25 great reds UNDER $30
The Big Red is back. The Light Red is better than ever.
The Points of Difference are getting quirkier and more engaging. That’s the ‘take home’.
A lot of wine is tasted for this annual feature and a great deal of them are blah, but the jewels this year are bigger, brighter and more exotic than ever. These thumping reds – from McLaren
Vale, the Barossa Valley, the Limestone Coast, the warm inlands of Victoria and even Margaret River (better known for producing more elegant reds) – are looking as buoyant as they are big.
This latter point is important. Big Reds are made great by their generosity of flavour, but are always at their best when bursting with freshness and life.
You can understand a lot about Australian wine by looking at it through the lens of grenache. This warm-hearted variety will take about as much sun as any given summer can throw at it, which is why it always blends well with shiraz: it adds brightness and spice to the darkness of shiraz. But it can produce light, delicate, intriguing wines when picked earlier and treated with the kind of kid gloves usually reserved for the likes of pinot noir. The version from St John’s Road listed here is an excellent example, but also an insight into the new world of Australian grenache. Big or light. Sweet or spicy. We do both – well.
If you have a keen eye for value and are not buying tempranillo, you need to start doing so pronto. It’s a mid-weight variety with fruit ripeness to the fore. All the good ones seem to slip down easily. And yet, for all their fruit-driven appeal, tempranillo will also often boast savoury-spicy edges. You can drink it with just about anything.
There’s a lagrein in the list too. I’m not even going to use the words ‘historic moment’. Speaking of which, three pinot noirs made it into my list this year. I’m pretty sure that’s a first. All of them are from the 2017 vintage, and if that doesn’t send a clear message about the class of that growing season, nothing will.
Thankfully we don’t have to break the bank to make hay, which of course is the point of this list: every wine here does its darndest to make high-priced wine redundant.
2017 Torzi Matthews Mystic Park Shiraz
Winemaker Dom Torzi is always a fantastic go-to when looking for value, but he’s excelled himself here. This is shiraz with an Eden Valley tattoo: buoyant perfume, traces of sweet, dried herbs, plenty of juicy fruit, but not at all heavy. It’s well-packaged, well-made and beautifully flavoured. The only issue is that it was made in limited quantity, and restaurants are clambering for it. RRP $25 torzimatthews.com.au
2017 Punt Road Pinot Noir
Boy oh boy. The 2017 vintage has produced some excellent results, but the quality-price ratio will rarely be as strongly in the buyer’s favour than it is here, especially for pinot noir, where value is notoriously hard to find. It features sweet, ripe fruit, the tangy sourness so typical of the variety, and all the herbal infusions you could ever desire. This is both summery and autumnal at once. RRP $29 puntroadwines.com.au
2017 Calabria Private Bin Nero d’Avola
The price sticker fiddles while the quality of this nero burns. Calabria’s Private Bin range is a happy hunting ground for value, and once again the easy-to-quaff nero d’Avola is where we hit the sweet spot. It’s red-berried and light-ish, but has the texture of suede and just makes you want to keep coming back for more. RRP $15 calabriawines.com.au
2017 St John’s Road The Resilient Grenache
It’s from the Barossa, but it’s not a thumper; it’s red-berried and spice-laden, its juiciness offset by subtle earthy, almost anise-like tones. St John’s Road isn’t your average producer; its wines are always worthy of investigation. This slippery little sucker is a choice example.
RRP $22 stjohnsroad.com
2016 Amherst Daisy Creek Shiraz
A robust red at a ridiculously snappy price. We’re in clover with this Daisy Creek, from the Pyrenees in north-west Victoria; it saw all French oak, it’s rich with plum-like flavour and it has a minty, coffee-cream character slathered throughout. It delivers in spades, for now or later.
RRP $20 amherstwinery.com
2016 First Drop Mother’s Ruin Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet sauvignon is almost always a monty for the cellar and while this example from McLaren Vale will mature reliably, it’s best tucked into soon-ish. It delivers berried flavour in such straight-shooting style that you can’t help but think: why wait? One sip and the words ‘bang on’ were uttered. RRP $25 firstdropwines.com.au
2016 Wangolina Lagrein
Value isn’t always found in the usual places. The lagrein grape normally calls the north of Italy home and yet here we have a tip-top example from the Limestone Coast of South Australia, made by a low-key producer too. But it’s a ripper. We taste a heck of a lot of wines at the various Wine Companion HQs and discoveries like this make it all worthwhile. RRP $22 wangolina.com.au
2016 Patritti Old Gate Shiraz
You’ll like this. It’s a rich red from Blewitt Springs in McLaren Vale, but just in case too much is never enough, it includes a five per cent jolt of extra shirazfuelled flavour from the Barossa. It’s toasty, black-berried, chocolatey and muscular all at once; its creamy mouthfeel the icing on a particularly flavoursome cake. You’d rate this as a ‘wow’ for value. RRP $20 patritti.com.au
2015 Houghton The Bandit Shiraz
Frankland River is a happy place for shiraz, but it’s also a good hunting ground for value. Combine the two and you have this Bandit Shiraz. It’s medium weight, but offers more than enough flavour, and when combined with soft texture, impressive length and just enough variation through the palate to keep you interested, we have a red well worth tracking down. RRP $20 houghton-wines.com.au
2016 Amelia Park Cabernet Merlot
Margaret River cabernet of this quality rarely comes at this kind of price. The value here isn’t just good, it’s compelling. My notes read: “it flows, it seduces, it lingers”. Its ripe-berried flavours are presented in firm, confident steps. It’s an immaculate red wine, perfect for the cellar. RRP $29 ameliaparkwines.com.au
2014 Shut the Gate For Love Tempranillo
There’s a sweetness to the red-berried fruit profile and plenty of that cola-like flavour we often see in young tempranillo, but combine this with smoky oak and a run of creamy vanilla, and you’re swept straight into delicious drinking territory.
Once upon a time it looked as though sangiovese would be a big thing in Australian wine, but tempranillo has trumped it in a big way. Wines like this are the reason why. RRP $25 shutthegate.com.au
“You can understand a lot about Australian wine by looking at it through the lens of grenache.
This warm-hearted variety will take about as much sun as any given summer can throw at it, which is why it always blends well with shiraz.”
2016 Palmer Krackerjack Cabernet Merlot
It has to be said: Krackerjack by name, crackerjack by nature. This is a big, bold red, unreconstructed in some ways; its sweet, black-berried flavours given a healthy coating of toasty, malty oak. It’s not about finesse, it’s about warm, rich flavour, a rumble of firm tannin entirely at home amid it all. RRP $25 palmerwines.com.au
2016 Penley Estate Argus
It’s a blend of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, and it’s a beauty. We tend to gravitate toward single variety wines nowadays, but the truth is that when a blend is done well, it’s hard to beat, particularly when the cabernet family is involved. This is a prime example at a snip of a price; its ripeberried flavours and soft texture boasting both dimension and polish. RRP $20 penley.com.au
2016 Taminick Cellars Durif
This is a gift to lovers of big red wine. It’s almost porty in its intensity and fruit sweetness but, importantly, it’s also fresh and vibrant, its flavours falling over themselves to please, the outer layer of Dutch chocolate-like flavour the perfect foil to the mid-palate run of liquorice and plum. It’s an absolute treat at the price; when asked, winemaker James Booth noted “We probably sell it a little too cheap”. RRP $20 taminickcellars.com.au
2015 Snake + Herring Dirty Boots
If you’re seeking value, look to cabernet sauvignon. It’s not as fashionable as pinot noir or nebbiolo or (the never out-ofstyle) shiraz, which for those who know their stuff makes for happy days indeed. That said, value and Margaret River don’t normally go together and yet this terrific, deep-set red ranks high on the price-quality metre. It’s the perfect wine to buy by the case, for drinking both now and/or later. RRP $24 snakeandherring.com.au
2017 Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir
The goal this year, as it was last, was to make a list without including Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir. It’s appeared in every one of our annual Great Red guides, an amazing feat given that pinot noir is notoriously fickle. And yet here we are again. The 2017 vintage, a pearler in the Yarra Valley for pinot noir, has produced a compelling wine; it would have been absurd not to include it. It drinks well now, but will also cellar. At least six, if not a dozen, are in order. RRP $24 hoddlescreekestate.com.au
Moonmilk Shiraz Grenache
We rarely think of grenache when we think of Margaret River and yet, especially when combined with shiraz, it often shines. This was made in a tiny quantity, which makes its price all the more noteworthy. While not a big wine, it is beautifully polished, elegant, stylish and more words along those lines. Okay, let’s add the word sophisticated. RRP $22 flowstonewines.com
2014 Yalumba Triangle Block Shiraz
Some wines are for cellaring, some are for impressing, others are for drinking. This is one of the latter. It’s mid-weight at most, but it’s so fresh, vibrant and inviting that you just want to keep diving in for more. Raspberry into plum, clove into mint, sweet spices straight down the hatch. This is shiraz, pretty as a picture. RRP $24 yalumba.com
2017 Gapsted High Country Tempranillo
Gapsted’s wines often made a splash a decade ago, but it’s been quiet of late; this wine (and others in the range) break the silence. This is ‘fill your boots’ territory for everyday drinking. Simple, juicy fruit flavours served with absolute freshness, not to mention verve. It will suit all comers. Drinkability writ large. RRP $20 gapstedwines.com.au
2017 Allies Assemblage Pinot Noir
It’s a great wine full stop, but given the six-pack price direct from the winery ($150) it’s a steal in pinot noir terms. The grapes are sourced from a variety of Mornington Peninsula vineyards and blended here to produce a complete wine – complex, delicious, characterful and then long through the finish. All boxes ticked, circled, highlighted.
RRP $30 allies.com.au
2016 Juniper Estate Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot
It offers ‘just enough’ of everything, but also leans slightly towards the generous side of the equation. It’s a nice place for a wine to sit; like being served the perfect-sized slice of cake and then just stealing a little bit more. Pure ripe-berried fruit, ripples of fine-grained tannin, a layer of cedarwood; it offers far more class than its asking price suggests. RRP $22 juniperestate.com.au
2016 Andevine Canberra District Shiraz
It has Canberra District shiraz written all over the palate – a very good thing – but more unusually it comes at an exceptionally modest price. Wow, this takes some beating in the cool climate affordability stakes. Spice, cherry, plum, nut-like characters and cleansing, cool, mouthwatering acidity. A beauty. RRP $22 andevinewines.com.au
2014 Greenstone Estate Series Sangiovese
Sangiovese with this kind of presence is a rarity. This isn’t a wine of density, but it still manages to make a real impression, its savoury persona perfectly complemented by ripe red/black cherry fruit flavours, its earth and coffee-like characters neatly worked into the heart of the wine. There’s a sense of the exotic here. It’s more than just ‘a bit different’; it stamps its feet for quality. RRP $28 greenstonevineyards.com.au
2016 Fetherston Shiraz
Truly amazing value. Yarra Valley shiraz, fussed over, finessed, flashed with savoury complexity, whispered with oak and turned out in beautiful style. The fruit comes from a single vineyard at Coldstream, with 20% whole bunches included in the ferment, and made in minimal (200 dozen) quantity. The words “one of the best-value producers in the country” were uttered after tasting the current range.
RRP $25 fetherstonwine.com
2016 Zonte’s Footstep Blackberry Patch Cabernet Sauvignon
Here we go again with cabernet sauvignon ripping it up for value. In this case though, we have five per cent tempranillo included in the mix. This is a top-flight example of cabernet made in a bright and buoyant style, its blossomy aromatics and boysenberried palate placing seduction at the top of its ambitions. For drinking right now, it offers a world of pleasure. RRP $25 zontesfootstep.com.au