Updated November 2014

Best Best Boutique Wines Under $20

By boutique we mean small volumes made by small wineries which, strictly speaking is about 15,000 cases a year. We’ve applied some licence to the term, rather than calling these wineries ‘artisan’ and because the majority of the 1,400 wineries listed in James Halliday’s Wine Companion are very much boutique compared to the big guys.

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1. Best Boutique Whites Under $20


Claymore Joshua Tree Riesling 2013 – $14 at Kemenys. Classic Clare Riesling, limes and minerals and texture. Bargain.

Paulett Polish Hill Riesling 2013 – $18 at Outstanding Wines. The Pauletts have a history of making very fine wines, with Riesling the guiding light. Superb views from the winery.

Frogmore Creek Riesling 2013 – $19 at Dan M’s. Our favourite Riesling in 2014 – like fine-boned China, with a searing intensity of fruit and terrific poise, line and length.

Sons of Eden Freya Riesling 2013 – $20 at Kemenys. In the Nibelungen legend set to music by Richard Wagner, Freya is a goddess of love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, war, and death. This Riesling is as close as we’re likely to get to tasting the nectar of the gods: it’s one of the best from the great 2012 – perfect combo of ripe fruit and citrus backbone, with depth and a long, tight finish. Made by Corey Ryan, one of our most experienced and least known winemakers.

Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2013 – $18 at Vintage Direct-Nicks. Andrew and Jane Mitchell planted their Clare vineyards 4 decades ago, so their Riesling is made from old vines. The wines have always been about authentic flavour, bigger than some, and better with food. The vineyards are now run along biodynamic lines – I never thought I’d spend my later years shovelling shit, says Jane.

Wilson DJW Riesling 2012$22 at MyCellars. Another long line of great Rieslings from Polish Hill. 95 points from Huon Hooke, 94 from Winefront, Gold Medal 2012 Canberra Int’l Riesling Challenge.

6a0120a6399ca9970c017d4101472a970cTertini Riesling 2012 – $30 at the winery (If you join the club, you get 15% discount). Jonathon Holgate has built a great reputation for these Southern Highland Rieslings. Terrific austere style, which builds complexity as it matures.

Tertini Riesling 2008 – you can still buy this at Kemenys for $32, and it’s a cracker.3 trophies and 10 gold medals.

Delatite Dead Man’s Hill Gewurztraminer 2012 – $20 at Wineonline. The 2012 has everything you expect from a Gewuerz, and the long, crisp finish to go with it. Delatite in the Victoriuan Alps is one of our few serious Gewuerztraminer makers.

Bellarmine Pemberton Dry Riesling 2012 – $17 at Kemenys. True boutique winery making very interesting whites and reds near Pemberton in the Great Southern region of W.A.

Castelli Estate Riesling 2013 – $21 at Winestreet . The 2012 topped the recent Gourmet Traveller Wine Riesling tasting, and the 2013 should not be far behind. Great Southern, W.A. Great Promise.

Clonakilla Canberra Riesling 2013 – $25 at Australian Wine Centre. ‘Riesling that’s so intense, it hurts,’ says Campbell Mattinson at the Winefront and gives it 95. Made on a vineyard near Canberra by GTW winemaker of the year Tim Kirk. In a remarkable royal flush, the wine gets 95 points from every reviewer.


Mitchell Semillon 2009 – $20 at the winery. Made from riper fruit than Hunter Semillons, and lightly aged in oak, almost 5 years old. There’s also a Noble Semillon 2012 at the same link for $18.

Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon 2014 – $24 at MyCellars. I’m told by those who appreciate this style more than I do that this winery now makes the best Semillons in the Hunter. The small production sells out fast so be quick if this grabs you. Gary at the Winefront gives this 95.

Fraser Gallop Estate Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – $18 at WineOnline. Great example of this style the West does so well. 60% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc. Clive Otto ex-Vasse Felix is chief winemaker here, and this boutique is going from strength to strength.

Rosily Vineyard Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – $20 at the winery. Great follow-up to the lovely 2013, but give it a few months to settle down.

Seresin Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – $22 at Wineonline. One of the best savvies made in NZ. Handmade from grapes grown in biodynamic vineyards. Bargain at this price.

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – $22 at Winestar. One of the best 2012 Savvies we’ve tasted from the Shaky Isles. Really fine, classy style. Made by Kevin Judd of Cloudy Bay fame, and leaves CB for dead. Remember that MyCellars offers free shipping on any quantity for BWU$20 subscribers – promo code BWU20.

Terre a Terre Down to Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – $20 at MyCellars. Haven’t tried this, but it’s handmade by Xavier Bizot and Lucy Croser, from a vineyard next to Brian Croser’s Whalebone vineyard near Wrattonbully. Barrel fermentation should add complexity.

Ninth Island Pinot Gris 2013 – $15 at Wineonline. This is a slow developer given the depth of fruit, must be the fine acid is keeping it young. Brilliant PG.

The Lane Vineyards Block 2 Pinot Gris 2013 – $20 at MyCellars. Flavour with finesse. Adelaide Hills style. Wonderful winery, a must to visit if you’re in the area. Popular lunch spot as well.

Hollys Garden Pinot Gris 2012 – $25 at Winestar. True boutique in the King Valley, Victorian Alps, 750m high. Only makes Pinot Gris and Noir. PG is voluptuous and unctuous.

Wickhams Road Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013 – $15 at Barrique Wine Store. A gentle, elegant Chardy that sneaks up on you, a slow seducer made by Hoddles Creek. No fireworks, just a lovely drinking Chardy. There’s also a Gippsland Chardonnay under this label – $16 at Winestar.

West Cape Howe Old School Chardonnay 2013 – $16 at WSD. Old style tamed, really: generous in flavour and proportion but not too buttery and peachy. Just about right.

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2013 – $19 at Winelistaustralia. Not the most complex of chardies but one of the easiest to enjoy – peaches, cashews and cream. Upper Yarra Valley, made by Franco d’Anna.

Bellarmine Pemberton Chardonnay 2013 – $18 at Kemenys. Modern expression, light and elegant, Chablis style.

Hill Smith Estate Eden Valley Chardonnay 2012 – $19 at Wineonline. Complex wine with lots going for it, from nuts to biscuits to toasted oak with lemon rind and minerals thrown in. All these goodies will need a bit more time to embrace each other fully, then it will be a great Chardy.

Seville Estate The Barber Chardonnay 2013 – $20 at MyCellars. Finer style Chardy from a highly rated Yarra Valley boutique. Needs a year or two to show its best.

Midnight’s Promise Chardonnay 2007 – $20 at the winery. Big, ripe rich peaches and cream Chardy without going OTT. So much flavour, close to perfect maturity. The link shows the 2008 vintage, the order form the 2007.

Rosily Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 – $21 at Dan M’s. A small northern Margaret River maker who turns out wonderful wines for very reasonable prices.

Fraser Gallop Estate Parterre Chardonnay 2012 – $26 at MyCellars. Serious Chardy in the lean, fine acid style, with stonefruit and cashews but grapefruit as well.

Mountadam High Eden Chardonnay 2012 – $26 at Winesellersdirect. True to style, stone fruit and cashews, fine French oak, another winner.


2. Best Boutique Reds Under $20

Wickhams Road Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2013 – $16 at Cloudwine. Made by the boys at Hoddles Creek from bought-in fruit. Made for earlier drinking than the Hoddles Creek Pinot, has more up-front charm and appeal.

Riposte the Dagger Pinot Noir 2013 – $18 at Kemenys. James Halliday goes overboard on this Pinot with 95 points. We think it’s more like 91, it’s a nice drinking Pinot Noir made by Tim Knappstein in the Adelaide Hills.

Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir 2013 – $19 at Winestar. One of the most underrated Pinot Noirs in the country. Serious stuff from the upper Yarra Valley.

Last Horizon Pinot Noir 2012 – $18 at Winestar. From the Tamar Valley comes this lovely Pinot with immediate appeal – sweet cherry fruit with just a hint of sap and forest floor, all in perfect balance. Perfect Pinot for the money, drink in the next 12 months.

Foxeys Hangout Red Fox Pinot Noir 2012 – $20 at Winelistaustralia. Terrific Pinot from the Mornington Peninsula, lovely combo of fruit and herbs and autumn leaves.

Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012 – $20 at Kemenys. This is a rich, obvious, ripe fruit-driven kind of Pinot but well done in that style.

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2012 – $21 at Dan M’s. You can also buy a mixed doz – 6 Pinot Noir 2012 and 6 Willing Participant Dry Red – $150 at the winery. That means you’re buying decent Pinot for $15 a bottle and a drinking red for $10. The Pinot Noir gets a big rave and 5 stars from Winestate, and 92 points from the late J Pringle.


3 Drops Pinot Noir 2012 – $24 at Kemenys. Made by Rob Diletti of Castle Rock, Wine Companion’s winemaker of the year 2014, and fast building a reputation for his Pinot Noirs.

Dalrymple Pinot Noir 2013 – $25 at Winestar. This comes highly recommended by a savvy friend. Pipers River and Coal Valley fruit, and the price is sharp. The winery gets 5 stars from JH who tells us that it is now owned by the Hill-Smiths of Yalaumba. They hired Peter Caldwell who worked at Te Kairanga in Martinborough and Josef Chromy in Tasmania. 13.5%.

Partisan Mc Laren Vale Shiraz 2012 – $13 at WSD. Everything in place here, in a medium bodied package. Hard to believe you can buy wines of this calibre for a pittance. Super Bargain.

Shanahans The Old Dog Shiraz 2013 – $16 at Dan M’s. A misleading label if ever there was one: this ain’t no old dog but a lithe and glossy young hound. Medium bodied, dark berries suggesting cool climate (?!), stylish and polished. Silly price. This wine tends to fly off the shelves so be quick.

Murray Street Black Label Barossa Shiraz 2012 $20 at Winesellersdirect. This is our kind of Shiraz, medium-bodied yet packed with flavour. Classy fruit, great length, depth and balance, fine tannins and just a lick of gentle oak.

Head Red Shiraz 2013 – $20 at Winelistaustralia. Stylish Barossa Shiraz, medium-bodied but complex. Alex Head’s handmade wines are heading for cult status. Grab some before the prices go up.

Mitchell Peppertree Shiraz 2010 – $20 at Winelistaustralia. Great Clare Valley Shiraz form a great year and a great maker. And a great price for Shiraz of this quality. Biodynamic vineyard.

Bests Bin 1 Shiraz 2013 – $22 at DifferentDrop. Another winner from this terrific winery at Great Western. Touch more elegant than the 2012, and the better for it. Mattinson reckons it’s a better wine than the Jimmy Watson winning 2011 and gives it a rare 95 points.

SC Pannell Adelaide Hills Syrah 2013$25 at Pulpit Cellars. This is not a typical South Australian blockbuster Shiraz, but a more sophisticated expression. Winner of the 2014 Jimmy Watson trophy. A winery rapidly building a big reputation.

Bellarmine Shiraz 2010 – $25 at Kemenys. This is a big one! From a true boutique near Pemberton down the big southern in WA. 14.5%. Haven’t tried it but Halliday reckons it’s class act and gives it 95 points.


The Harem ‘Layla’ Barossa Valley Grenache Mataro Shiraz 2012$12 at GLUG. Great blend from David Farmer down in the Barossa. More an experience than a wine. Great label.

Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run GSM 2012 – $17 at Wineonline. These guys haven’t missed a beat. This is another underrated Clare Valley red. Rich, ripe and gorgeous, sharp price.

Galli Tempranillo Grenache Mourvedre 2012 – $18 at Different Drop. Lovely wine if you like a lighter style GSM, or TGM in this case. Not a long keeper but brilliant now with tapas or pizzas.

Turkey Flat Butchers Block Red 2012 – $19 at MyCellars. An old favourite, big and rich and satisfying.

SC Pannell Tempranillo Touriga 2013 – $24 at Kemenys. Interesting blend made from fruit grown on the Fleurieu Peninsula south west of Adelaide, which tends to make more elegant reds than McLaren Vale.

Twins Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2009 – $23 at Dan M’s. Online only. Maverick makes elegant, polished reds from several vineyards around the Barossa. Only problem is that most of the wines are hard to find.

Hentley Farm The Stray Mongrel Grenache Shiraz Zinfandel 2013 – $23 at WSD. Hentley Farm in the Barossa is Halliday’s winery of the year 2014. It is owned by the Hentschkes – no, not a spelling mistake – who make reds with serious attitude. This is one of the few affordable wines in the hand-made line-up.

Longview Red Bucket Shiraz Cabernet 2012 – $13 at Kemenys. We found it a bit obvious in a big ripe style, but it’s good for the money, has won some decent bling and HH likes it for 90 points.

Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz Cabernet Petit Verdot 2010 – $16 at Kemenys. Hard to believe this winner of the <$20 group at the Great Aussie Wine comp 2012 is still on the shelves. Pretty solid kind of red, lots of flavour.

JJ Hahn Reginald Shiraz Cabernet 2010 – $17 at Cellardoor. Made by Rolf Binder from old vines fruit sourced form the Hahn family. Terrific drinking red, vibrant and full of flavour but not heavy.

Fraser Gallop Estate Cabernet Merlot 2012 – $16 at Wineonline. The 2012 reds from Margaret River are bigger and more forward than the lovely 2011s, and this wine follows the trend. It’s good value for money though.

Clairault Cabernet Merlot 2012 – $20 at MyCellars.We haven’t tried this wine but it won the trophy for Best Cabernet Blend at the Margaret River Wine Show 2013, and was the 2014 Winewise Champion for best Bordeaux Blends.

Rosily Vineyard The Cartographer 2010 – $23 at the winery. See notes above under winery of the week. This wine is gorgeous right now but will improve for a couple more years or three.

Woodlands Cabernet Merlot 2013 – $23 at the winery . Bigger bodied than the previous wine but still elegant and stylish.


Kilikanoon Killermans Run Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – $16 at Kemenys. We’ll run this beauty again because it doesn’t get much better than this for <$25. More polished and more elegant than the Shiraz from the same stable.

Lake Breeze Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – $20 at MyCellars. Underrated Cabernet made by the Follett family from Langhorne Creek. Big and rich with backbone, no sledgehammers here. Remember: MyCellars will ship any number of bottles for free to our subscribers (promo code BWU20 – no $).

Mitchell Sevenhill Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – $20 at Winesellersdirect. This is one of our best Cabernets, and is underpriced at its usual $25 – $30. The 2006 reflects the vintage and is bigger than usual, showing a lot flavour development with notes of tar and leather. Great food wine.

Forest Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon -2008 – $20 at Winelistaustralia. A rare find, and a stylish Cabernet from the Frankland area in the Great Southern. Yes, it’s 2008 and it’s only $20.

Harewood Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – $27 at Different Drop. Made from Denmark and Frankland River fruit, matured for 24 months in new and used French barriques. Blue and black fruits of great purity, wrapped in soft pencil shavings oak, polished tannins. Gorgeous wine in the style of Penfolds Bin 707. Yes, it’s that classy and one tenth the price.