Bon voyage Tigs! Any tips?
As I prepare to leave Australia after seven years, friends in Adelaide are asking me which wines I think are the best of the bunch that they can buy here. I believe this is a safe list with some interesting wines at all price levels. Try something you hadn’t thought of – travel broadens the mind – so does trying different styles and varieties of wines.
Wine stores can be confusing, overwhelming and intimidating places. They are a mine of information, jewels to be discovered and minefields to avoid. I could write reams on the topic, but have aimed instead for practicality and simplicity, to share my pick of the crop, the obvious caveat being that I have not tried all of the wines available – an immense task in itself.  I have listed wines that can be easily acquired in Adelaide.
The slant here is mostly towards South Australian, NZ and French wines because that is what is available in Adelaide. Also, I have limited knowledge outside these regions – for now! I am not an expert, I am an enthusiaist and as such love to share my snippets of information about wine. Methods, vintages, winemakers and labels change over time though so beware!
I have listed some excellent all-round wineries, and then listed wines by grape variety as an easy reference. Don’t be afraid of whether a wine is a varietal (one grape only) or a blend of more than one grape. This is not an indicator of quality. Note: the locations given for the wineries are not always where the grapes are sourced.
Good all-round wineries
Langmeil (Barossa) – excellent red and white wines, with traditional style winemaking. The second oldest winery in Barossa, with the oldest shiraz vines in Australia and possibly the world. The whole range is good to excellent – including grenache and cabernet sauvignon. See Sprinting the Long Mile! for the whole range and some pics.
Yering Station (Yarra Valley, Victoria) – impressive and elegant pinot noir, chardonnay, sparkling wines, shiraz – everything! Most famous for the shiraz viognier (about 5% viognier, a traditional French blend). See Chill out and get serious in Vic’s Yarra Valley for more of the range and some pics.
Penfolds (South Australia) – an iconic winery for Australia, famous for reds that age well. Grange is the obvious star, but at a much more attainable price I recommend trying the Bin 138 (a Rhône blend) for great value and wonderful flavours – and exceptional aging potential. I opened my 2002 Bin 138 this year – smooth, complex, elegant and long. For an excellent value shiraz try the Marananga. The cabernets are also exceptional – Bin 707 at the top, Bin 407 very good at the next level.
Chandon – sparkling wine made in the style of French champagne (owned by Moët & Chandon). Very good white and rosé sparklings, cheap relative to quality. See Yarra Valley article.
Hugel – this is a French winery in Riquewihr in Alsace. Excellent aromatic wines made from gewürztraminer, riesling, pinot gris and pinot blanc. My personal pick is the gewürztraminer and I blogged this ‘Alsatian Sensation’ specifically – and added some gorgeous pictures of Alsace. It is stunning. In Adelaide, you can also get the riesling and the white blend named Gentil (French word for ‘kind’) – a cheaper option, elegant and aromatic. The other stunner I am familiar with from Alsace is Domaine Zind-Humbrecht – their gewürztraminer is one of the best I ever had.
Bird in Hand (Adelaide Hills) makes a very good sparkling – slightly blush coloured, always good value. I was also impressed by the chardonnays and shirazes – there are no bad wines here, and at reasonable prices. Check them out here.
NZ wineries with unwavering quality: Villa Maria and Babich, both started by Croatians. Both make exceptional white varietals: sauvignon blanc (take care to avoid fake brands, they will put you off sauvignon blanc forever!); chardonnay; pinot gris – round and soft and aromatic, lovely fruit, dry finish; and gewürztraminer. Both make good red wines too. Villa Maria makes amazing syrah (cool climate style of shiraz). Babich pinot gris is beautiful – I bought it from Fassina at $17 a bottle . Villa Maria sauvignon blanc was a similar price – strongly recommended.
Lawson’s Dry Hills (NZ) – Another safe winery from NZ is Lawson’s Dry Hills. In particular the gewürztraminer is dry, fruity, aromatic, with lychee and Turkish Delight. An interesting, crisper, fresher style in contrast to those from Alsace, France.
Pertaringa (McLaren Vale) – this is one of the best wineries in McLaren Vale, with a combination of friendly and knowledgeable staff and very good wines. The whole range is worth trying.
Bremerton (Langhorne Creek) – all excellent wines, and very good value. Famous for the Old Adam Shiraz, although I was even more impressed by the cabernet sauvignon. The entry level cabernet is very good value and the reserve is about $50 – worth $100 – perfect for a treat or an exceptional gift. There is a great sparkling shiraz too.
Lake Breeze (Langhorne Creek) – excellent wines, especially the cabernet sauvignon. Good value range.
Geoff Weaver (Adelaide Hills) – very good sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay. He was the chief winemaker at Hardy’s before going out on his own.
BK Wines (Adelaide Hills) – a New Zealander making wine in the hills. His range of chardonnays is exceptional as is his syrah. The whole range (see here) shows elegance and lets the grapes shine through.
D’Arenberg (McLaren Vale) generally good, very large range (see range here). Best value whites – Olive Grove chardonnay, and the Money Spider and Hermit Crab – made from Rhône grapes of viognier, marsanne and roussanne. The cabernet sauvignons, shirazes, and red blends are all good.
Clonakilla (ACT) produces exceptional wines particularly the shirazes.
Amazing overseas wineries whose wines you may come across include: Guigal (France), Sassicaia (expensive Super Tuscan beauty from Italy – super what? read here…). My pick of French champagnes are Bollinger (with oak fermenting – rare in Champagne), Pol Roger and Taittinger (who use a large portion of aged reserve wines). Piper Hiedseick is good value. I am not an expert in Bordeaux, but it is worth spending a bit extra to get assured quality. Try a bottle of Haut-Medoc – I have never been disappointed. For a riesling treat – try Dr Loosen from Germany – iconic riesling producer.
My picks by grape variety:
White sparkling (Australian): (chardonnay, pinot noir) Bird in Hand, Yarrabank, Chandon, Jansz, Oyster Bay.
Red sparkling (Australian): (shiraz) Bremerton, Seppelt’s original sparkling shiraz, Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper, Peter Rumball; (merlot) Irvine, Tapestry; (red blend) Primo Estate ‘Joseph’; (chambourcin) d’Arenberg ‘Peppermint Paddock’.
South Australia: Penfolds, D’Arenberg Olive Grove; Leconfield; Bird in Hand, BK Wines, Geoff Weaver.
Other Australia: Kooyong Clonale, Xanadu, Yering Station, Pierro (YouTube), Leeuwin, Vasse Felix.
NZ: Kumeu River, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point, Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich.
South Australia: Geoff Weaver, Bird in Hand, SC Pannell, Hahndorf Hill Winery.
NZ: Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point, Isabel, Astrolabe.
South Australia: Pauletts, Skillagolee, O’Leary Walker, Geoff Weaver, Grosset.
NZ: Villa Maria, Oyster Bay, Babich, Greywacke, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point.
Other: Hugel (France), Dr Loosen (Germany).
Shiraz (cooler climate version is syrah):
South Australia: Langmeil, Penfolds, Bremerton, Dutschke, Barossa Valley Estate, Chateau Tanunda, Serafino, Bird in Hand, Pertaringa, Kay Brothers, John Duval, Bethany, d’Arenberg, Hahndorf Hill Winery.
Other Australia: Yering Station, Mount Langi Ghiran, Clonakilla, Tahbilk.
NZ: Destiny Bay, Villa Maria, Craggy Range, Te Mata, Murdoch James.
Cabernet sauvignon and cabernet blends:
South Australia: Penfolds, Bremerton, Lake Breeze, Leconfield, Langmeil, d’Arenberg, Taylor’s ‘Jaraman’.
Other Australia: Moss Wood, Pierro, Leeuwin, Howard Park.
NZ: Church Road, Craggy Range.
Grenache and GSM (grenache, shiraz and mourvedre):
South Australia: Penfolds Bin 138, Langmeil, Charles Melton ‘Nine Popes’, d’Arenberg – range of varietals and GSMs.
South Australia: Geoff Weaver.
Other Australia: Yering Station, By Farr, Farr Rising.
NZ: Amisfield, Pencarrow, Palliser Estate, Martinborough Vineyard, Gibbston Valley, Isabel, Mount Difficulty, Roaring Meg, Babich, Oyster Bay, Neudorf, Stoneleigh, Cloudy Bay.
Try something else…
These are beauties that are great value and a taste sensation…
James Irvine (Barossa) merlot/cabernet franc (50/50 blend) – smooth, full, great value.
Paracombe (Adelaide Hills) pinot gris – aromatic, rounded, fruity, dry finish.
Pertaringa (McLaren Vale) aglianico – Italian red, fruity and tannic.
Tar ‘n’ Roses (Heathcote) nebbiolo – drink about 6-8 years old. Will blow your mind.
Turkey Flat (Barossa) mourvèdre – rich, dark, brooding. Delicious.
Waywood Wines (McLaren Vale) nebbiolo – savoury, complex, a rare treat.
All the gewürztraminers listed above! All those listed are dry and spicy and fruity.
Never write off a wine until you have tasted it for yourself – you may be missing a treat.
Drinking wine should never be boring! Get to tastings, ask questions, and like what you like – don’t let others tell you what to like.
Caveat: This is unavoidably a subjective article. These recommendations are mine alone. I have no sponsors and no freebies and no hidden agenda. I simply hope readers find something new and rewarding to enhance their wine repertoire!
 The wines I have listed are those I trust. There is no particular order in the lists. I have deliberately not included prices as they will vary widely over time and between stores. There will be omissions of wines I tried a while ago and cannot be confident about recommending now, there will be some I have forgotten and many more that should be on the list but I haven’t got round to trying yet. Some I did not include because I do not rate them – but will not mention these. This is a snapshot of what I would recommend to friends.
 I worked in specialist wine stores in Brisbane and Adelaide, on the wine-tasting panel for Fassina stores in Adelaide, worked a vintage, a taster for Delegats and worked in a range of wine research, including wine economics, for the University of Adelaide. I have visited wineries across France, NZ and Australia and tried wines from all over the globe.
 Read about Fassina here – their history and what they are doing now.