Australia Wine Producers We Love
Australia is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wine, with more than 2,000 wineries across 64 regions. A single powerhouse brand, Yellowtail, sells more than 40 percent of the Australian wine in the U.S., yet Australia’s wines are vastly more diverse than this statistic suggests: Complex reds and whites are produced from coast to coast, from the Yarra Valley’s elegant Pinot Noirs to Western Australia’s ageworthy Cabernet blends. And dry, intense Australian Rieslings are a national treasure.
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Australia Wine Producers A-F
Angove Family Winemakers
An immigrant from Cornwall, England, Dr. William Angove established this winery in 1886 as a complement to his medical practice outside Adelaide and prescribed wine to patients as a tonic. Today Angove is one of Australia’s biggest family-owned wineries, offering well-made wines from across South Australia.
Barossa Valley Estate
Though best known for its iconic, powerful E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, this 80-plus-member cooperative also makes an array of reasonably priced wines. Offerings include Shiraz from some of the region’s oldest vines, as well as Chardonnay, Riesling and Tempranillo. The E Minor wines are terrific values.
Founded in 1970 by three lawyer friends, including now well-known Australian wine writer James Halliday, this Hunter Valley estate has become one of the country’s most reputable table wine producers. Iain Riggs has been winemaker since 1982, and many of his refined wines, including the famous Graveyard Shiraz, are small-production cuvées from single vineyards.
Brothers David, Mark and Giles Hohnen founded Cape Mentelle in the then undiscovered Margaret River region on Australia’s southwest coast in 1970; their red blends soon garnered international acclaim. Now owned by French luxury-goods group LVMH, the winery also offers a racy Chardonnay and an always tasty Sauvignon Blanc–Sémillon, plus Shiraz and Zinfandel.
Charles Cimicky, the son of a Czech immigrant, uses no chemical fertilizers and for years has been reducing his reliance on irrigation. Barossa’s naturally lean soils and scarcity of water result in small, intensely concentrated grapes. Cimicky and his wife, Jennie, focus mostly on estate-grown reds, making limited amounts of complex, multilayered Shiraz, Grenache and blends.
Winemaker Roman Bratasiuk established Clarendon Hills in McLaren Vale in 1990, and the property since has become one of the most sought-after names in single-vineyard, old-vine Australian reds. Its top wines—particularly the flagship Astralis Shiraz—are as known for their high cost as they are for their hedonistic flavors (though prices have come down recently).
Chester Osborn—current head of this family-owned winery founded in 1912—helped originate the trend toward oddly named Australian wines with offerings such as the Hermit Crab and the Laughing Magpie. But don’t be deceived by the whimsical monikers: The d’Arenberg lineup includes ambitious cuvées that rank among Australia’s finest, like Dead Arm Shiraz.
Neil and Lorraine Ashmead released their first vintage in 1982, from one of the world’s largest plots of ancient vines. Their 72-acre estate vineyard, where some blocks are 116 years old, yields one of Barossa’s top wines, Command Shiraz. Winemaker Richard Langford supplements organically farmed estate grapes with some purchased fruit and opts for a more restrained style than many Barossa counterparts.
Western Australia’s Frankland Estate is in the Frankland River subregion, where cool temperatures and gravelly soils produce superb Riesling—which is what this esteemed winery is now known for. Judi Cullam, who founded Frankland with husband Barrie Smith on his family’s former sheep farm, has a knack for crafting vivid whites and complex reds. The Isolation Ridge wines are made with grapes from an organic estate vineyard.
Australia Wine Producers G-L
Grant Burge Wines
Grant Burge founded his namesake winery in 1988 after revitalizing and then selling the historic Krondorf winery. Today he’s one of the Barossa Valley’s largest private vineyard holders, and the repurchased Krondorf winery now serves as his main facility for making white wine. Grant Burge offerings range from everyday bottlings made with fruit sourced from regions across South Australia to a trio of high-end estate reds.
Jeffrey Grosset apprenticed under legendary Australian winemaker John Vickery before starting his own Clare Valley estate in 1981. Since then he’s become famous for his masterful Rieslings—dry, steely wines that helped convince the world to take Australian Rieslings seriously. Top bottles include the Polish Hill and Watervale wines, though Grosset’s non-Riesling offerings should not be overlooked.
English immigrant Thomas Hardy planted a few acres of Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon on a riverbank south of Adelaide in 1854, kick-starting one of the best-known labels in Australia. Hardys nearly single-handedly established the South Australia wine region. Family-owned until 1992, Hardys today is one of the world’s biggest wine brands and a source of affordable bottlings. The top red, a Shiraz named for matriarch Eileen Hardy, lends sheen to the portfolio.
Henry’s Drive Vignerons
Up-and-coming Henry’s Drive is making some of Australia’s best value wines from estate vineyards in Padthaway and McLaren Vale. Founders Kim and Mark Longbottom named it after Padthaway’s 19th-century mail-coach driver. The Trial of John Montford Cabernet Sauvignon and the Reserve Shiraz are deliciously complex; the Morse Code wines are great values.
Jim Barry Wines
With his wife, Nancy, Jim Barry helped pioneer modern Clare Valley winemaking in the 1960s and ’70s, planting vineyards that have become some of the region’s best-known sites. Among these is the Armagh Vineyard, the source of a monumentally dense Shiraz that’s arguably the Clare Valley’s most famous red. A handful of stellar Rieslings, the acclaimed McRae Wood Shiraz and three Cabernets are highlights in the stunning lineup.
John Duval Wines
John Duval’s elegant wines defy the stereotype of supersized Aussie reds. As Penfolds’s chief winemaker from 1986 to 2002, Duval was renowned for his blending expertise. At his own, much smaller winery, he makes wines from some of the best Barossa vineyards: the Eligo and Entity Shirazes plus a Rhône-inspired red blend and a brand-new white under the Plexus label.
Estate-made wines from old, dry-farmed vines are the focus of this boutique Barossa winery. The vineyards were established in 1893 by the Kaesler family. Winemaker Reid Bosward and wife Bindy, along with a Swiss family as backers, bought it in 2001 and have been turning out beautiful wines ever since.
This Clare Valley–based winery built its formidable reputation on its sleek, steely Rieslings and vibrant, polished reds. Most acclaimed are Kilikanoon’s Mort’s Block Riesling and a quartet of powerhouse Shirazes, from the Clare Valley (Oracle), Barossa Valley (Green’s Vineyard and R Reserve) and McLaren Vale (M Reserve). Look also for the affordable Killerman’s Run label.
Few names in Australian wine are as prestigious as Leeuwin Estate. This tiny winery helped develop the Margaret River region in the mid-1970s and gained fame for its refined Chardonnays. Leeuwin’s Art Series Chardonnay remains the flagship, but the more affordable Siblings cuvées are also worth seeking out.
Melbourne-based Treasury Wine Estates owns this megawinery, known for value wines from across Australia. Winemaker Wayne Falkenberg has been at Lindeman’s for over 34 years, providing continuity to a company that has grown in tandem with the Australian wine industry. Lindeman’s wines range from inexpensive to quite pricey; the Bin line delivers good value.
Australia Wine Producers M-Z
In the early 1950s, Penfolds created a red blend that eventually became Australia’s most famous wine: the iconic Shiraz-based Penfolds Grange. Today this historic Barossa Valley producer (established in 1844) makes an array of wines across multiple price levels, employing a team of winemakers led by Peter Gago.
Longtime Coonawarra winemaker Kym Tolley—a descendant of Penfolds’s founder—started his own winery in 1988 after working at Penfolds for 15 years. While Australian reds have a reputation for going overboard with sweet fruit flavors, Tolley’s all-estate-grown wines show a restrained hand; his top Cabernet and Shiraz wines are among the region’s greatest.
Brian Croser founded Petaluma with the goal of sourcing every grape from its best terroir. The winery buys Chardonnay grapes from the cool-climate Adelaide Hills region (where Petaluma is based), Riesling from the Clare Valley and Cabernet and Merlot from Coonawarra. Croser is no longer involved, but winemaker Andrew Hardy stays true to the house style of elegant wines.
Peter Lehmann Wines
Fifth-generation Barossan Peter Lehmann started his winery as a way to save Barossa Valley grape growers facing bankruptcy during a massive grape glut in the late 1970s. Owned since 2003 by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, Peter Lehmann Wines is one of the region’s largest producers, and although it makes a range of wines, old-vine Barossa Shiraz remains responsible for the winery’s top cuvées, such as the Stonewell Shiraz.
Pewsey Vale Vineyard
Pewsey Vale wines come from one of South Australia’s oldest vineyard sites, a plot 1,600 feet above the Barossa Valley floor that was first planted in 1847. Riesling thrives in this cool region, and that’s what Pewsey Vale co-founder Geoffrey Parsons wisely planted in 1961. The white wine–focused portfolio includes the famous Contours Riesling, released after five years of aging.
Plantagenet was established near Mount Baker in the vast Great Southern region in 1974. Its specialties, crafted today by winemaker John Durham, are spicy Shiraz, crisp Riesling and vivid Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which get their signature vibrancy from the coolish climate. Wines fall under three labels (in ascending price order): Hazard Hill, Omrah and Plantagenet.
Rosemount’s ubiquitous Diamond Label is the brand’s calling card, encompassing a dozen bottlings designed for easy drinking at affordable prices. Step up a few dollars to the Show Reserve tier to find wines with more oomph; they’re made in the same fruit-forward style, and the best examples offer real value. The Flagship tier includes three region-specific cuvées.
Talented winemaker David Powell of Torbreck is known for fabulous (and fabulously expensive) Barossa Valley reds such as the RunRig Shiraz. His Grenache and Shiraz grapes are mostly from old vines, an obsession Powell picked up while working at Barossa’s famous Rockland estate.
The “two hands” at this high-end négociant are owners Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz, who acquire top-quality grapes throughout Australia. Winemaker Matt Wenk crafts showy wines, chiefly Shiraz. The Picture Series wines are the most affordable; the Single Vineyard and Garden Series tiers are more expensive; and the top cuvées are named after Greek gods.
Vasse Felix was the first winery in the coastal Margaret River region, and it remains one of the best. Perth cardiologist Tom Cullity planted the original vines in 1967. Twenty years later Cullity sold it to the Holmes á Court family, and under their stewardship Vasse Felix has thrived, crafting noteworthy Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Although Wolf Blass is more famous for red wines (its Black Label Cabernet-Shiraz has won Australia’s prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy four times), this megawinery also produces stellar Rieslings and Chardonnays. The Yellow and Gold labels are value-oriented; Gray, Black and Platinum tiers are pricier.
Woop Woop Wines
Woop Woop is Australian slang for “out in the middle of nowhere”—which is apt, as winemaker Ben Riggs travels thousands of miles between remote vineyards across southeastern Australia to source fruit for Woop Woop’s six wines. His efforts pay off in juicy, fruit-driven whites and reds that offer unusually high quality at relatively low prices.
At 163, Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, but this Barossa-based producer is no stodgy operation. Led by dynamic scion Robert Hill Smith, Yalumba is constantly innovating. Its portfolio of more than 50 wines includes Tempranillo and Vermentino, yet Shiraz and Cabernet remain the focus. Its benchmark Octavius Shiraz is one of the country’s finest wines.
Yangarra Estate Vineyard
Every grape Yangarra crushes comes from a single 250-acre estate vineyard south of Adelaide. Yangarra, founded in 2001 and now owned by the Kendall-Jackson wine company, has developed a reputation for terrific Grenache, which hails from a prized parcel of gnarly 60-plus-year-old vines. Winemaker Peter Fraser has a deft hand with Shiraz and Chardonnay too.