Matthew Jukes - 100 Best Astralian Wines

Matthew Jukes 100 Best Australian Wines 2008

MATTHEWJUKES.COM

100 BEST AUSTRALIAN WINES – 2008

 

 

Brand Champions = BC

Regional Heroes = RH

Landmark Australia = LA

Generation Next = GN

 

SERIOUS FIZZ

NV Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Shiraz, Australia £9 BC

It surprised us as much as it probably will surprise you, but there is no denying the fact that this finely-tuned, leviathan of a company has done it again.  Over the last few years we have always managed to find a handful of JC wines worthy of inclusion in this imperial list – a sterling effort from Phil Laffer and his brigade.  In 2008 it is this stunning, briary, beautifully balanced, dry-but-not-tannic, sparkler.  This may be the wine that convinces the UK consumer that fizzy reds really are a style to get to know intimately.

 

2004 Green Point Vintage Rosé, Australia £14 BC

This is a very subtle wine with a tear-jerkingly beautiful hue, balletic lift on the nose, staggering length and a challenging, racy finish.  Australia is rosé Champagne mad and if a few commentators could be convinced to put their Billecart down for a moment, they might discover that GPR is a worthy substitute at a fraction of the price.

 

2005 Croser Brut, Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, SA £15 RH

Wincingly tight and yet somehow impressively rich and involved on the palate, Croser Brut raises the bar as every vintage passes and at this rate it will soon glide past all-comers, making it the best value Antipodean fizz on the market.  With its ball-stamping acidity it is likely to live for five years with ease, so perhaps we should start putting some cases away for a rainy day?  After all you won’t see this region’s boundaries getting any larger in the near future – pity we can’t say that about dear old Champagne.

 

2002 Arras, Bay of Fires, Tas £31 LA

As elegant as Jean-Claude Van Damme in a nightie, this is a massive mouthful of seriously decadent fruit and there is staggering power here, too.  The only reason that this wine works is that there is sensational acidity, tightly coiled, Cobra-like, at its core.  In the same way that Krug is as subtle as a brass band, but somehow manages to captivate your entire olfactory system, Arras pulls off the same trick, but at an earlier moment in its timeline.  This is a truly world class sparkler – that successfully turns the world upside down.

 

CRISP & FRESH WHITES

2007 McWilliam’s Hanwood Estate Crisp Chardonnay, SEA £8 BC

I haven’t let the word ‘crisp’ or the hypnotic, day-glo green label muck around with my brain I assure you.  With this in mind, I am totally relaxed about introducing this moreish entry level white to a large and thirsty congregation.  So often ‘concept wines’ fall so far short of expectation – CC, however, leads the pack.

 

2007 Chapel Hill Verdelho, Fleurieu, SA £10 GN

With a pretty nose of sweet and sour fresh fruit and a spicy, crunchy, grape skin finish, there is no point denying the fact that you are already locked into this wine’s tractor beam.  You will be powerless trying to resist the urge to cook up an Asian Fusion storm and even less successful in not inviting a team of mates around for a feast.  This is precisely what this wine is for – use this knowledge well.

 

2007 Vasse Felix, Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River, WA £10 RH

It is great to welcome Vasse Felix into our line up for the first time since we started this initiative five years ago.  You will immediately smell why this wine is a must this year.  The barrage of citrus notes coupled with the trademark, grassy, Margaret River Semillon theme is irresistibly mouth-watering.  Palate gymnastics follow and you are left feeling like you’ve been ravished by a crate of renegade limes.

 

2007 The Gum, Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, SA £10 GN

Made by the wizards at The Lane (qv), this inexpensive Sauvignon has been delighting M&S regulars for a few years. It is our duty to alert those of you who will never have seen it on the shelves and who live happily without reheats and ‘safe’ knickers to its charms.  The Gum outmanoeuvres many more famous wines simply by utilizing its ‘no short cuts’ mantra at every stage of production.  A lesson for us all methinks. 

 

2007 Brokenwood Semillon, Hunter Valley, NSW £11 RH

Riggsy’s sensational Sem is drinking right now so don’t waste a second in missing out on this life-affirming wine.  In a recent, blind line-up of forty-five ‘07s it sashayed its way to the front of the catwalk, and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting its strict, couture cousin ILR, then you will know that the 2002, which is currently knocking critics dead, is also a must buy item.

 

2007 Tamar Ridge, Kayena Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Tas £12 GN

Steely and as sharp as a razor on the palate, this Sauv is living proof that Australia makes wines as vital and goosebump-inducing as they do over the ditch in NZ.  Tamar Ridge’s current range of wines is as good as you will find in Tassie.  There is stock, too, so you have no excuse but to widen your horizons today.

 

2007 Margan Semillon, Hunter Valley, NSW £12 RH

How long will it be before people realise that Hunter Semillon is the height of fashion and one style of wine that will never be out of vogue.  With its low alcohol level and staggering ability to age like clockwork Margan Semillon should be in every serious collector’s cellar.  This is a small price to pay for a wine that will jump start your couch potato palate and turn your taste buds into Olympians in seconds.

 

2007 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant, Elizabeth Semillon, Hunter Valley, NSW £13 LA

We have given Lovedale the year off and Elizabeth, so often in the shadows, is positively bursting with joy and loving all of the attention.  I wrote ‘stunning’ three times in my three word tasting note when I first tasted this wine.  I see no reason to change this informative, dare I say it, compelling, insight into the complexities and intricate nuances in this heavenly wine.

 

2007 The Lane Vineyard, Gathering, Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon, Adelaide Hills, SA

£15 RH

My goodness me – gaze in awe at this design icon.  Then dare to swirl and sniff.  Gathering over-delivers at every moment from the purely visual, to the elemental aromas and flavours.  This is the finest SBS ever to emerge blinking into the daylight from the magnificent winery on top of the hill.  You will find yourself day-dreaming of this wine in meetings and then furtively ringing C&B for clandestine deliveries to replenish your Eurocave.  Is it possible to have an affair with a wine – if so this is the one.  

 

2007 Cullen, Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River, WA £16 RH

Cullen’s straight-laced SSB is just starting to emerge from its gawky adolescence and it is a thing of beauty.  The join between these two raspingly delicious, lip-lickingly crisp varieties is starting to fade and the main event is finishing its sound check and checking its rigging in preparation for some full-on entertaining.  The show starts mid-May in London and then tours the globe for five or six years.  Don’t miss it – it is sure to sell out fast.

 

2007 PHI Sauvignon Blanc, Lusatia Park, Yarra Valley, Vic £23 GN

As piercing as a chilled ice pick thwacked neatly through the cranium, PHI Sauvignon does a few unusual things to your person when you taste it.  Firstly, everything seems to slow down dramatically. You then find that your senses are all somehow ten times more alert than normal.  You are able to taste every single, perfectly grown grape individually as it luges across your taste buds wowing every one of them as they speed by.  You feel strangely aroused and in addition, throughout all of this your friends will tell you that you’ve been grinning like a simpleton.

 

SUCCULENT & AROMATIC WHITES

2007 St. Hallett, Eden Valley Riesling, Eden Valley, SA £8 BC

If you have forgotten what a really good pair (sorry delete that, I meant pear) tastes like then let this wine remind you.  The purity of Comice pear fruit flavours and nerve-tingling acidity on this wine are sensational.  There is succulence and complexity here, too, which are never usually found at this price point. St. Hallett can do no wrong and with Toby Barlow in the hot seat there is sure to be even more fun to be had around the corner.

 

2007 Peter Lehmann, Eden Valley Riesling, Eden Valley, SA £10 BC

The contrast between this wine and the one above is fascinating.  If you were forced to make a choice between them I would bet that the votes would be split right down the middle.  PL’s wine is oilier and chewier and it will probably go the full distance – a very sassy 1500m runner.  St. Hallett is a lithe sprinter and another gold medal contender.  But which is the ultimate contender – it is impossible to say because they both look amazing, albeit specializing in different disciplines, and you will change your mind tomorrow anyway!

 

2008 Tim Adams, Pinot Gris, Clare Valley, SA £10 GN

More Grigio in style than Gris, certainly at this very early stage of its life, Tim manages to cram so much energy into his wines it is amazing.  There is minerality here, too, and it counterpoints the mildly tropical fruit perfectly so that there is no way that this wine will ever become too fat and topple over. These are still young vines so the sky’s the limit in the coming years.

 

2007 Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley Pinot Gris, Eden Valley, SA £11 GN

Crisp, modern, punchy and slippery, Pewsey Vale shows effortlessly that there is more than just Riesling (qv) in its armoury.  As always with our PGs, there is not an inch of flab on this finely toned wine and it is screaming to be partnered with sushi, so don’t delay.

 

2007 Pikes Riesling, Clare Valley, SA £11 RH

We in the UK have to fight for a much larger allocation of this wine because it is, every year, one of the finest of its kind in Australia and it sells out far too quickly here.  Neil Pike has a marksman’s touch with Riesling and his ‘Traditionale’ wine has the amazing knack of tasting as amazing in its youth as it does with a decade under it belt.

 

2008 Linda Domas, Vis à Vis Viognier, Fleurieu, SA £12 GN

Linda keeps her head well below the parapet when in all honesty she should stand up occasionally and soak up the applause from her legions of adoring fans.  There are few people who work as hard as this lass, and her wines show every bit of her talent to perfection.  Vis à Vis uses a slug of Chardonnay to lubricate the palate and the result is an orange, lemon and apple salad of a wine that is as fit and nervy as it gets. This is artisan winemaking at a bargain price – a rarity these days.

 

2007 The Lane Vineyard, Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills, SA £12 GN

At last a beautifully balanced PG style is starting to emerge from a few confident winemakers in Australia and in a confused world of Arthurs and Marthas we can now start to drink this all too often disappointing grape variety with unshakable confidence.  The Lane (who else?) nailed it first time and is now simply perfecting what is already perfect.  This wine is an essential part of your wine diet – it will make you a better person.  Suck it and see.

 

2002 Pewsey Vale, The Contours Riesling, Eden Valley, SA £12 LA

Now that Contours is snugly sealed under a screwcap you can safely go long on a few cases and put them away for a decade.  This change is extremely well timed, too, because 2002 is one of the tightest and most exciting (and don’t forget best value) Rieslings in the world.  With a streamlined, mildly Germanic nose, it is the wet pebble minerality and teeth-curling acidity which gets me going every time.

 

2007 Knappstein, Ackland Single Vineyard Riesling, Clare Valley, SA £13 RH

This vineyard always seems to perform at the highest level and it has a cunning knack of drinking so beautifully in its youth, but having the persistence and power to develop metronomically over time.  The silky texture is what always impresses, cleverly offset by a shocking minerality – sublime.

 

2006 Skillogalee, Gewurztraminer, Clare Valley, SA £13 GN

A rare Gewurz sighting has had the twitchers out in force.  This breed is not only hard to find in the Australian landscape, but a model of this quality is a joy to behold.  With a pink powder puff nose and a mellifluous palate this is a compelling creation that never once slackens nor oozes like so many other inferior examples.

 

2007 Jim Barry, The Florita Riesling, Clare Valley, SA £19 RH

It took a few years for the Barrys to well and truly nail the wine from their famous Florita vineyard’s fruit.  This vineyard cannot be manhandled, nor can the wine itself be moulded into any particular shape.  It must, however, be allowed to make itself in monastic calm.  This serenity forms the central supporting beam of ‘07 Florita, which then flows out in every direction in spellbinding fashion.

 

2007 Skillogalee, Trevarrick Single Contour Riesling, Clare Valley, SA £19 RH

Skilly’s estate Riesling was a dead cert this year, but when I heard that Trevarrick was also available I thought that you ought to be the first to hear about it in this 100 Best.  This is the most improved winery I can think of in Aus and this dramatic wine will show you just how far and fast these changes have happened.  It is a simply stunning creation.

 

2007 Tim Adams, Reserve Riesling, Clare Valley, SA £21 RH

Tim’s new secret weapon.  I discovered this wine in a bar in McLaren Vale of all places! It seems that Tim had wanted to keep it away from us ravenous Brits because it is just too good, but I soon put a stop to that evil plan.  Double R collides with our country at any moment.  There will be no warning.  Just make sure you assume the position and carry a glass at all times.

 

2006 Petaluma, Viognier, Adelaide Hills, SA £21 GN

We thought the 2005 was a stunner, but this vintage has further enhanced the appeal of this lusty variety.  The arrival of this jaw-dropping drink is heralded by a determined pack of molecules that collectively leap from the glass and embrace your olfactory bulb with gusto.  This hugging doesn’t stop for a second while you position yourself to take a sip.  The ensuing orgy of flavours grows and bathes your palate in Elysian joy.  By the time the finish comes around you are panting for more.  What is frankly amazing is that at no time is this lusting and thrusting in any way vulgar.

 

2006 Yalumba, The Virgilius Viognier, Eden Valley, SA £24 GN

Back with a vengeance into the hallowed 100, Virgilius has seemingly upped its game and refined its offering and now this once hippy, F-cupper is an athletic C with alluring flexibility and a wicked turn of pace.  Viognier is really starting to take off in Australia and Yalumba can take all of the credit for starting this particular revolution.

 

RICH & STRUCTURED WHITES

2007 Lindemans, Bin 65 Chardonnay, SEA £7 BC

Bin 65 has, for many years, been as subtle as a breeze block, but the 2006 vintage signaled a change of tack and this 2007 is unrecognizable from the Bin 65 of old.  The value here is tremendous, too, as the superb intensity of flavour and totally ‘honest’ palate reveals some seriously clever oak integration and a discreet, fresh, pear skin and crisp apple theme.  There are still some lush moments (it wouldn’t be the same without the fatter honey and orange blossom dimensions), but all in all, this is a very smart piece of work!

 

2006 Penfolds, Thomas Hyland Chardonnay, SA £10 BC

This is the finest and most elegant Hyland I have ever tasted.  There is a crunchiness to the fruit and a depth of flavour here that is nothing short of beguiling.  This is a very smart wine that will probably be drunk far too young, but it is a shining example of what can be done if you put your mind to it and work bloody hard. The VFM here is staggering.

 

2007 Mitchelton, Marsanne, Central Vic £11 GN

As Toby Barlow calmly flicked the ball down the line to Ben Haines (while sidestepping over to St. Hallett) there was never any doubt that the winemaking at Mitchelton wouldn’t lose its momentum, nor its ability to score from any angle.  Ben was Toby’s understudy, but he still had to fight through the interview process before justly winning his position.  With this in mind and also embracing Marsanne’s long history in Nagambie Lakes, it will not surprise you that this Marsanne is set to become one of the funky must-haves of the year.

 

2006 Stonier Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula, Vic £15 RH

Geraldine McFaul is unerringly accurate with her estate wine and year after year it entrances our palates.  Elegantly textured and multi-layered, this is a strikingly pure wine with Mornington written all over it.  The acid line is straight and true and this shuttles the fruit flavours along like a bullet train.  There is subtle oak here as well (something that has been cleverly tempered in the Reserve wine) and you are left in a state of Zen calm after every sip.  It will age well, but no one will wait – it tastes too good already.

 

2007 The Lane Vineyard, Beginning, Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills, SA £18 LA

This wine is so good and so well made that I am struggling to find words to do it justice.  In a blind tasting (I was lucky enough to taste every single barrel in the cellar last year) it was difficult to tell what variety it was, because it was so unbelievably focused and introverted.  Over the last few months it has momentarily flashed out coded messages which, if you were not quick enough to grab them, disappeared straight back into its core.  We are now being treated to a muted, slow motion, Tai Chi like dance of flavours that are Beginning to form the final elements of the wine.  Mesmerising and fascinating this incredible wine is set to realign every palate it comes into contact with.  Make sure you are in the queue. 

 

2000 Tyrrell’s, Vat 1 Semillon, Hunter Valley, NSW £21 LA

In a slightly unnerving way this wine creeps up on your taste buds and then lets fly with some desperately subtle attacks on your senses.  In my notes, on the very first go at Vat 1 ’00, I wrote ‘still Krug’.  I was, and still am, in awe of this wine.  The intensity of fruit (and this is unoaked, remember) is staggering.  The power, for an unoaked wine, is incredible.  Have you seen a UFO?  If you have, I suspect you know this feeling already – I haven’t.

 

2005 Tyrrell’s, Vat 47 Chardonnay, Hunter Valley, NSW £21 LA

A fantastic blood ‘n’ guts style of Chardonnay with terrific, palate-cleansing acidity and a guaranteed decade of life ahead of it.  You can just about crack on with Vat 47 now, but the smart money says leave it for a year to knock off some of the brittle corners.

 

2006 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, Australia £21 BC

Eileen has gone from being a mumsy frump to being able to strut its stuff down a catwalk in five years.  This makeover is the most extreme in the Australian wine world and we are loving it.  There is some flamboyance and swagger in this wine that comes from its warmer elements, but the steely core, which will propel it forward, is what we are captivated by and it is something else.

 

2006 PHI Chardonnay, Lusatia Park, Yarra Valley, Vic £23 LA

This is another splendid Chardonnay that has perfected the art of seeming completely calm and unruffled on the outside but beneath the façade there is a mass of highly tuned flavours and extreme minerality that all work seamlessly together in doing just one thing – knocking your palate over with its titanium bowling ball of fruit.

 

2006 De Bortoli, Reserve Release Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Vic £25 LA

Young wine alert!  We are up in the Grand Cru section of Chardonnay now and this wine is only just about assembling its troop for drill practice – the main deployment of its skills will come over the next year or so.  So swirl this epic creation around the glass and loosen it up as much as you can and then marvel in the intricate detail on display.  The long awaited refocusing on Chardonnay is starting with a vengeance and it is starting here!

 

2006 Pierro, Chardonnay, Margaret River, WA £27 LA

Forward, lush and honeyed, there is no need to hold back before opening Pierro Chard.  The fruit is moisturized and plush with mandarin skin notes and some stunning carpentry.  The gusto with which this wine bombards you palate with flavour is incredible and it never lets up.  Pierro always manages to hit the target with this wine – make sure you remember this estate when planning your cellar.

 

2006 Yering Station, Reserve Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Vic £34 LA

With an utterly brilliant Montrachet gloss this wine starts with such a whirlwind of power and flavour that you think it can’t possibly continue at this pace.  But it does.  And it is all pinned down to the ground with massive spikes of acidity and lovely, stony minerality.

 

2005 Leeuwin Estate, Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, WA £45 LA

Art Series Chardonnay seemingly has a lifetime pass to this section of the 100 Best.  Every year we taste the new vintage and every year is soars straight into the ‘definites’ pile of wines.  This is a wine that every wine lover in the world can identify with – the mark of a truly sensational wine. 

 

ROSÉ

2007 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Rosé, SEA £9 BC

Blimey, this was a shock inclusion in our 100.  This is a really good wine and it looks perfect, too – the shade and depth of pinkness is spot on.  There is also some unexpected spice here, overlaying the raspberry and mulberry fruit, making it a truly moreish wine.

 

2008 Linda Domas, Shotbull Rosé, Fleurieu, SA £10 GN

Shotbull Rosé is always a winner and the 2008 must be the best ever.  With a colour that  looks like is has an arc lamp behind it, a nose that is a spitter for Ocean Spray cranberry juice and a palate which tastes like crunchy, shiny red cherries, it is all ready to shock, amaze and refresh.  The whip crack of acidity keeps it all in check and you crave another bottle – perfect.

 

2007 Coriole, Nebbiolo Rosé, McLaren Vale, SA £11 GN

This wine is a little left of the left field.  The nose is textbook Nebbiolo, with its bramble and violet notes and then something odd happens and it seems like Tim Burton takes over the direction from there on in.  It is the zaniest sweet and sour, quirkily acidic and bizarrely textured wine I have tasted in a year.  It simply must be in the 100 Best – but I have a feeling that some of you might not see what we do!

 

2007 Turkey Flat Rosé, Barossa Valley, SA £11 GN

There is a relaxed feel about ’07 Turkey Flat Rosé which makes it quite a different beast from last year’s wine.  The quirky blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet and Dolcetto has enough angles and rasping edges to cleanse the palate as it glides over it.  This refreshing nature makes TFR a natural partner for tricky Asian and Indian dishes.

 

PINOT NOIR

2007 De Bortoli, Windy Peak Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Vic £8 RH

Windy Pants Pinot is, once again, the entry level Pinot to shoot for in Australia.  The fantastic plum and raspberry notes are meshed together perfectly and there is a length and quality to the finish that you only find on much dearer wines.

 

2006 Riposte by Tim Knappstein, The Sabre Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, SA £10 GN

Tim’s Sabre is nothing short of a flashing blade.  Great value and unusually at this price, a wine that can be kept and left to develop further if you wish.  Darker and more savoury than many of the wines in this section, this is a classy effort from the great man and one that will ensure him a large following in the UK.

 

2005 Pirie Estate, Pinot Noir, Tas £15 RH

Another savoury, earthy style of wine which is just starting to open up, but which also shows the ‘coolness’ and flavour profile of top Tassie Pinots.  While it would be good to see more of these wines over here, you can happily make do with this one, because it is up there with the best.

 

2006 PHI, Pinot Noir, Lusatia Park, Yarra Valley, Vic £23 LA

PHI ’06 is a heart-achingly beautiful wine with a pale hue and a desperately attractive nose of wild strawbs and red cherries.  The texture seems perhaps a little too ethereal initially, but it builds and builds and from a very quiet initial squirt of flavour a torrent ensues and this bathes your entire olfactory system in heraldic joy and the finish will take you all of the way into 2009.

 

2005 De Bortoli, Reserve Release Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Vic £29 LA

The new series of De Bortoli Reserve Release wines is the best ever.  This mighty Pinot is wrenched from the soil and then tamed in the winery by one of the most talented teams in the country.  This wild, unruly fruit is then introduced to its home for the next few years – the bottle.  From there on it is our responsibility to make sure that this is opened only when the circumstances are exactly right.  Are you able to handle the genie in this bottle?

 

2005 Kooyong, Haven Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Vic £30 LA

Haven ’05 is the most backward release ever from this spectacular site.  There is real, gritty, dry tannin here, too, and this must be a good pointer to the fact that the vineyard is really talking to the vines at last.  Sandro’s uncompromising winemaking hasn’t sought to temper this energy nor its savoury impact on the incredible, dark fruit.  The results are incredible.

 

2006 Yering Station, Reserve Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Vic £34 LA

There is a curious leafy note on the nose of this wine which gives it an immediately refreshing air.  The palate explodes with waves of sumptuous red fruits and this green impish flavour remains at the core of this mass of fruit.  While the oak and fruit notes swirl around each other jabbing and prodding at your palate, the fresh, herbal note bounds around keeping everything cool and in check. 

 

CABERNET & MERLOT

2007 Lindemans, Bin 40 Merlot, SEA £7 BC

It is desperately difficult to make good Merlot at any price and this cheeky little entry level red from the mighty Lindemans operation is a bloody good effort.  Plummy and immediately engaging this is the sort of wine that shouts Australia from the rooftops and pleases experts and novices alike.  There need to be a lot more wine like this flowing down the Aussie pipeline in order that you keep your enemies and bay and your fans close to your bosom.

 

2006 McWilliam’s, Hanwood Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, SEA £8 BC

In a blind line up of sub tenner Cabernets this wine always romps home.  It has a European freshness about it that makes it so much more attractive that the other sweet-fruit-cocktail-wines that continue to crowd the shelves.  Hanwood Cab is a cultured creation and it happily rubs shoulders with much dearer wines without losing its cool.  A confident wine made by a confident team.

 

2006 Mitolo, Jester Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, SA £11 GN

A bit of inside track on this wine….Mitolo made no Serpico this year (their massively serious top of the range Cabernet) and so all unused Serpico fruit flowed straight into this wine.  For me this is the stand out Mitolo red of the vintage, with its liquorice and chocolate flavours, and it just happens to be the cheapest!  Do the right thing!

 

2006 Wirra Wirra, Church Block Cabernet / Shiraz / Merlot, McLaren Vale, SA £11

GN

Church Block is a lesson in blending and building flavour.  It is a real skill and the main aim is to make the final wine seems effortlessly assembled and seamlessly in harmony.  The 2006 vintage of this wine is honed, smooth, beautifully balanced and each of the varieties does exactly what is asked of it.  Decant this wine and allow the flavours to seep out of you glass.  This is a £20 wine in every way apart from the price tag.

 

2006 Yering Station, Yarra Edge Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarra Valley, Vic £18 GN

Gosh this is a wonderfully shocking style of Cabernet. There is an enormous whack of chocolate mint on the nose and the livid purple fruit is a sensational hue.  It is unlike anything I have tasted before and Q and I put it straight into the 100 after just a millisecond on the palate. It seems like Tom Carson has saved his best work for last to serve as an enduring reminder of his talents while he moves to new his new post nearer the ocean!

 

2002 Gaia, Grosset, Clare Valley, SA £23 LA

I drank a bottle of this wine recently overlooking Whale Beach, north of Sydney.  It was one of the most incredible wine memories of the past year.  Closed initially on the nose and in desperate need of air it was decanted and then for the next two hours it opened and opened to reveal an absolutely incredible array of aromas and flavours.  Jeff is justly proud of this small patch of land way up on the side of a hill in the Clare Valley and I have been a fan of this wine for well over a decade, but I think that this 2002 is possibly one of the greatest Clare reds ever made.

 

2005 Tapanappa Merlot, Whalebone Vineyard, Wrattonbully, SA £35 LA

Brian Croser’s Whalebone vineyard is up to racing speed and it is always a joy to taste his new releases each year.  Our vote this year went unanimously to this desperately distinguished Merlot.  The detail and build quality of this wine requires serious inspection. Tight, but expressive, this is a wine that should not be hurried.  You wouldn’t want to miss anything would you?

 

2005 Cullen, Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot, Margaret River, WA £36 LA

The Margaret River Cabernet pair in this year’s 100 may perhaps be a little predictable, but they won their places fair and square by simply tasting the others clean off the page.  2005 DM is a huge wine with firm tannins and a long life ahead of it.  It reminded me of some 2005 Paulliacs, which are typified by their intricate marquetry overlaying a muscle-bound core of unyielding cassis fruit.  It seems that MR has bounced back this year to the top of the International Premier League Cabernet Team – welcome back.

 

2005 Moss Wood, Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, WA £43 LA

The density of Cabernet fruit in Moss Wood 2005 is truly staggering, but none of this power is misplaced, ‘hot’ or oaky – it is just introverted and brooding.  With vigorous swirling you may encourage fragments of this wine to dislodge themselves from the mother ship and it is these tiny morsels that point to an epic future and some stunning evolution along the way.

 

2004 Jim Barry, The Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley SA £54 LA

I thought that the 2002 vintage of this wine was the best ever, but I spoke too soon.  The Benbournie ’04 is a legendary wine with incredible intensity, but not an ounce of unwanted high tone oak or alcohol.  It is in perfect harmony already and so decadent and attractive that you need all the self control you can muster to keep your hands off this wine.

 

2005 Parker Estate, Terra Rossa First Growth Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, SA £55 LA

The final Cabernet in this heroic line up is the most intense and most backward of the group.  There is a serenity and inner calm to First Growth that is perfectly counter-pointed by its sheer immensity and noble air.  Enigmatic, exciting and sybaritic in equal parts, First Growth lives up to its name in 2005.

 

WEIRD AND WONDERFUL

2007 St. Hallett Gamekeepers Reserve, Barossa Valley, SA £8 BC

Gamekeepers has morphed in 2007 into a cross between a top flight Cru Beaujolais and a feisty Crozes-Hermitage thanks to its cunning blend and incredible freshness.  Drunk cool this might be the ultimate BBQ wine, but when savoured at normal temperatures it is able to take on a vast array of traditional dishes.  This makes it the most multitalented red wine of the year (and it’s a bargain to boot).

 

2006 Majella, The Musician Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz, Coonawarra, SA £10 GN

The silver medal the The Musician won in last year’s The Great Australia Red competition has helped to thrust this wine under more people’s noses and this is a good thing, because the Cab/Shiraz blend is a historic one and yet most of the best examples of this style of wine cost a bomb.  Majella’s excellent creation though will blow you away and leave you enough spare change for a rematch.

 

2007 Mitchelton, Garnacha / Tempranillo, Central Vic £11 GN

Toby Barlow’s parting shot was to give the winery its very own GT, and there can’t be many of those in Australia!  The trick with these two grapes is to let them do their thing in the vineyard and then brutalise them like mad in the winery to coax as much strawberry and sour cherry flavours and crunchy acidity out of them as possible.  I reckon that this has it just right and for eleven quid I’d rather be here than in Haro!

 

2004 Penfolds, Bin 389, Cabernet / Shiraz, SA £20 LA

This is one of the wines of the vintage.  It is hard to imagine a finer version of 389 than this 2004.  This is a stunning example of the imperial Cab/Shiraz blend and one that I cannot get enough of. In an ideal would you would buy ten cases and then drink one each year for the next decade.  This is how they do it in Australia.  We are so far behind!

 

2005 Jim Barry, PB Reserve Shiraz / Cabernet, Clare Valley, SA £55 LA

PB Reserve won a Trophy in last years TGAR for best Shiraz dominant blend.  I have drunk it on numerous occasions and it is one of the most impressive Aussie reds I can remember.  A small price to pay for the level of craftsmanship and glamorous complexity on show.

 

SHIRAZ, GRENACHE, MOURVÈDRE

2006 Oxford Landing, Grenache / Shiraz / Mourvèdre, SEA £7 BC

The cool climate feel that this wine projects on the nose and the palate is a beautiful thing.  This classic blend is so often hefty and unwieldy and yet in this cutie pie it is relaxed, smooth and ever so easy to race down the lughole.  In short, the perfect intro to the GSM thing.  Once you’ve practiced here for a while you can move on to more challenging wines (see below)!

 

2006 McWilliam’s, Hanwood Estate Shiraz, SEA £8 BC

Hanwood Shiraz gets up this year and completes a Hanwood hatrick (congrats Jim and the team).  McWilliam’s seemingly has a limiter in its winemakers that prevents them from making brash or top-heavy wines.  The range is smooth, calm, cool, elegant even, and unhurried.  It makes for very enjoyable drinking.  If this was the house Shiraz in my local, I would find it hard to justify trading up!

 

2007 Yalumba, Y Series Shiraz / Viognier, SEA £8 BC

Made to be drunk young and with very little to grip onto, this cracking little wine is as slippery as an eel with its blueberry pie notes and jittery acidity.  Y Series is a good family of wines and once again our favourite turned out to be this fashionable blend – not surprising when you consider how much these guys and gals know about the two grapes concerned.

 

2006 Yering Station, Shiraz / Viognier, Yarra Valley, Vic £10 GN

For a few quid more than the wine above you get a very different shaped red indeed.  Yering’s S/V is a more savoury style with meaty notes jostling around with the purer blackberry and plum ones.  In the past the Viognier element has bullied the poor old Shiraz into submission, but in 2006 the balance is spot on.  More of a dinner party than a garden party wine, this is a proven crowd-pleaser for modernists about town.

 

2005 Linda Domas, Egidio Shiraz, McLaren Vale, SA £14 GN

Linda’s top red wine has always felt cumbersome and rather brutish, but this year Egidio is a model of civility and charm.  Viticulturalist Steve Brunato told me that the fruit was as perfect as it has ever been in 2005 and the aroma and flavour back up these claims.  This is a very grand wine for the money and it is sure to push Linda even further forward on the world wine stage.

 

2006 Fox Gordon, Eight Uncles Shiraz, Barossa Valley, SA £15 GN

Tash Mooney’s estate wine is as good as it has ever been in 2006 and the quality of fruit is absolutely pristine.  For the first time the American oak portion in Huit Oncles gives a layer of Rioja-like red fruit that leaps from the dark, swarthy core of Shiraz and makes the nose ever so fresh and appealing.  This is a superb trick and unlike a lot of the porty/agricultural Barossa Shirazes that make my jaw ache and my head pound, this wine is uplifting and moreish.  And that’s bloody clever for what to all intents and purposes is a blockbuster style of red wine.

 

2004 Gemtree, Obsidian Shiraz, McLaren Vale, SA £17 GN

’04 was such a good year in SA and Gemtree’s Obsidian is off the clock.  Normally this wine needs a knife and fork, but in this stunning vintage the fruit seems buoyant and highly polished and it is easy for your palate to carve a glistening tunnel through this wine.  Mike Brown grins so wide when pouring it that his head nearly falls off backwards – so it must be good!

 

2005 Teusner, Avatar, Grenache / Mataro / Shiraz, Barossa Valley, SA £20 GN

Teusner has already managed to gain almost mythical status in a very short space of time and this wine is the perfect example of why his peers think that he is so talented.  The time-honoured GMS blend has been given a much needed race makeover, lowering the shocks, buffing up the paintwork and attaching a button labeled ‘nitrous’ to the dashboard.  Taste this wine and see what pressing that button is all about.

 

2004 Bests Great Western, Bin 0 Shiraz, Great Western, Vic £20 LA

Viv Thomson continues to handcraft the most beautiful and authentic slices of Australiana in his back yard.  Bin 0 is not the easiest wine to taste this early in its life, but you will see the profound impact that the Great Western soil has on its favourite red grape, Shiraz and it almost brings a tear to the eye.  It is a privilege to be able to taste these wines and stain your teeth with its glory. And if you are remotely serious about collecting wine, this bottle should be in your cellar. 

 

2006 John Duval, Plexus, Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvèdre, Barossa Valley, SA £20 GN

Duval’s Plexus is a genial sort and it is drinking beautifully already.  There is no way though that it has reached its peak, so what John has cleverly managed to do is give this wine impeccable balance from the word go and that is a rare talent when you bear in mind the characteristics of the three grapes in the mix.  So when will it peak?  I would be surprised if it doesn’t make a decade in perfect nick.  The Southern Rhône has never been under such pressure to respond to the challenge from Down Under.

 

2005 Schwarz, Thiele Road Grenache, Barossa Valley, SA £22 GN

The quality of fruit and purity of expression in this staggeringly serious Grenache is nothing short of life-changing.  Why this grape plays third fiddle in the Barossa is beyond me because this is a magical brew with indulgent flavours and is guaranteed to amaze your pals. So what are you waiting for?

 

2006 Chapel Hill, The Vicar, McLaren Vale, SA £25 LA

This mighty McL Shiraz used to be a blunderbuss of a wine, but Mikool Fragos has tempered the more savage elements and cooled the whole entity down a bit leaving the blackberry and cracked-pepper notes centre stage to entertain the taster.  Young and still showing a decent tail of tannins, this is a future classic and one that looks terrific value for money as far as the keen wine investor is concerned.

 

2004 St. Hallett, Old Block Shiraz, Barossa Valley, SA £25 LA

Surprise, surprise, Old Block is nothing short of perfection in 2004.  Having said that it is still a big old unit, but there is an unexpected turn of pace in this vintage.  It takes the form of a fresh, bright, backbone of red fruit which allows the monolithic frame to clamber around like the Incredible Hulk in a strop.  This great viewing and even better drinking.

 

2005 Wirra Wirra, RSW Shiraz, McLaren Vale, SA £26 LA

Wirra’s flagship red gets more cultured and elegant as every year passes and for a wine that always seems impenetrable in its youth, the 2005 is a very smart and approachable wine indeed.  There are smatterings of Christmas spices and even figs studded into the sleek nautilus-like chassis.  This is a formidable RSW and will age like a Opera singer, getting fruitier and fruitier as the years tick by.

 

2004 Majella, The Malleea Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz, Coonawarra, SA £27 LA

There is a tannin alert on this wine and so you must tasted it with a pre-furrowed brow to save time later.  Now that you are prepared, slip into the wine without making a ripple and then do a few length and obligatory tumble turns.  See it’s not so bad with your shoulders under!  It always take a while to acclimatize to The Malleea, but once your are in the zone it is very difficult to leave.

 

2005 SC Pannell, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, SA £27 LA

Steve’s exceedingly sexy ’05 McL Shiraz is such an alluring offering that it might catch you completely unaware.  One moment you are chatting away and the next you are in a deep state of carnal hypnosis and all because you were not concentrating on what was in your glass.   The glossy black fruit in this wine rebounds back and forth across that palate like a frictionless pinball.  Swallow and play again.  It is a great game.  Does he make magnums?

 

2005 First Drop, Fat of the Land Seppeltsfield Single Vineyard Shiraz, Barossa

Valley, SA £28 GN

This wine is but one of Matt Gant’s new range and for us it was the one that told the First Drop story the best (happily ever after etc..).  The Cream (his top red) is made from two vineyard sources – Ebenezer and Seppeltsfield.   He also bottles these two vineyards separately and it is the Seppeltsfield cuvée that we immediately latched onto.  The supple, pliable, layered, raisin and plum cake notes are simply delicious.  He waves his wand like a beardy Harry Potter and the results are compelling even at this tender age.  This cuvée might even rival some of the established greats given a few years.  I will be glued to the action.

 

2005 Mount Langi Ghiran, Shiraz, Grampians, Vic £30 LA

With more depth and weight than the edgy 2004 this is an atypical Blue Label and I love it every bit as much as the preceding years’ wine.  There is a depth of fruit here that is amazing and yet it comes with no unwanted alcohol or fat.  This is still a chiseled Shiraz, true to its high country Victorian roots.  The nose is what shows so well right now – dripping with blueberry jelly, seaweed and saddle leather.  Just what the doctor ordered!

 

2002 Peter Lehmann, Stonewell Shiraz, Barossa Valley, SA £30 LA

Stonewell is back to its ‘crunched up tractors’ mode in 2002.  Is this the best Stonewell ever – I would be happy to place a bet that it is.  The power is there, the flavour of the vineyard is there in spades, but the coolness and freshness on the finish is new and this makes Stonewell a Niven-esque cat burglar of a wine and not a cashpoint-ram-raiding-trog.  It has never looked so classy.

 

2006 The Colonial Estate, Alexander Laing Single Vineyard Grenache, Barossa Valley, SA £35 GN

A newcomer to our century of wines, The Colonial Estate’s vast portfolio has one true superstar wine in its throng.  Alexander Laing is the lucky bloke on the label and whether he knows it or not his Grenache is one of the greatest examples of this grape I have ever tasted.  Grab a morning coat, pencil on a moustache and slide into some spats because only real gentlemen are allowed to partake of something this illustrious.

 

2004 Castagna, Genesis Syrah, Beechworth, Vic £35 GN

With its dash of Viog, Beechworth postcode and single-vineyard nature, this was always going to be a harder sell than many wines in this 100.  But the more that we go back to ’04 Genesis the more we are able to unravel its enigmatic puzzle of flavours.  The tannins are heartily firm and the nose is cool and spicy, but the fruit is where the prize lies.  Have a go at this wine and then come back later and try it again with a degree of familiarity – you will start to fall for it too, I don’t doubt.

 

2002 Jacob’s Creek, Johann Shiraz / Cabernet, Barossa Valley, SA £35 LA

Johann is a very smart wine indeed and it was another winner of a silver medal in TGAR.  Made in an uncompromisingly old-fashioned way and with plenty of quirky edges and wistful moments it is a wine that will provoke comment and adulation in equal measure.  I adore this style and the 2002 vintage is one of the finest I have ever tasted.  But will the wine nerd step up to the price?  I really do hope so.

 

2004 O’Leary Walker, Claire Reserve Shiraz, Clare Valley, SA £36 RH

When we started out compiling a very long list to whittle down for 100 Best 2008 I would never have dreamt that the two most expensive Shirazes would have come from Clare.  But they are not only the pinnacle of the red selection, they are also two of my favourite wines from the last twelve months of tasting – and that means globally.  Claire is the darkest, deepest expression of Shiraz I can remember from this hallowed and yet vastly underrated region.  It is a Bentley Continental of a wine, silently cruising down a boulevard.  You must taste it because it is sheer pleasure in wine form.  I adore it.

 

2004 Jim Barry, The Armagh Shiraz, Clare Valley, SA £71 LA

The Armagh could not be more different to the Claire above.  It has pagan elements, raw and untamed and there is a dustiness and lividity to the fruit which is part scary and part fascinating.  Like a wild animal pacing up and down in a cage, The Armagh sizes you up as much as you do it.  Are you man enough to take it on?  Some of you, sadly, should walk away now.

 

SWEET & FORTIFIED

2007 Tempus Two, Copper Moscato, SEA £8 GN

A full bottle for a bargain price and the packaging looks great, too.  As for the contents, there are more giggly schoolgirl bubbles in here than the entire cast of St. Trinians.  It is a totally ridiculous drink that doesn’t take itself remotely seriously and because of this I am head over heels in lust with Copper Moscato.  Be warned though, a bottle barely touches the sides.

 

2007 Peter Lehmann, Botrytis Semillon, Barossa Valley, SA (half bottle) £8 RH

This straight-laced, youthful Semillon is already so attractive and refreshing that it had to go in the 100.  It will age well for a few years, but I rather like the fresh pineapple and mildly honeyed fruit that is already on display.  There are plenty of other fat bot Sems for you to frolic with so make a change and visit this nubile beauty as soon as you possibly can.

 

2006 Bimbadgen Botrytis Semillon, Hunter Valley, NSW (half bottle) £8 RH

With creamy, fruit salad notes and a nice, dribbly honey finish Bimbadgen’s sweetie is perfect for all-purpose sweet wine duties.  I hope, in time, we will see more Hunter sweeties in the UK, but for now look no further than this delicious wine.

 

NV Campbells of Rutherglen, Muscat, Rutherglen, Vic (half bottle) £9 LA

I am amazed that the great unwashed are not falling over themselves to drink this style of wine during their sofa-slotting-chocolate-frenzy-Friends-watching evenings. It is one of the bargain styles of wine in the world and Campbells is a genius producer.  Spread the gospel according to Matthew – you will drink Rutherglen Muscat!

 

2006 Yalumba, Botrytis Viognier, Wrattonbully, SA (half bottle) £11 GN

Viognier freaks Yalumba have nailed this style much quicker than those lazy-arsed inhabitants of Condrieu.  It’s also a reasonable price, so if you are looking for a wine to go with a peach, apricot or rhubarb pud then relax and buy this.

 

2007 Mount Horrocks, Cordon Cut Riesling, Clare Valley, SA (half bottle) £17 LA

No one will ever knock this wine out of the 100 Best.  Every year Mount Horrocks steps up to the challenge and waltzes through to the final.  The reason is that this is Australia’s best sweet Riesling – please tell me if there is another!