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Decanter, March 2010 – South Australia’s Top 20 Estates

South Australia’s Top Twenty Estates for Decanter by Matthew Jukes


Intro –

South Australia is the most important state in Australia for all aspects of wine.  The mix of massive global brands and tiny boutique operations is fascinating and it is this melting pot of talent which I believe fires the whole country’s passions for innovation and its continued desire to improve every bottle which hits the market.  Ignoring the supermarket cheapies for a moment, there are more world class labels in this state than any other ‘region’ on the planet and the value afforded by trading up to over a tenner in SA is staggering.  I spend several months a year travelling and tasting around Australia and all of the regions have their attractions, but it is in Adelaide where I feel most at home.  Their knowledge of the world of wine is incredible as is the depth of understanding of cooking and entertaining.  With the unpredictable weather throwing up massive hurdles every year and water supplies in serious jeopardy, the skill shown in creating subtle, layered, elegant whites and sensual, thought-provoking reds year in year out is nothing short of incredible.  As always South Australia’s main challenge is to get these wines exceptional wines in front of people because, in my experience, once they do sceptical palates are converted in seconds.  Sadly, Australia’s image as a source of inexpensive, bright, shiny cheapies must change because they simply cannot afford to continue along this path.  With bolder pricing and a more confident and educated audience the world will soon see that Australia makes more fine wine than it does everyday plonk and South Australia is doing everything it can to make this message heard.


Grosset, Clare Valley – Jeff Grosset is a true legend in the world of wine.  Not only did he spearhead the global push for a conversion to screwcap closures a decade ago but he also bottled sub-regional Clare Rieslings very early on, too – this is now very much the vogue. His Polish Hill and Springvale are two of the most collectable white wines in Australia and they are as delicious on first release as they are at ten years old!  His phenomenal, single vineyard red, Gaia, is a fascinating conundrum of flavours, too – one for the connoisseurs!

2009 Grosset Polish Hill Riesling; £19.95; Liberty Wines; 18.5/20; drink now – 2020


Jim Barry, Clare Valley – Under the brilliant management of Peter Barry (son of the great Jim Barry) the wines in this highly respected estate have shot up in quality even further than I would have ever imagined.  The Rieslings are rapier-sharp (Florita is a star) and the reds, particularly the Shiraz-based wines are exceptional and evocative of the wildness of the region. The Armagh is an iconic wine and this is the finest vintage ever.

2005 Jim Barry The Armagh; £80.00; SWIG; 19/20; drink 2012-2030


Knappstein, Clare Valley – Owned by the Lion Nathan Wine Group (a massive beer company!)  and funnily enough situated in the old Enterprise brewery in Clare, the two Riesling here (Hand Picked and Ackland Vineyard) both won gold medals at the National Wine Show which I judged, last November, in Canberra.  This is an amazing achievement and they are incredibly good value, too.  Enterprise Cabernet is another star wine here.

2009 Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling; £8.99; Majestic; 19/20; drink now – 2014


Skilogallee, Clare Valley – The most improved winery in Australia.  The entire portfolio, from an epic Riesling, a cracking Gewurz, brilliant Shiraz, a Trevarrick, Single Vineyard range which is jaw-droppingly serious and a liqueur Muscat, too, this is a first class company who only issue, as I see it, is the inability of its fans to pronounce its name!

2004 Skilogallee Trevarrick Single Contour Cabernet Sauvignon; £25.00; UK agent Enotria; 18.5/20; drink now – 2018


Tim Adams, Clare Valley – I have followed Tim’s wines for twenty-five years and he has never missed a beat.  Incredible value for money and a work ethic which defies belief are the reasons for his success.  His Riesling and Semillon are Tesco favourites and the Fergus, a Grenache-based blend is a budget icon.  Aberfeldy, his top Shiraz, is a stunner, too and he also dabbles with Tempranillo and Pinot Gris, with excellent results. 

2006 Tim Adams The Fergus; £9.99-£11.99; Tesco, SWIG; 18/20; drink now – 2015


Glaetzer, Barossa Valley – Ben Glaetzer and his dad Colin have an amazing winery on their doorstep and in addition to their various winemaking roles for an impressive array of wineries they make their own label which is of the very top drawer.  Big reds are the call of the day, with Shiraz the speciality variety, and even if you are not a fan of muscular wines there is enough complexity and elegance in every bottle to still win you over.  Silky, textural and layered these are extremely serious wines.

2007 Glaetzer Bishop; £19.95; Great Western Wine; 18.5/20; drink now – 2020


Penfolds, Barossa Valley – The most famous top end wine brand in Australia, established in 1844, Grange is the wine which grabs all of the headlines, but St Henri and Bin 389 Shiraz/Cabernet are two of the finest value reds in the world.  What nobody seems to have cottoned on to is the mind-blowing quality of the Chardonnays made here, too.  Bins 08A, 07A, 06A and 05A (all sourced from Adelaide Hills fruit) all won golds in Canberra – this is unprecedented.  These are some of the finest Chardonnays on the planet.

2007 Penfolds Bin 07A Chardonnay; £28.00; Majestic Fine Wine Stores, Harrods, Selfridges, Hailsham Cellars; 19/20; drink now – 2014


Peter Lehmann, Barossa Valley – This is another wine with a massive reputation for its red wines (Stonewell 2004 is a perfect 20/20 in my notes!), but it also makes desperately serious Semillon and Riesling, too!  With a diverse portfolio and one of the finest value estate Shiraz in the country PL is a living legend and he is the man, along with Wolf Blass and a few others, who inspired the entire Aussie wine industry to strive for perfection.

2006 Peter Lehmann Shiraz; £8.00; Waitrose; 17.5/20; drink now – 2015


St Hallett, Barossa Valley – With Stuey Blackwell on the tiller and Toby Barlow (who has taken the wines to an even higher level than his mercurial predecessor Matt Gant) now manning the artillery on board the good ship St Hallett, this company is in orbit at the moment.  From the entry level wines all of the way up to Old Block Shiraz this is a winery that always wows the drinker.  The new, as yet unreleased, Gamekeeper’s Shiraz / Cabernet won a Trophy in my The Great Australian Red competition last November and it’s only £8.00 – please ship it to the UK!

2008 St. Hallett Gamekeeper’s Reserve; £7.99; Waitrose, Bibendum Wine, Dunell’s; 18/20; drink now – 2012


Yalumba, Barossa Valley – Family-owned and in its 161st year, Yalumba has a fascinating portfolio of wines from the solid Y Series, via the quirky, Hand Picked range to some succulent Viogniers (Virgilius is Australia’s number one Viog) and some mightily impressive big boys – Octavius, The Signature and more recently FDR1A are all stunners.  FDR1A’06 is The Great Australian Red 2009.

2007 Yalumba The Scribbler Cabernet / Shiraz; £9.99; Oddbins; 19/20; drink now – 2015


Petaluma, Adelaide Hills – Based in the Hills, but also making the amazing Hanlin Hill Riesling from Clare, this pioneering estate, run by Andrew Hardy and Pete Dredge is kicking goals from all over the park.  With one of the finest fizzies outside of Tassie, some mineral-imbued, intricately-assembled Chardonnays and a Coonawarra Cabernet that always provokes endless debate this is a fascinating, Aladdin’s cave of fine wines.

2006 Croser Brut Piccadilly; £18.00; SWIG, Wimbledon Wine Cellar, Bibendum Wine; 18/20; drink now – 2014


Ashton Hills, Adelaide Hills – Stephen George (the Guru) is one of the most naturally gifted winemakers in Australia.  His single vineyard estate makes tear-jerkingly delicious Pinot Noir, an exceptional sparkling rosé and an assassin-fierce Riesling among other beauties.  Why then are his wines not available in the UK?  I have to ship them in myself because I cannot live without Ashton Hills’ magic in my life.

2007 Ashton Hills Reserve Pinot Noir; 55$AUD guide price; 19/20; drink now – 2020


The Lane, Adelaide Hills – The most beautiful ‘Domaine’ in Australia, with one of the finest restaurants in SA, John Edwards, assisted by son Marty (in the vineyard) and ex-Henschke winemaker Michael Schreurs (in the winery) makes some of the most beguiling and mystical wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Shiraz and Cabernet.  The is a must visit estate with the most compelling food and wine offering in the country.  

2007 The Lane Gathering Sauvignon / Semillon; £15.32; Corney & Barrow; 18.5/20; drink now – 2014


Shaw & Smith, Adelaide Hills – Michael Hill-Smith and Martin Shaw continue to make delicious wines with metronomic precision.  The Chardonnay is finer and longer than ever; the Shiraz is savoury and lip-smacking a new Pinot is brave and worthy and their iconic Sauvignon Blanc has never been on better form than in this newly released 2009.

2009 Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc; £11.99; Liberty Wines; 18/20; drink now-2011


Chapel Hill Winery, McLaren Vale – Michael Fragos has taken CH to new heights and with Marc Allgrove running the back of house you are set to see an awful lot more of these fantastic wines on our shelves soon.  With more gongs than Usain Bolt, the speciality here is Chardonnay and Shiraz and the Vicar is one of the best value ‘prestige’ Shiraz in SA.

2008 Chapel Hill Unwooded Chardonay; £9.99; SWIG, Taurus; 18/20; drink now – 2011