5 Australian Wines to Try

An Australian wine primer


It’s Australia Day, and there is no better way to celebrate than with a bottle of Australian wine. If you’re not sure which Australian wine to grab, you’re in luck! I’m going to lay it out for you.

I know, you’re not sure if this is even worth reading then, but let me tell you, Australian wine is way more than cheap Shiraz. It’s easy to say that Australia is a land of overblown wines, and there are some particularly egregious examples to help illustrate that point, but when you return back to the prices us mere mortals will pay, you’ll find that Australia is not only a very diverse wine producer, but it’s also chuck full of values.

So flat out like a lizard drinking, let’s get to some recommendations!

Photo courtesy Flickr.Whiskr via Flickr/CC


Yes, I am leading off an article on Australian wines with recommendations for Riesling. “He’s as thick as a wharfie’s sandwich,” you might say. Or not. That’s some obscure Aussie slang there.

I love Australian Riesling. They are dry, piercing, brilliantly fruited, refreshing and really good values. The best come from Clare Valley where the climate is moderate and allows the Riesling to mature while retaining its racy structure. Great with seafood and fresh cheeses.

Frankland Estate Isoaltion Ridge River Dry Riesling $25

Hardys Leasingham Magnus Clare Valley Riesling $15

Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling $15

Photo courtesy muckster via Flickr/CC

Pinot Noir

What? Another cool climate variety even though we’re talking about hot Australia? Yes, indeed. Let’s all stop thinking of Australia as one big giant piece of toast and consider that a country of almost 3 million square miles might actually offer wine growers a variety of climates!

Western Australia and even some of the coastal region of the southern wine making provinces offer many great sites for Pinot Noir. In fact, I’ve been surprised with many examples I’ve enjoyed recently. Most reminded more of examples from Oregon than anything else, not exactly a paragon of warm climate wine making. These are perfect for a nice, herb-scented roast chicken dinner.

Plantagenet Omrah Pinot Noir $20

Wyndham Estate Bin 333 Pinot Noir $10

Cooralook Pinot Noir $15

Photo courtesy naotakem via Flickr/CC


Say what? That’s as useful as the handbrake on a Holden to most people, which is to say not very useful. What I should write is Grenache-based blends that typical feature additions of Syrah and Mourvedre, aka Rhone blends.

Grenache has a long history in Australia and was a useful (i.e. prolific) grape back in the day when Australia wine industry was dominated by the production of fortified and dessert wines. Today, there’s plenty of great Grenache to go around. Some of the varietal bottlings are awesome, and this comes from a Grenache doubter! Add in the meaty spiciness of Syrah and Mourvedre to the herb and strawberries of Grenache and you end up with a real winning combination. Add some spicy BBQ and send me an invite!

D’Arenberg The Stump Jump GSM $10

Langmeil Three Gardens GSM $18

Kaesler Stonehorse GSM $20

Photo courtesy roomjosh via Flickr/CC

Cabernet Sauvignon

Like most wine producing regions that enjoy a modicum of warm weather, Australia offers a rather wide selection of Cabernet-based wines. Unlike most regions though, Australia enjoys some liberty. While producing the typical varietal wines along with Bordeaux blends, befitting the land’s viticultural heritage, there is also an abundance of Cabernet/Shiraz blends.

This relatively rare style of wine, outside of Australia to be sure, is another feature of the country’s wine production that is worth exploring. Yes, there are plenty of great Cabernets in Australia as well. They are generally richly styled and lovingly look to the past rather than future for inspiration (Go Australia!). The Cab/Shiraz blends are a real treat worth experiencing for their combination of blue and black fruits and bright, juicy yet rich style.

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet-Shiraz $30

Greenpoint Cabernet-Shiraz $15

Tatachilla Cabernet Sauvignon $10

Photo courtesy bigbirdz via Flickr/CC


You knew this was coming so why the feigned surprise? It’s really unfair to Australia to discuss their wines and not bring Shiraz into the conversation. There are tons of people out there who think that Shiraz is an Australian grape, we all know it’s just the Australian name for good old Syrah.

So why don’t people want to talk about Shiraz? Primarily, because they have a misconception that saying Australian Shiraz is like saying Starbucks Coffee. It’s not. Instead, it’s more akin to saying coffee, and there are many varieties and styles of coffee out there just like there are many styles of Aussie Shiraz. They range from the classic, full-bodied, leathery and dark Barossa Valley to the great peppery examples from Victoria and the lighter-bodied wines from the western regions like Margaret River. If you like Syrah you have to explore Australia’s. It’s that simple!

D’Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz $20

Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz $17

Yalumba 'Y' Series Shiraz $10

Photo courtesy Le Vin Parfait via Flickr/CC

Want to Learn More?

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  • Happy Australia Day to all.
    I've been collecting and cellaring Aussi reds for many years. I beleive the best regions for quality are McLaren Vale and Barrosa. Absolutely stunning!

    Rob Archibald
    Kelowna BC Canada

    Jan 26, 2012 at 4:44 PM

  • Australia's grenache and grenache-based wines are unbelievable. But if I had to drink just one Aussie wine, it would be shiraz for sure. Agree with Rob's post, but also the Coonawarra for cabs is spectacular, and Adelaide Hills produces some super whites (The Lane wines, for example).

    Jan 26, 2012 at 5:14 PM

  • Snooth User: mrsbear
    1026343 2

    Australian wineries make amazing wines in all categories. Unfortunately most of them aren't available in the US. It is unfair to judge Australia's wines just by what is available in the US as most of those wines (not all, but a lot) come from huge commercial wineries that pump out volume and not quality. Until you can take a tour of the various wine regions Australia has to offer, it is impossible to see what the country really has to offer. My favorite region is King Valley, Victoria, which has a Rich Italian heritage and specializes in varietals like Barbera, Nebbiolo, and Sangiovese. Unfortunately, no King Valley wineries import to the US :(

    Jan 26, 2012 at 5:44 PM

  • Snooth User: ian pool
    525936 7

    Yes, it's like me as an Australian, judging your American wines on what I can buy at the local BWS (Supermarket)
    Australian Wine is among the best and it offers a variety that, as they say, makes the spice of life.
    I don't mind if you all give it a miss, the more for me :)
    Try a Basket Pressed Heathcote Shiraz if you need convincing.

    Jan 26, 2012 at 5:56 PM

  • Snooth User: Krish26
    152528 15

    Quite agree with Rob. Tapestry from McLaren Vale is to kill for. Also, the small batch whites from Howling Wolves. Cheers, and Happy Australia Day !

    Jan 27, 2012 at 12:36 AM

  • Snooth User: gerrad
    79282 57

    im assuming the wines listed are from the apparently short list of aussie wine available in the u.s.? in echo of other respondents..you are missing out on all the good stuff..in the same way that you get jacobs creek and yellowtail, we get guigal, arrogant frog etc. (french), we see almost zero u.s. wines apart from ridge and bonny doon of the top of my head. off the list, i very highly recommend the Penfolds 389, or 'baby grange' as we call it here (and pay $65 for it thanks) and the 'Isolation ridge' riesling. keep up the good work GDP.

    Jan 27, 2012 at 1:05 AM

  • Snooth User: Krish26
    152528 15

    Gerrad, I am from India, not the US ! am sure the good stuff is slipping between the cracks of our import policy... Still, some of the stuff here, like an incredible Shiraz-Merlot-Cabernet from Green Point, are well worth the price ($70 at the JW Marriott, Mumbai). The Baby Grange you mentioned, I shall track, thank you very much. That puts it in the Silver Oak range. Hmm..

    Jan 27, 2012 at 1:21 AM

  • Snooth User: Sin Clair
    148953 0

    I just returned from OZ less than 24 hours ago and I must say that their wines are exceptional! I spent some time in the Margaret River area (north of Perth about a 2 hour drive) where every few feet, there is a vineyard. If ever you go, Edwards Vineyard is a must and their "BCE and Tigers Tale" cabs are a must!

    Jan 27, 2012 at 8:42 AM

  • I've had the Stump Jump Blend on numerous occasions and agree with your assessment. But just yesterday finished off 2 bottles of Stump Jump 2008 Shiraz which was rated 90 on Wine Spectator and it was surprisingly grapey. Win some ..lose some.

    Jan 29, 2012 at 2:53 PM

  • Snooth User: mooremob
    1030333 0

    Sin Clair you definetly are jet lagged or you have imbibed in good Aussie Wine, Margaret River is south of Perth.
    I worked for Penfolds many years ago so I'm I have a subjective view of Aussie wines and especially Penfolds, I could list a hugh number of Aussie wines which are exceptional but don't underestimate those cheap ones I have in all years my years of drinking Aussie wines I have only had the odd couple of bad wines so please everyone keep drinking

    Feb 01, 2012 at 5:49 PM

  • I found a great list of a few Australian wines to try from http://www.shoppersvineyard.com/sto... Check out their list at: http://www.shoppersvineyard.com/sto...

    Aug 06, 2012 at 10:41 AM

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