The stand-out bargain of 2012: de Bortoli Deen Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon 2008


The good news is that you can still buy it in 2013

The Christmas and New Year break is a good time to revisit some of the top wines on our lists to make sure we got our recommendations right. The result is a short short list of wines we enjoyed and confirmed as outstanding bargains.

de Bortoli Deen Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon 2008

At $10.45 a half bottle at Dan M’s, my advice is: back up the ute. You won’t find a better sticky than this for less than $20. The colour is mid gold, the nose promises oranges and apricots, honey and cream. The palate delivers on the promise in a rich and luscious package, so full of flavor you don’t really need a dessert with it. It’s not the most complex of dessert wines but it’s 5 years old and ready to enjoy. The wine has won four trophies and seven gold medals. Gets 8.5 out of 10 from me (96).

There are other bargains that are still out there waiting to be snapped up – don’t ask me how come.


De Bortoli

Best wines of 2012

The best wines from a great year

In my previous post on Chateau Chunder Beating Burgundy at it’s own game, I talked about the lucky country we live in. Lucky in that we can buy wines of real quality for twenty dollars give or take a couple, wines that are virtually hand-made made by some of our best winemakers from individual vineyards. Hard to believe, I know.

A few of my followers wrote to me suggesting I do piece summarizing these bargains. Given that it’s November, I thought a Best Wines of the Year post was the best way of doing that. I’ve included the latest updates, and have stuck to our $25 ceiling but haven’t divided the wines into 10/15 or 20 dollar subgroups. You can access those lists via the Most Popular Posts in the sidebar on the right.

Where wines are no longer available, I’ve made that very clear. I’ve also flagged those that are in short supply.

Brass Band 17 Scoring

9 – an outstanding wine, a great example of its style and origin

8 – a fine wine that delivers more than you’d exepct

7 – a good, enjoyable wine punching above its price

6 – a solid wine you can rely on at any time

5 – a decent, well-made wine with some authentic flavour


The Short List

Best Sauvignon Blanc: Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Best Riesling: O’Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2012

Best Chardonnay: Mountadam High Eden Chardonnay 2010

Best Semillon: Tyrrells HVD Semillon 2006

Best Gewuerztraminer: Huia Gewuerztraminer 2009


Best Pinot Noir: TarraWarra Pinot Noir 2010

Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Best Cabernet Merlot: Amberley Secret Lane Cabernet Merlot 2010

Best Shiraz: Teusner The Riebke Shiraz 2010

Best GSM: Teusner Avatar 2010


Best Rose: Turkey Flat

Best Bubbly: Pelorus NV

Best Sticky:  Westend 3 Bridges Golden Mist Botrytis 2010

Best Fortified: Bethany Old Quarry Fronti


The full List

Best Whites of 2012

Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $13, Kemenys – score: 7

Herbaceous, flinty gooseberry style. Flavour, depth and length. The 2011 is now perfect drinking. Summer drinking, serious bargain.

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – $23.50, WineSnob – score: 8+

An object lesson to all those winemakers in Marlborough who’ve lost it. It’s expensive but worth the money, it’s a 2010 but still going strong

Lawson Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – $17, Winestar –score: 8

A radical departure from the sweet & sour bastard Marlborough style, lean and acid, herbaceous and complex. Still evolving. Bargain.

Huia Gewuerztraminer 2009 $23 at 1st Choice – score 8+  

I like Gewurz, and the Kiwis make great examples. This is one of the best. 3 years old and ready to drink. Bath powder and hair oil on the nose, lychees and Turkish Delight on the palate, all held together by a long finish. Big and rich savoury style

Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2012 – $14.20, Dan M – score: 9

A vibrant Riesling from a great vintage, floral, delicate, wonderful length. Like most 2012 Rieslings from Clare, it’s enjoyable already but will improve for 5-8 years. Bargain

Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2011/2012 – $18, Dan M, score: 9

An old favourite. The style is a little fuller and more flavorsome than most Clare Rieslings, which I really like. The 2012 is about to hit the shelves. It will be as good or better. Buying direct from the winery is an option.

O’Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2012 – $17, Dan M – score: 9 +

Perhaps the finest of the 2012 Rieslings from Watervale I’ve tasted so far. Typical floral, delicate fruit  plus a touch of extra finesse and length.

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2012 – $15, Kemenys – score: 9

Another great 2012 Riesling at a bargain price, proving that it was a great year in Eden Valley as well. Almost Germanic delicacy to the fruit, lovely length typical of the area. Ridiculous value.

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2006, Eden Valley – $19, Dan M Cellar Release – score: 9 +

Dan M now does what Lindemans used to do long ago. Brilliant wine with more years to go, very fair price if you like old Rieslings. Sadly, no longer available.

Balmoral Spring 024 Diamond Valley Blue Label Chardonnay 2006 – $18, Dan M’s – score: 8 +

It’s rare to find a six-year old Chardy, and this one’s affordable as well. More nutty and oaky than fruity and crisp, as you’d expect at this age. o longer available,

Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2011 – $19, Winestar, MyCellars – score: 9 –

As good as some Chardys twice its price, oak a little obvious right now but the fruit is there to add plenty of life. Give it another year or two.

Mountadam High Eden Chardonnay 2010, $25, Winestar score: 9 +

Stunning, complex, classy, rich and full, no grapefruit here, just white peaches and cashews and classy oak that’s well integrated. Punches way above its price. Beat the best Australian Chardonnays in a tasting run by Andrew Jefford, Anthony Rose and Jancis Robinson (The World of Fine Wine). Back up the ute. I can’t believe this is still available. (Update: it is but at a higher price from MyCellars)

July 2012-2 103 Tyrrells HVD Semillon 2006 – $24, Kemenys – gets 96/97 from just about everybody

I’m not a great fan of modern Hunter Valley Semillon, but to show my generosity I’ve included a wine everyone else thinks is a corker. Six years old but still needs years in the cellar.  

Best Reds of 2012

TarraWarra Pinot Noir 2010 – $19, 1st Choice Liquor – score: 8 +

Best current release Pinot Noir under $25 in my view. There’s good colour, a Burgundian nose, authentic flavour and lfine length. Unlike most Pinots in this price range, it will improve for another year or two.

42° South Pinot Noir 2008 – $22, Dan M’s – score: 8 +

From Frogmore Creek in Tassie this is Burgundian from its nose to its toes. Lovely drinking now but no longer available. The 2009 is not quite in the same class. 

Hidden Label Margaret River Cabernet 2009 – $11, Kemenys – score: 7 +

This is Capel Vale’s $18 Regional Selection Margaret River Cabernet under a Hidden label. Gets 94 from JH and Andrew Graham at ozwinereview. I’m not quite that keen but it’s terrific value for money. Medium bodied, elegant, great bargain for everyday drinking.

Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – no longer available.

The best Wynns black label in a long time, a classic example of the elegant, restrained Coonawarra style, with less overt ripness and more refinement than usual. At one point you could buy this wine for as little as $19.

Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – $25, Kemenys – score: 9 –

Not exactly old style Coonawarra Cabernet – richer, riper, more voluptuous. 14.5%. If you like that style, this is a great red. If you’re not fussed about labels, buy the Hidden Label Coonawarra Cabernet 2010 for $18 instead.

Amberley Secret Lane Cabernet Merlot 2010– no longer available – score: 9

This was the red bargain of the year – classy, tasty, elegant, well-made Margaret River Cabernet Merlot for $13 a bottle. Hard to believe.

Woodlands Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2009no longer available

Great style, brooding complexity with depth and length – Pomerol at a bargain price. 13.5% No longer available, and the 2010 isn’t quite at the same level in my view.

Thorn Clarke Quartage 2009 – no longer available

This wine is a  blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot from Eden Valley. Spends over 12 months in French and American oak, offers opulent cassis and blackberry fruit in a medium body. Great depth and length with a long  finish that holds it all together. The 2010 offers similar fruit without the same length and depth.14%.

Nugan Estate Alcira Vineyard Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – $18, Kemenys – score: 8 +

An impressive Cabernet with lovely cassis fruit and fine French oak, 4 years old and lovely drinking but will develop for a few more years. 95 from JH

Devils Lair Hidden Cave Cabernet Shiraz 2010 – $19, 1St Choice – score: 8 +

As good as it gets – pristine fruit, gentle oak, perfect balance, polished, medium bodied, lots of goodies in perfect harmony. You just want to drink more of it. Very classy for a commercial red made in fair volumes. 14%. Be quick – the 2011 is rolling in.

Balmoral Spring 027 St Hallet Shiraz 2010 – $11, Dan M’s

A Barossa Shiraz at the elegant end of the spectrum, great balance, real sleeper. Give it time to breathe and open up. 13.5%

Teusner The Independent Shiraz Mataro 2010 – $18, MyCellars – score: 9 –

A 50/50 blend sourced from ancient vines in the Northern Barossa – Ebenezer, Kalimna and Moppa. A top example of this style, full of red fruits  and spices – how does Kym Teusner do it for the money? 14.5% but hides it well. Don’t keep this too long.

Teusner The Riebke Shiraz 2010 – $19, Winestar – score: 9

Sourced from ancient vines off a single vineyard owned by the Riebke brothers. Enormous concentration, depth and richness. 14.5%. Same comment and question as above. Will last many years. Unbelievable value.

Teusner Avatar 2010 – $24.95, Kemenys or MyCellars – score: 9 +

As good as Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre gets, and not over-the-top big but with plenty of goodies. Rich fruit in the plum spectrum with hints of raspberries. Complexity, balance, silky tannins, lovely mouthfeel. Ridiculous value. 14.5%

Balmoral Spring 036 Please note: There are 3 Teusner wines on this list because they deserve to be here. These are exceptional wines at ridiculous prices and, if haven’t already, it’s time to back up the ute and grab the last of the exceptional 2010 vintage.

Other styles

Turkey Flat Grenache Rose 2011 –  $17, Kemenys – score: 7+

A standard bearer for quality Rose. Not my cup of tea but the young ones love it.

Cloudy Bay Pelorus NV – $25, Winestar – score: 9 –

At last a bubbly that isn’t carbonated lemon and apple juice. This is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes sourced from the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, NZ. Full-bodied, rich and creamy, nutty and yeasty, mature and complex. You just want to drink more of it. Terrific bargain, better than many cheap champagnes.

Westend 3 Bridges Golden Mist Botrytis 2010 375ml – $19, Kemenys – score: 8 +

Seriously rich dessert wine offering apricot and orange marmalade flavours. Decadent stuff, better wine than recent Noble Ones and better value.

Bethany Old Quarry Fronti – $20 at Dan M’s – score: 8+ 

A lovely old Frontignac / Muscat and Pedro Ximines  from the Barossa. Quite clean and elegant. Very morish. Somehwere between an Oloroso Sherry and a  Muscat.

August 2012 038Kim

James Halliday’s Top 100 wines of 2012

Most of the whites under $20 are not wines I would’ve picked, and here’s why:

  1. Some of them are very hard to find
  2. Some are not good enough by James’ own scores
  3. Some obvious bargains are missing in action

Looks like James asked for wines to be sent in for this competition, rather than using existing reviews, and we have no idea which wines were not submitted / reviewed. Also, he has picked his best wines in different varietal groups, a trap in my view. Finding a good Pinot Gris for less than $20 is just as hard a finding decent Pinot Noir for that money, so why bother? Why not list more Rieslings, which are underrated? The three 2012 Rieslings below are better whites than almost all the wines listed here:

Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2012 ($15)

Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2012 ($15)

O’Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2012 ($18)

And if we must have Sauvignon Blanc and SB/Semillon blends, why are there no wines from Margaret River here? Those below are far superior to Sacred Hill, Oxford Landing and Yarran.

Forrester Estate Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – 93 points, JH, $16

Voyager Estate Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – 91 JH, 93 Winefront, 94 Nick, $19

Fraser Gallop Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 201196 points from JH, $18


James’ best whites under $20

BackVintage Mt Barker Riesling 2011 (92)

Only place I can find this is obscure online merchant Backvintage and the winery

Wilson Vineyard Watervale Riesling 2012 (95)

Nicks in Melbourne ($20) and the winery are the only sources. Worth chasing though.

Peter Lehmann Portrait Eden Valley Riesling Dry 2012 (94)

Don’t know this vintage but 11% alcohol suggests it follows the old formula of picking the fruit very early to preserve freshness. Hasn’t worked for me in the past.

Chateau Francois Pokolbin Semillon 2006 (94)

Winery only

McGuigan Bin Series No. 9000 Hunter Valley Semillon 2012 (93)

Don’t know it

De Bortoli Sacred Hill Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (89)

Why would you include an 89 point wine on any BEST list? This is a $5 wine. I tried a white with this label once and found it undrinkable.

Yarran Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012 (91)

Another Riverina wine, $10, most likely vin ordinaire and very hard to find

Nannup Ridge Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (93)

Winery only – located in W.A., between Busselton and Pemberton

Oxford Landing Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (89)

Same comment as for the Sacred Hill. The wines under this label are BLAND

Zoo for blog 5
Teusner Woodside Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (94)

I’m a big fan of Teusner wines, good to see a white here even if it didn’t convince me

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2011 (93)

This is not a favourite label of mine

Echelon The Armchair Critic Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2011

I never understood the hype about this wine, tried it several times

Tyrrell’s Old Winery Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2012 (90)

The whites I’ve tasted under this label have been singularly underwhelming. Again, why include a 90 point wine here?

Hoddles Creek Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2011 (94)

A much better Chardonnay than the Armchair Critic, at a similar price ($19)

Tahbilk Marsanne 2012 (91)

One for laying down. The score will go up as the wine puts on some age

Yelland & Papps Delight Barossa Valley Vermentino 2012 (94)

Very hard to find

Jacob’s Creek Pinot Grigio 2012 (89)

Another 89 pointer – why? Given past performance, I’d avoid wines under this label

Yarran Pinot Grigio 2012 (89)

Ditto, and hard to find

McPherson Verdelho 2012 (89)

Same again


Primo Estate La Biondina Colombard 2012 (91)

Gets 87 points from Mattinson at Winefront, pretty poor for a $16 wine

Img500e90af077ae James’ Best reds under $20

This list makes more sense on the whole than the whites under $20, but a lot of these wines are hard if not impossible to find. There are also some obvious best Reds under $20 missing:

Foxey’s Hangout Red Fox Pinot Noir 2010 ($19)

Teusner The Independent Shiraz Mataro 2010 ($18)

Mt Langi Billi Billi Shiraz 2009 ($13) 94 points, JH

Devils Lair Hidden Cave Cabernet Shiraz 2010 ($16)

Nugan Estate Alcira Vineyard Coonawarra Cab Sav 2008 ($18), 95 points, JH

Forester Estate Cabernet Merlot 2009 ($16)

Leconfield Coonawarra Merlot 2010 ($20)

James’ best reds under $20

Turkey Flat Rose 2012 (94)

Wirra Wirra Mrs Wigley McLaren Vale Grenache Rose 2012 (93)

No quibble with these two

BackVintage Margaret River Shiraz 2009 (90)

Impossible to find. And what’s a 90 point wine doing here?

Brygon Reserve Nostalgia Wines Flying High Margaret River Shiraz 2009 (95)

Once again, the vineyard is the only source I can find. However, the vineyard doesn’t seem to sell wine direct (I just spent 10 minutes running around the website). This outfit makes wine under some 60 different labels. Work that one out!

Ferngrove Leaping Lizard Shiraz 2011 (94)

The only place that sells it is Cracka, that silly site that clogs up your search engine

Echelon Zeppelin Single Vineyard Barossa Valley Shiraz 2010 (94)

No quibbles. Big cuddly Barossa red.

Echelon Zeppelin Northern Barossa Valley Grenache (94)

No quibbles, but watch how much of it you drink (15%)

Yarran Leopardwood Heathcote Shiraz 2010 (94)

Don’t know the wine. A couple of places sell it online

Zonte’s Footstep Lake Doctor Single Site Langhorne Creek Shiraz Viognier 2010 (94)

Don’t know the wine, but the winery has a good reputation. The website says: ‘Shiraz Viognier smells like a ladies handbag and tastes like a man’s wallet. Drink with anything off the BBQ, and a second glass.’ Doesn’t exactly sound applealing, does it? Available from Cracka or the winery.

Nepenthe Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2010 (94)

Winery has a good reputation. Another big red (14.5)

Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz 2010 (94)

Good but ripe and robust Clare Valley Shiraz (14.5%)

Vasse Felix Classic Dry Red Margaret River Shiraz Cabernet 2010 (94)

Another big red. 14.5% seems to be the new norm here.

Houghton Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (91)

A lighter red but, on past form, I doubt that this is worth the effort

Hay Shed Hill Pitchfork Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2010 (94)

Last year’s Pitchfork was a pretty superficial effort

Ingoldby McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (94)

There are better reds than this out there for less than $20

Pfeiffer Carlyle Cabernet Merlot 2010 (94)

Winery seems the only source of supply

Mike Press Single Vineyard Adelaide Hills Merlot 2010 (92)

I’ve been unimpressed with some of the wines under this label, but don’t know this one

Romney Park Three Guineas Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir 2010 (92)

Can’t even find the vineyard online, let alone a merchant who sells these wines

Balnaves of Coonawarra The Blend 2010 (95)

This is a decent wine for $18, although I’d rate it more like 92/93

Brygon Reserve Third Wheel Reserve Margaret River Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2009 (95)

Very difficult to buy (see note above).


James’ best whites over $20

There are few surprises on this list. Missing is the Mountadam Chardonnay 2010, and Tarrawarra and Hoddles Creek Reserve Chardies, and Paulett’s Antonia Riesling and Jim Barry Florita and a few more I can’t think of right away. There’s no Parringa Chardonnay or Kooyong or Oakridge or Port Philip Estate, despite all the praise James has heaped upon these wineries recently.

Bellarmine Pemberton Riesling Select 2012

Bannockburn Vineyards Geelong Chardonnay 2010

Castle Rock Estate Great Southern Riesling 2012

Peter Lehmann Margaret Barossa Semillon 2007

Larry Cherubino Cherubino Porongurup Riesling 2012

Lethbridge Geelong Pinot Gris 2011

Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2006