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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Aaron Toumazou

Best Australian wines: from iconic Shiraz and Chardonnay to blends and sparkling

Australian wine burst onto the international scene in the 1980s and became instantly popular thanks to their easy-to-read labels – annotated by variety – which made things simple to understand for wine newbies. 

Today, Australian wine is loved for more than fun Kangaroo labels and relative affordability. The country’s wine makers are known for experimenting with more innovative approaches than European techniques, resulting in unique and distinctive styles.

With diverse wine regions in several states including South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, and Tasmania, each boasts its own unique climate, terroir, and grape varieties. While their reputations have given rise to a burgeoning wine tourism scene, it’s their accessibility and approachability that has made it such a popular choice in export markets, especially in the UK.

But with thousands of wine producers hailing from down under, it's hard to know exactly which types of Australian wines are worth a place on your wine rack, let alone the bottle or vintage. In this article, we’ve explored the fundamentals of Australian reds and whites, along with our 10 top bottles for your consideration. 

Australian reds

Australia produces all manner of red grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Grenache. By far the most popular, however, is Shiraz. Australia is a large country, meaning there are lots of different types of Shiraz, ranging from the fresh and herbaceous Adelaide Hills to the jammy, full-bodied Barossa Valley, home to some of the oldest vines in the world.

Australian whites 

While Australian whites are crafted from various grape varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Semillon, and Viognier, like reds, one stands out above all others: Chardonnay.

Australian whites come in various styles, including crisp and dry; fruity and aromatic; oaked and unoaked. The good news is, Australian wine labels tend to make it much easier to identify what’s inside the bottle than European ones.

Best Australian wines at a glance

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Two Hands 'Angels' Share' Shiraz 2021/22

Best: Shiraz

This standout Australian red boasts exceptional character, perfect for those who enjoy bold and spicy flavours. Full-bodied and fruity, notes of blueberry and blackberry are complemented by herbaceous characteristics that lend well to a good ‘ol Aussie barbecue.

The bottle gets its name from the drops of wine that evaporate during maturation, said by mediaeval winemakers to be taken by the angels who watched over wines. It’s one of the first Barossa Valley’s Two Hands ever produced, having set out to produce high-quality Shiraz in 1990. This 2021/22 bottle is a testament to its mission.

Buy now £21.99, Majestic

PepperJack Shiraz Barossa Wine

Best: budget Shiraz

This accessible Barossa Valley Shiraz is a brilliant representation of the region’s terroir for its price tag. Its bold character is teased by a deep garnet red colour, concealing opulent aromas including blackberry and dark plum, as well as subtle hints of spice and oak. Given Australia’s wide selection of Shiraz, it can be hard to group their characteristics together in one blanket definition, but with its flavours of ripe fruit, chocolate and a touch of black pepper, here we have a bottle that is quintessential of its region.

Buy now £10.50, Asda

Kooyong Farrago Chardonnay 2019

Buy now £4.00, Great Wine

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay 2021

Best: Chardonnay 

Wynns Coonawarra Estate is renowned for producing wines that showcase the unique terroir of the Coonawarra region in South Australia. Coonawarra is celebrated for its terra rossa soil and cool climate, which lends to wines with distinctive character and excellent ageing potential. This bottle is a strong representation of the region with its bright acidity and careful balance of fruit (citrus, green apple and stone) and oak. With inviting aromas of pear, nectarine and a hint of spice, it’s just what the sommelier ordered when creamy pasta is on the menu.

Buy now £17.00, Harvey Nichols

Specially Selected Sauvignon Blanc

Best: Australian wine at Aldi

When looking for a budget introduction to most country’s wines, award-winning Aldi tends to be a great first port of call. In the case of the land down under, the supermarket’s Specially Selected range – which reflects its commitment to offering high-quality products at reasonable prices – does not disappoint. With aromas of citrus, tropical fruits and freshly cut grass, this bottle captures all the hallmarks of a crisp, refreshing Sauv Blanc. Accessible and affordable, it’s a top choice for casual wine enthusiasts seeking an everyday white that doesn’t compromise on taste.

Buy now £5.99, Aldi

19 Crimes Red Blend

Best: blend

The meteoric hype around 19 Crimes is well deserved. Made by the renowned Treasury Wine Estates, the brand takes its name from the 19 offences that could lead to British convicts being exiled to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries, with each bottle featuring an image and backstory of a historical rogue.

This ruby-red blend is Shiraz-dominant, also incorporating Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache grapes, among others, for a beautifully rich end result. Its flavours of ripe black fruits, vanilla and a hint of chocolate work particularly well with beef.

Buy now £9.50, Tesco

Penfolds Grange Wine 2017

Best: luxury bottle

Arguably the most iconic Australian winery around, Penfolds is known for producing world-class wines, with a rich history dating back to 1844. Best known for its exceptional Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, its flagship “Grange” is globally celebrated, with the 2017 vintage representing the pinnacle of the brand’s portfolio and considered a masterpiece of Australian winemaking. It has an inky, deep purple colour, a nose of dark plum, blackberry, espresso and spice, and a palate of profound fruit concentration and seamless tannins. At over £500 a bottle, you could consider this one an investment, especially given its exceptional ageing potential, sure to grow in complexity over the coming decades.

Buy now £575.00, Fortnum and Mason

Pikes Hills & Valleys Riesling

Buy now £15.95, Great wine

Moss Wood Amy’s Blend

Best: Cabernet Sauvignon

Hailing from the Margaret River region of Western Australia, the critically acclaimed Moss Wood Amy’s Blend takes on a Bordeaux-style consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon as the base, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The result is a deep ruby wine with a complex bouquet of dark fruits, cassis, violets and subtle oak. On the palate, it’s rich and full-bodied, featuring blackberry, plum and hints of spice, all wrapped in velvety tannins. The structure and balance make it a versatile companion to a variety of dishes and a delightful candidate for ageing. What’s in the name? It’s a tribute to Amy McLeod, daughter of the winery’s founders, Clare and Keith Mugford. 

Buy now £17.99, Waitrose Cellar

Bird In Hand Fizz

Best: Australian sparkling wine

Compared to many of the world’s top wine making countries, Australia is not best known for bubbles. But if you are looking to celebrate Aussie-style, do it with a bottle of Bird In Hand Fizz. Produced by the esteemed Bird in Hand winery, which sits in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, this sparkling wine embodies elegance and excellence with its pale straw hue and persistent effervescence. The nose is a refreshing bouquet of fresh green apples, citrus zest and subtle floral notes, while the palate extends to lemon and a touch of brioche.

Buy now £11.49, Waitrose Cellar

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