy rich but there is a fresh acidity keeping it balanced – a great, exciting wine.
First Drop, Cold Sweat Craneford Syrah 2015, Barossa Valley, South Australia 14% £38
Sweet tobacco, cocoa, sweet dark fruit; I just love the perfume oozing from the glass. Wow what a brilliant silky wine.
Amon-Ra by Ben Glaetzer, Unfiltered Shiraz 2020, Barossa Valley, South Australia 15.5% £68
One of the best from Ben, ignore the 15.5% alcohol, this is perfectly balanced, silky smooth and will age for decades.
Bekkers, Syrah 2019, McLaren Vale, South Australia 14.2%, £70
New to me, loved the purity and precision, this is a stunning wine, giving pleasure now but will age gracefully.
Torbreck, The Descendent 2019, Barossa Valley, South Australia £87
The first hit is the mesmerising perfumed nose, then the silky dark-fruited, mid-palate and balance, pretty amazing now but will age with such grace, magical.
Jim Barry, The Armagh Shiraz 2018, Clare Valley, South Australia 13.6% £235
Mulberries at the fore, a classic Armagh, these wines get better and better, the new vintages have a precision about them and a touch more clarity – a wine to cellar, stunning!