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The Wines that Defined 2023

Wines that Defined 2023

A look at the Australian varietals and styles that left an impression in 2023.

Ours may be a sunburnt country of drought and flooding rains – all of which present distinct challenges to viticulture – but its sweeping plains, ragged mountain ranges and jewel seas grant us extraordinary riches when it comes to making wine: a fact readily attested to by the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel, who each year has the task of assessing somewhere in the region of 4,000 wines from across Australia for the benefit of Wine Selectors Members.

With all the wines blind-tasted and judged according to Australian wine show standards, rigorously discussed regarding their merits, the Panel is afforded the opportunity to take a bird’s eye assessment of the state of Australian wine. Here, then, is a snapshot of what’s been in their glasses over the last 12 months, across Australia’s most popular and enduring varietals – and why they’re the wines that, for them, defined the year that was.

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Wines that Defined Long Lunch | Sydney

Want to taste the best wines of 2023 for yourself? Join us in Sydney on Saturday 2nd March as we celebrate some of the best Australian wines that our expert Tasting Panel tasted over 2023 at the exciting new Palazzo Salato for a fabulously delicious long lunch expertly matched with 13 ‘wines that define’.

Gather your wine-loving friends and book your tickets today.

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Best Sparkling Wines from 2023 Wine Selectors tastings

From left to right: Mountdam Vineyards High Eden Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay NV, Rob Dolan Black Label Blanc de Blanc 2021, Arras Blanc de Blancs NV.



By the measure of Adam Walls, wine judge at large and Co-Chair of the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel, perhaps the most exciting category of wine at the moment is Tasmanian Pinot. 

“There is one state that continues to shine brightest when it comes to Pinot Noir,” he says, “and that is Tasmania – it’s dominated the wine show circuits the past few years, and that’s reflected in what are some of the highest-scoring Pinot Noirs the panel has seen.” 

Matt White, Head of Buying at Wine Selectors, agrees, but adds that a rising tide lifts all ships.

“We’ve seen high quality examples from across the country, including other cool climate regions like Orange and Great Southern,” he says. “Tasmania may sit at the apex, but its rise has only pulled up the quality overall.” 

Best Tasmanian Pinot Noir from 2023 Wine Selectors tastings

From left to right: 42 Degrees South Pinot Noir 2022, Haddow & Dineen Private Universe Pinot Noir 2021, Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2022, See Saw Organic Pinot Noir 2022.



The rise of alternative and lesser known varietals continues apace also, both for the distinctive flavours they bring as well as for their embrace by winemakers for their hardy qualities in the vineyard. 

“They’ve had a huge impact on our wine scene,” says Walls. “Many, such as Tempranillo, Fiano and Malbec are well-known and loved, but over the past 12 months we’ve seen an increase in the sheer number of different varieties on the market.”

Selector publisher Paul Diamond observes that, of the rise in alternatives, wine lovers should be encouraged to explore. “Varieties such as Pecorino and Arinto are just two of a set of interesting and diverse grapes being grown and made – those in search of new flavours have much to celebrate.”

Best Alternative Variety Wines of 2023 from Wine Selectors tastings

From left to right: Empress Joanna Vineyard Malbec 2022, Trimboli Family Wines Saverio Family Selection
Nebbiolo 2022, David Hook Hunter Valley Pecorino 2023, Yarra Yering New Territories Shiraz Touriga 2019, Serafino Bellissimo Montepulciano 2021.



“Grenache has become the darling of the wine trade of late,” says Will Figueira of the Tasting Panel. “Its style has undergone a complete makeover with wines more akin to Pinot Noir than the heavier Shiraz-like wines of the past.”

A far cry from last century, when vast swathes of Grenache vines were being pulled – today it is easily amongst our most popular lighter-style reds. “McLaren Vale and the Barossa are the heartland,” says Walls. “It seems clear that the winemakers in each region now have clear control over the style and the quality of their wines.”

Best Grenache of 2023 Wine Selectors tastings

From left to right: Z Wine August Old Vine Grenache 2022, Thistledown Thorny Devil Grenache 2022.



Australian Chardonnay continues to dominate as this country’s foremost white wine. “It’s a juggernaut,” says Diamond. “Simply put, the quality across the country is ridiculously high and something that continues to improve every year.” 

Dave Mavor of the Wine Selectors Tasting Panel and lover of white wines, concurs. “It’s clear we’re mastering how to produce the best quality grapes and the highest quality wines,” he says. “The exciting thing is that these wines are not produced by a small, select group of brands in a handful of regions – the benchmark everywhere is very, very high.”

That said however, key regions certainly lead the way – Tasmania and Orange, Adelaide Hills, the Hunter and Margaret River all continue to show their strengths with this signature varietal. 

Best Chardonnay from 2023 Wine Selectors tastings

From left to right: Winmark Chardonnay 2019, Fermoy Estate Chardonnay 2019.



Contentious, perhaps, but amongst those in the know Australian blends represent some of the best quality, best value wines around. “Since the rise of single varietal labelling and marketing, blends have always had an undeserved reputation for being somehow of lesser quality,” says Walls. “It’s time that changes, I think.”
All agreed that, if anything, quality blends are on the increase and the sheer diversity available is great than ever. Winemakers looking to strike a balance between certain flavours and mouthfeels in particular are drawn to blends for the palette of possibilities they open up, and the fruits of their experimentation are evident.

“The classics of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Cabernet Merlot and the Australian ‘Claret’ of Shiraz Cabernet are strongly represented, as are field blends of multiple varieties that tell the story of provenance,” says Diamond. “What’s most interesting to see is the number of premium blends being released at higher price points – a confident indicator that blends are being returned to the recognition they deserve.”

Best White Wines from 2023 Wine Selectors tastings

From left to right: Lenton Brae Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2023, Kirrihill Partner Series Riesling 2022, The Lane Pinot Gris 2023, Erin Eyes Emerald Isle Riesling 2023, Brini Chenin Blanc 2016.



Across the board the Panel saw a swing towards fresher styles of red wine – young reds in particular, designed for early drinking – but also in reds of a fuller-bodied nature.

“People are wanting something they can grab and go, but that is still of good quality,” says White. “It’s understandable, and wines of this nature have a long history.” White observes that in such instances, winemakers are picking slightly earlier, and are using less oak.

The result? “Lovely, fresh wines with really lively acidity and fruit characters.” Exactly the kind of thing that makes the difference when wanting a red in warmer temperature, particularly when slightly chilled. 

Best Fresh Red Wines from 2023 Wine Selectors tastings

From left to right: Sevenhill Inigo Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Mount Pleasant Philip Shiraz 2018, Head Wines Head Red Shiraz 2021.



Following the somewhat nightmarish vintages of 2019/2020, plagued as they were by heat, fire and smoke taint, the following 2021/2022 vintages were for most parts of Australia cooler and wetter: conditions immediately evident in the wines. 

Says Walls, “In most parts of the country, 2021 was a superb vintage and the quality and  brightness of the wines were immediately apparent.” The following year continued the trend. “The subsequent vintage, 2022, followed in similar style, with the resulting wines from most regions having a freshness and liveliness to them that was just full of energy and verve.” 

Best Rose from 2023 Wine Selectors tastings

From left to right: Turkey Flat Vineyards Rosé 2023, Howard Vineyard Cabernet Franc Rosé 2023, Chaffey Bros Not Your Grandma’s Rosé 2022.



The primary takeaway from 2023 is that the quality to value ratio in Australian wine remains staggeringly high. “It’s an embarrassment of riches,” says Walls. “We’re only scratching at the surface of just how good we have it here.”

The increasing varietal diversity was also remarked upon. “Some of these varietals will be the future of wine in this country, make no mistake,” says Diamond. 

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