Updated November 2014

Best ‘Cool’ Wines Under $20

By ‘coo’l we mean interesting and different wines, and there are some serious wines in this list from names you’ve probably never heard before.

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1. Best ‘Cool’ Whites Under $20

Arrogant Frog Lilly Pad Viognier 2012 – $9.50 at Dan M’s. Hard to fault for the money. Not a great Viognier but a pretty nice every day drinking wine for the money.

Marques De Tezona Macabeo 2013$12 at Kemenys. Fresh, tart, briny, lemony basic summer / seafood wine made from the workhorse Macabeo grape. More texture than Aussie whites.


Mandoleto Catarratto Sicilia IGT 2011 – $11 at Kemenys. ‘So much better than so many dry whites at the same price,’ says our friend Gary Walsh at the Winefront. ‘Green pear, citrus, apricot kernel and a few dried herbs … maybe not ultra-complex, but so good to drink. 91 points.’

Richland Pinot Grigio 2013 – $11 at Different Drop. Haven’t tried this wine but it’s won 3 golds and gets 92 points from James Halliday.

Elefante Blanco 2012 – $11 at Cloudwine. Made from Macabeo , Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc. Fruit salad blend, subdued fruit, dry and chalky, chewy but interesting.

Elefante Blanco 2013 – $11 at Winestar. A stylish lunch wine from the plains of Castilla la Mancha, a blend of Macabeo, Viura and Verdejo with a dash of Sauvignon Blanc. Clever and different.

Gemtree Tatty Road Chardonnay 2012 – $14 at winedirect. Lovely, rich, mouthfilling Chardy from McLaren Vale; has had a touch of oak but is mostly fruit driven.


Ninth Island Pinot Grigio 2013 – $15 at Wineonline. A tour de force, tons of ripe pears and honey here, drink soon – don’t keep. Great with rich pork dishes.

Elefante La Senda Verdejo 2012 – $15 at the Winepoint. Big brother of the basic Elefante, slightly bigger footprint.

Richard Hamilton Marsanne 2012 – $15 at the winery. There aren’t many Marsannes made down under; this is one made by the top team at RH/Leconfiled

Paxton Biodynamic Single Vineyard Pinot Gris 2013 – $18 at the winery. Paxton is a great winery to visit in McLaren Vale, and makes great wines at fair prices. This is one of their best.

Tightrope Walker Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2012 – $17 at Winestar. Trophy & 5 golds, 93 points from Winefront and J Pringle. We haven’t tried it so the usual caveats apply

Juniper Crossing Margaret River Chardonnay 2013 – $18 at Sixty Darling Street – 02 9818 3077 sales@wineroom.com.au. What it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in sheer drinkability. Terrific wine for the money.

Red Claw Chardonnay 2012 – $19 at Kemenys. Cool climate style from Yabby Lake, one of the hottest wineries on the Mornington Pensula. Needs time to open up.

Seville Estate The Barber Chardonnay – $20 at MyCellars. Seville Estate is one of the longest established Yarra Valley wineries, and this is their entry level Chardy. Haven’t tried this vintage but the style is usually fine and elegant. 95 points from Campbell Mattinson.

Guigal Cote Du Rhone Blanc 2012 – $19 at OurCellar. Almost impossible to find, this wine is a blend of Viognier, Roussane, Clairette, Marsanne & Bourboulenc. Parker’s review says: Bursting with honeysuckle and tropical fruit characteristics, terrific value.’


Seresin Estate Sauvignon Blanc (organic) 2012 – $22 at Wineonline. One of New Zealand’s top wineries, which makes superb whites virtually by hand.

Pipers Brook Estate Gewürztraminer 2013 – $23 at Trio Wine. This has been our favourite Gewurz for decades, didn’t realise you could buy it for less than $25. Real Class here, as good or better than most GWTs that come out of Alsace.

Louis Latour Macon Lugny ‘Les Genievres’ 2012 – $23 at OurCellar. A minor white Burgundy that made a major impression with us. Burgundian and polished, needs a year or two to open up a bit.

Holm Oak Pinot Gris 2013 – $24 at Tasmanian Wine Centre. A class act from Tassie, long, lean and savoury style, all the PG flavour elements are there and then some. Restrained. Real finesse.

Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon 2014 – $24 at Winestar. 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

Marc Bredif Vouvray 2012 – $25 at Winestar. One of our subscribers wrote and said he was so impressed he bought 3 cases. Be warned though: this Chenin Blanc from the Loire is an acquired taste – like Hunter Semillon. It’s a fresh youngster that takes time to reveal all of its charms.

2. Best ‘Cool’ Rosés Under $20

La Boheme Yarra Valley Act Two Dry Pinot Rosé 2013 – $17 at ALDI. ‘The best of this label I have seen,’ say our friends at the Winefront. Autumnal, meaty, strawberried, creamy. Perfect young, dry rose.

La Boheme

Charles Melton Rose of Virginia Rose 2-13 – $20 at MyCellars. For Charlie Melton’s, this is the label’s 25th vintage. Been at the top of the charts for a long time.

3. Best Cool Reds Under $20

Arrogant Frog Croak Rotie Shiraz 2012 – $8.50 at Dan M’s. Fair chance that this is made by Aussies in the Langedoc region of France. Well-made, easy-drinking red with plenty of charm.

Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – $8.50 at Dan M’s. Astonishing quality at this price level, shows why wines from Chile are giving Aussie wines a tough time in world markets. The Merlot is in the same class.


Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2006/8 – $10 at ALDI. Sharp price for a very drinkable, mature Rioja. Great food wine, and what a cool package!

Riparosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011 – $9.50 at Dan M’s. Perfect little pasta and pizza red this, not too big, not too heavy, not too complicated, easy on the gums

Marques De Tezona Tempranillo 2013 – $9 at Kemenys. ‘Love that it’s got a savoury edge and a bit of grunt, which is pretty rare at the pointy value end of red wine,’ says Gary at the Winefront. ‘Bang per buck is off the charts. 89 points.’ We’re on the same score, and that makes it a real bargain.

Borsao Selección Grenache Blend 2012 – $11.50 at Dan M’s. Rich, soft red with no sharp edges. Great with BBQs, pizza and pasta.

The Harem ‘Layla’ Barossa Valley Grenache Mataro Shiraz 2012 – $12 at Glug. Love the wine, love the cool label. This is a GSM with ready appeal, attitude and smooth manners.

Terre di Sava Luccarelli Primitivo 2012 – $13 at Winesellersdirect. Primitivo is called Zinfandel in the new world, where it often has headache-inducing alcohol levels. This one’s 14% and a wonderful example of the finer style with layers of dark fruits and a smoother texture than many Primitivos. Great value.

Mojo Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 – $13 at MyCellars. From Coonawarra, it says, but I wouldn’t have recognised it. Lovely drinking at the price though, choc full of fruit and flavour.

Partisan Mc Laren Vale Shiraz 2012 – $13 at WSD. Super Bargain. You won’t find a better Shiraz from these parts for this kind of money.

Teusner The Pleasure Garden Barossa Shiraz Grenache 2012 – $15 at ALDI . Perhaps we were a bit harsh on this red a while back, calling it a fruit bomb. Other reviewers like it much better: JPringle gives it 90 points and says ‘you could only hope all $15 wines offered this much while being so damn drinkable,’ and Huon Hooke says it’s one of the bargains of the year and gives it 92 points. Mike Bennie at the Winefront sits in between with 91.

2012 Chalk Hill Procrastinator Cabernet Franc $16 at Different Drop. A rare chance to taste a good Cab Franc, a cousin of Cab Sav that forms part of the traditional Bordeaux blends. Unlike most McLaren Vale Shiraz, it’s elegant, perfumed and seductive.


Wine by Brad Cabernet Merlot 2011$17 at Bonds Corner Fine Wine in Sydney or $18 at Wineboss. Margaret River Cabernet Merlot with attitude. Brad worked for Xanadu and Leeuwin – ‘we’re not saying he actually got his hands dirty, just saying he learnt the wise way of doing things.’ He likes surfing too. More here

Pepperjack Shiraz 2012 – $18.50 at Kemenys. Plenty of body and lots of flavour, won the Visy 2013 Great Shiraz Challenge outright. Poor man’s Grange. Bargain for lovers of big Barossa Shiraz.

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2012 – a good Yarra Valley Pinot. $150 at the winery in a mixed dozen – 6 Pinot Noir 2012 and 6 Willing Participant Dry Red.

Wickhams Road Gippsland Pinot Noir – $16 at Winestar. Made by Hoddles Creek from Gippsland fruit. More approachable and less serious than the HC Pinot, high on drinkability

Heemskerk Abel’s Tempest Pinot Noir 2011 – $19 at Kemenys. Rich, ripe, polished Pinot with charm, good colour, body and length. What more can you ask for?

Galli Tempranillo Grenache Mourvedre 2012 – $18 at Different Drop. Lots of interesting goodies here, plenty of flavour but nothing heavy-handed. Our kind of red.

Turkey Flat Butchers Block Shiraz 2012 – $18 at OurCellar. No free pizzas with this one but it doesn’t need them since it’s one of the best GSMs made in the Barossa.

Jamsheed La Syrah – $19.50 at Northbridge Cellars. Handmade from Yarra Valley and Great Western fruit, unfined and unfiltered, peppery cool climate style.

La Braccesca Sabazio Montepulciano 2010 – $20 at Winestar. ‘One of the best entry-level wines in Antinori’s portfolio,’ says Stephen Tanzer: ‘Sabazio very rarely disappoints, and always exhibits an admirable level of purity.’

Sons of Eden ‘Kennedy’ GSM 2012 – $20 at MyCellars. Made by Corey Ryan from fruit off a 50 year-old Light Pass Vineyard, planted by the Kennedy Family and tended by Leo ‘Joe’ KENNEDY who used to sell the fruit to Barossa winemakers. Haven’t tried this vintage but JH gives it 96, and GW 93.

SC Pannell Tempranillo Touriga 2013 – $22 at Kemenys. Another winery that’s not missing a beat. This interesting blend is made from fruit grown on the Fleurieu Peninsula south west of Adelaide, which tends to make more elegant reds than McLaren Vale.

Pico Maccario Lavignone Barbera D’Asti DOCG 2013 – $23 at Cloudwine. A serious charm offensive from the first sniff / sip. Choc-full of seductive fruits, seamlessly woven into a luscious wine that is perfectly poised. Can’t see much point in keeping it.

Head Red Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2013 – $23 at MyCellars. Alex Head’s reds are rapidly becoming cult wines.

4. Best ‘Cool’ Sparking Under $20

Azahara Chardonnay Pinot Noir Nv – $10 at Winestar. $9 at Perfect for a big party. Can’t believe how good this is for the price – smooth and drinkable, no rough edges.

Madame Coco Brut NV $14 at Winestar . Haven’t tried this either but everybody loves it, and the label will impress your friends.


The Lane Lois Sparkling – $20 at winedirect. A seductive bubbly from a superb Adelaide Hills winery. Love the name and the label.

5. Best ‘Cool’ Dessert Wines

De Bortoli Deen Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon 2009 375 ml – $11 at Winestar. The coolest sticky of all. Countless trophies and gold medals, rich and luscious. Noble One’s little brother. Be quick.

2009 Chateau Fayau Cadillac (375ml) – $17 at Vintage Direct (Nicks). Cadillac is on the other side of the river from Sauternes and Barsac. The wines are similar but much cheaper. This is one of the best.