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Wine

Top 50 Wines of 2016

The Wine Selectors Tasting Panel tastes over 3000 wines from Australian producers per year. Here is the best of the best, the top wines that wowed them in 2016.

Not many people know this, but I’ve always loved statistics. When I was younger, it was all sports related – D.K Lillee’s bowling average, Chicka Ferguson’s try scoring tally, that sort of stuff. These days I am using that love of maths to discover interesting info about wine. Throughout the year our Tasting Panel puts their collective expert palates to the test to determine what wines we send to our members. The wine tasting process is extremely rigorous. The wines are opened the morning of the tasting to allow them to breathe, placed into a bottle cover so no-one can see the label, and poured in brackets that group varietals or styles. The Panel tastes each and every wine and gives them a score out of 20, as per judging at an official wine show. This happens every Friday (and sometimes Wednesday) at Wine Selectors with our Panel tasting up to 100 wines a week. That equates to literally thousands of wines a year, from nearly every producer in every wine region across Australia. So collecting a year’s worth of scores from the Panel reveals some amazing statistics. And from that we can gather some pretty cool information. For instance, not only does it show which producers are leading the charge, what regions had a good vintage and what varietals are doing well – it also shows the changing face of wine.

On Trend

That’s the exciting thing about wine – it is always changing. That’s a pretty simple sentence, but when you look at it from different angles, it really says a lot. Yes, it is changing in the bottle as it ages and develops, changes in weather from season to season determine the outcome of how the wine will taste, and there are changes in winemaking techniques and equipment that will improve the taste and the scope of a wine. Ultimately though, I think the biggest change in wine is driven by consumers. Fashion leads demand and if the demand is big enough, it will drive supply. This scenario is pretty evident when looking at our Top 50 wines of 2016. Even before you look at who made the Top 50, just the wines submitted tell a startling story – Aussie drinkers are demanding greater variety. How do we know? Well, in 2016 our Panel tasted more alternative wines than ever before and we are not just talking about a couple of Grigios. Try these on for size: Bianco d’Alessano, Garganega, Muller Thurgau, Verduzzo – and they’re just the whites, they also sipped Aglianico, Lagrein, Montepulciano, Saperavi and Saint Macaire – and that’s only a third of the list of alternative varietals they looked at. How many have you heard of, let alone tried? The exciting thing is, you probably will get to try some of these soon, because quite a few of them are performing exceptionally well – good enough to make it to our Top 50 wines of 2016. For instance, the Serafino Wines Bellissimo Lagrein (placing inside the Top 10, no less), The Pawn Wine Co En Passant Tempranillo and the Bird in Hand Montepulciano. There’s also Touriga, Fiano, Vermentino, Marsanne and more. Yep, it’s an exciting time to be a drinker of Australian wine.

Traditional Stars

Of course, our traditional varietals also excelled in 2016. Our two biggies, Shiraz (12) and Chardonnay (9) dominated the tallies, but it must be pointed out that their styles have changed to suit the drinking public. The top scoring wine, the Di Giorgio Family Chardonnay 2015, is lean and minerally, described as having “aromas of flint, struck match and oyster shell with a refined palate of intense fig, melon and nectarine,” while the top scoring Shiraz, the Ryan’s Reserve Vanessa’s Vineyard 2014 is a medium to full-bodied Hunter wine with “a ripe and lively core of red and black fruits with hints of Chinese spice.” Riesling was also a big surprise packet this year. Panellist Trent Mannell reckons Riesling is going to be one of the trending wines of 2017 and if the quality of current vintages is anything to go by, he may be right. The Ferngrove Off Dry Limited Release Riesling 2016 from Western Australia’s Great Southern region was simply superb, taking out second spot overall and was described by the Panel as “impossible to put down”. In all, there were four Rieslings in the Top 50, all from different regions, which goes to show this varietal’s versatility. Read more about the rise of Australian Riesling in this article

Diversity and Consistency

In a nod to diversity, the Top 10 wines were made up of eight different varietals from eight different regions. That’s a real wow moment right there. Chardonnay, Riesling, Marsanne, Shiraz, Muscat, Semillon, Cabernet Merlot and Lagrein – Coonawarra, Great Southern, Nagambie Lakes, Hunter Valley, Rutherglen, Margaret River, Barossa, Adelaide Hills. What that tells us is that viticulturists are getting better at knowing what works in their region and how to get the best out of their grape. It also says that winemakers are becoming more skilled at taking that perfectly grown grape and making great wine.

Out of the Top 50 there were only two producers who featured more than once – Howard Park (Marchand & Burch Chardonnay and Howard Park Flint Rock Pinot Noir) and Brown Brothers (Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir and Innocent Bystander Known Pleasures Shiraz). The same two producers both had two wines each in last year’s Top 50, so it speaks volumes of their ability to consistently produce top wines. And speaking of consistency, it must be noted that the Brown Brothers Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2015 replicated the success of the 2014 that featured in last year’s Top 50. This is a huge result, as anyone can have a great vintage, but to do it consistently is the mark of a great producer.

Vintage and Age

The stats show that The Hunter Valley (8), McLaren Vale (7) and Great Southern (7) had great vintages, with 2014 living up to the hype for reds and 2015 for white wines.It was also interesting to note the power of age. Nearly all the wine we buy is consumed soon after we’ve bought it (the same day in my case). However, some producers are lucky enough to be able to hold onto some of their wine to release it at a date when it has aged to perfection – the Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 and Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2011, for example. Of course, you can do the same thing, provided you have the ideal storing conditions and you can keep your hands off it. Or, if that seems too hard, you can just check out this list of amazing wines, tally up the ones you like, do the stats and get amongst them.

The Best Australian Wines of 2016

Di Giorgio Family Chardonnay 2015 (Coonawarra)

Ferngrove Off Dry Limited Release Riesling 2016 (Great Southern)

Tahbilk Marsanne 2010 (Nagambie Lakes)

Saddler’s Creek Ryan’s Reserve Vanessa Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley)

Stanton & Killen Classic Rutherglen Muscat NV (Rutherglen)

Howard Park Wines Marchand & Burch Australian Collection 'Porongurup' Chardonnay 2015

Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 1 Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley)

Henschke & Co Tappa Pass Shiraz 2013 (Barossa)

Hamelin Bay Wines Five Ashes Vineyard Cabernet Merlot 2014 (Margaret River)

Serafino Wines Bellissimo Lagrein (Adelaide Hills) 2013

The Pawn Wine Co. En Passant Tempranillo 2013 (Adelaide Hills)

 Briar Ridge Stockhausen Black Label Semillon 2016 (Hunter Valley)

Tyrrell’s Wines 'Stevens' Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley)

Scotchmans Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Geelong)

Innocent Bystander Known Pleasures Shiraz McLaren Vale 2014 (McLaren Vale)

Byron & Harold The Partners Chardonnay 2015 (Great Southern)

Brown Brothers Devil’s Corner Resolution Pinot Noir 2015 (Tasmania)

De Iuliis Steven Vineyard Shiraz 2014 (Hunter Valley)

Howard Park - 'Flint Rock' Pinot Noir 2015 (Great Southern)

Rutherglen Estates Durif 2014 (Rutherglen)

Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Vineyard (Organic) 2013 (Frankland River)

Seville Estate Chardonnay 2015 (Yarra Valley)

Woods Crampton Pedro Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2015 (Barossa)

Dandelion Vineyards Sister’s Run Shiraz 2014 (Barossa)

Forest Hill Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Mount Barker) try the 2011 vintage here

Driftwood Artifacts Chardonnay 2014 (Margaret River)

Lisa McGuigan Platinum Selection Chardonnay 2015 (Hunter Valley)

Bleasdale Vineyards The Powder Monkey Single Vineyard Shiraz 2013 (Langhorne Creek)

Hart & Hunter Single Vineyard Twenty Six Rows Chardonnay 2015 (Hunter Valley)

Rockcliffe Quarram Rocks Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016 (Great Southern)

Taylors Wines Riesling 2015 (Clare Valley)

Bird in Hand Montepulciano 2014 (Adelaide Hills)

Alkoomi Black Label Riesling 2009 (Frankland River)

Pertaringa Wines Undercover Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale)

Shaw Vineyard Estate Olleyville Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Canberra)

Five Geese Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale)

Leconfield Wines Richard Hamilton Centurion 122-Year-Old Vine Shiraz 2014

SC Pannell Wines Grenache Shiraz Touriga 2014 (McLaren Vale)

Shadowfax Pinot Gris 2015 (Geelong)

Dominique Portet Fontaine Rose 2015 (Yarra Valley)

McWilliams Wines Mount Pleasant High Altitude Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Orange)

Tulloch - 'Cellar Door Release' Vermentino 2016 (Orange)

Oliver’s Taranga Vineyards Fiano 2015 (McLaren Vale) Try the 2016 vintage here

Montara Winery Chalambar Road Shiraz 2009 (Grampians)

Henry’s Drive Vignerons Henry’s Drive H Syrah 2012 (Padthaway)

Margan Family Limited Release Chardonnay 2013 (Hunter Valley)

Bremerton Walter’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Langhorne Creek)

Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2015 (Margaret River)

d’Arenberg The Dry Dam Riesling (off dry) 2015 (McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills)

Kirrihill Wines Montepulciano 2014 (Mount Lofty)

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Wine
Discover our Top 12 Whites of 2017
In 2017, our Panel tasted and rated over 4,000 wines. The Best Wines of the Year is always a hotly contested list and this year was no exception. From tried and true favourites like Howard Park Margaret River Chardonnay, to fabulous alternative varietals such as Fiano from Chalk Hill’s McLaren Vale vineyard, plus Trophy-winning Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier, here (in no particular order) are the Top 12 Whites that really stood out from the crowd and wowed all of our Panellists. View our Top 12 red wines here.
In Dreams Chardonnay 2015, Yarra Valley In the glass: Pale lemon green.  On the nose: Apple, grapefruit, oatmeal and almond aromas.  On the palate: Fine and elegant and yet it has power and drive with a delicious core of white and yellow fruits. A savoury, almost salty layer adds complexity, velvety texture and racy acidity.  RRP $23 or $19.55 per bottle in any dozen.  Chalk Hill Fiano 2016, McLaren Vale In the glass: Bright straw.  On the nose: Opulent white fruit with honeydew, Tahitian lime and guava.  On the palate: Remarkably bright and focussed core of juicy white fruits with satiny, delicate texture and length from start to finish and crunchy, almost salty acidity running to a thrilling finish.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. Tahbilk Roussanne Marsanne Viognier 2015, Nagambie Lakes In the glass: Pale lemon green. On the nose: Stonefruit, florals, ginger.  On the palate: A light to medium weight and fine wine with loads of stonefruit and citrus zest underpinned by zesty acidity, mouth-coating texture and good length.  RRP $27.95 or $23.76 per bottle in any dozen.  Long Rail Gully Riesling 2016, Canberra District   In the glass: Bright pale yellow straw.  On the nose: Lime zest and fresh herb. On the palate: Delicate yet intense and flavoursome with strong citrussy varietals and notes of talc and mineral. Mouth-feel is supple and lightly creamy with vibrant acidity. A really classic Riesling with delicious purity. RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen.  Cape Barren Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Adelaide Hills   In the glass: Vibrant pale lemon.   On the nose: Lime juice, nettle, grapefruit, vanilla.  On the palate: Stylish and intense lime, passionfruit and cut grass varietals, tempered by a light nutty layer with minerally acid dryness on the finish.  RRP $19 or $16.15 per bottle in any dozen.  De Iuliis Special Release Grenache Rosé 2017, Hilltops In the glass: Very fine pink with green and copper flashes.  On the nose: Hints of pink flower and Turkish Delight.  On the palate: Elegant and savoury with juicy fruit and green olive-like astringency creating a dry finish.  RRP $28 or $23.80 per bottle in any dozen.
Howard Park Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River/Great Southern In the glass: Beautifully vibrant lemon with a green hue.  On the nose: Delicate lime juice, light stonefruit, grapefruit and cedary oak.  On the palate: Refined yet intense with juicy layers of stonefruit and citrus with creamy yet poised acidity. RRP $54 or $45.90 per bottle in any dozen. Tinklers Mount Bright Semillon 2017, Hunter Valley In the glass: Pale lemon green.  On the nose: Bright citrus, white melon, mineral and lanolin perfume.  On the palate: Driven by beautiful tingling acidity, it’s deliciously layered with an amazingly vibrant fruit core and quinine-like texture. RRP $22 or $18.70 per bottle in any dozen. Heggies Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2015, Eden Valley In the glass: Pale lemon, green hue.  On the nose: Fresh yellow fruit lift with spice and grilled nut complexity.  On the palate: Slightly spicy and strongly varietal with nectarine, green melon and marzipan, subtle background vanillin oak, fresh leesy depth and ginger spice.   RRP $30 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen Gatt High Eden Riesling 2011, Eden Valley In the glass: Pale lemon straw. On the nose: Still vibrant lemon and lime lift with very faint hints of kero development. On the palate: Still so youthful, pristine and precise with a multi-layered, savoury and vibrant core of fruit and just the start of secondary development.  RRP $40 or $25.50 per bottle in any dozen. Umamu Sparkling Chardonnay 2005, Margaret River In the glass: Youthful lemon straw.  On the nose: Buttered toast, preserved lemon and background smokey notes.    On the palate: Full-bodied, layered and rich yet still vibrant with a strong undercurrent of leesy depth under a butterscotch-like core of fruit.   RRP $63 or $53.55 per bottle in any dozen. Bunnamagoo Estate Kids Earth Fund Autumn Semillon 2013 (375ml), Mudgee In the glass: Medium to full gold. On the nose: Lifted toffee, butterscotch and crème brulee.  On the palate: Luscious and viscous, with sweet layers of candied fruit complemented by bright lemony acidity.  RRP $25 or $21.25 per bottle in any dozen. 
Food
Best of the Best RAS President's Medal
Words by Words Ed Halmagyi on 13 Jan 2017
The president’s medal is a unique prize honouring the very best in Australian food and beverage production. When John Fairley steps into the milking yard of his iconic artisan dairy at Picton, south-west of Sydney, the motley assortment of Jersey, Friesian and Swiss Red cows congregating in the early morning mist barely respond. Their udders are huge and distended, yet the cows are perfectly at ease, trustful, and content with the calm, persistent rhythm of the farm. He walks deliberately, purposefully, and with a composure that silently echoes off the hillsides. John doesn’t farm this land, he exists within it. A seventh-generation dairyman, John has a connection to land that is about as profound as it can be. He loves this country, and the cattle, and the milk they produce together. It’s a deep and abiding affection that underscores the quality of his remarkable milk. And the milk is truly remarkable. It’s rich and creamy, with a distinctly grassy note, the season’s sweet clover obvious on the nose. This is quite unlike large-scale commercial milk, for its flavour is infused with the terroir of Picton. EXCELLENCE AND IMPROVEMENT In 2008, John and his team from Country Valley Milk were awarded the President’s Medal, Australia’s highest honour for food and beverage producers. It is an accolade that recognises not only brilliant produce, but also the extraordinary people, businesses, systems and measures of environmental management and community engagement that must underpin all great agriculture and production. Food and beverage is not simply about what we bring to the table, it’s about our place in society, now and into the future, and a relationship with the environment and our communities. A broad proposition, it must be careful, respectful and manageable. To that end, the President’s Medal is unique as it not only recognises excellence, but actively encourages improvement in all areas, for the winners and their competitors. This award is about ensuring Australia will have even better food and beverages, embodying the highest levels of product integrity. Established in 2006, the Medal is managed by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW. Open to farmers, producers and manufacturers from all over Australia, it is the distillation of the year-round competitions in Fine Food, Dairy Produce, Wine, Beer & Cider, and Chocolate. Overall champions from each division are pitted against one another in a triple-bottom- line analysis to find the very best of the best. This involves a rigorous examination of business plans, operational practices, community engagement and environmental management systems, global strategy and market acceptance. WINNING BENEFITS Many past winners are household names in fine dining – Tathra Oysters, Holy Goat Cheese, Milly Hill Lamb – while others are global brands like Bulla,  Yalumba  and Hardy’s. The President’s Medal reveals small manufacturers who think globally, and industrial players with the heart of an artisan. Benefits for all those involved are diverse. The process compels them to engage in new and productive ways with the challenges specific to their business, to find answers to stubborn questions, and to seek out new ways of marketing themselves. In addition, all competitors are exposed to a range of quality advice from industry professionals, chefs and retail experts about improvements they might consider, or ways to differentiate and grow. This is an invaluable consultation usually out of the reach and budget of most artisans. EYES ON THE PRIZE Then there’s the prize itself. A cash reward is provided by the RAS, along with a marketing package from one of Australia’s leading minds, Michael McQueen, and help with story production from Jason van Genderen, one of the world’s best film producers and filmmakers. This award is not simply about recognition, it’s engineered to help our very best produce companies grow, thrive and excel. There’s a great deal Australians can be proud of when it comes to our food and beverage industries. Diversity, innovation, resilience and excellence are all common values. Consequently, judging the President’s Medal is a daunting task, not simply because the entrants are from such diverse businesses, but because the economic, social and environmental standards are so high. But they will be judged, and a winner will be chosen. A DELICIOUS CELEBRATION To celebrate those achievements, the RAS is hosting The President’s Medal Awards Night in November, where a bespoke menu will be crafted by one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Christine Manfield in conjunction with Sydney Showground’s Tim Browne, using all the champion ingredients from this year’s competitors. It promises to be a delicious evening to which everyone is invited. Tickets will be available through www.rasnsw.com.au/presidents_medal. If you love great food, and want to taste Australia’s finest, this is an evening not to be missed.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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