It’s been a tough year for the Australian wine industry, but Australian wine is still a dream come true.
Life has never been easy for Australian winemakers, but that hasn’t stopped them from producing some of the most luxurious wines in the world.
2023 saw three consecutive La Niña events, the infamous wet and rainy weather pattern. Continued spring rains have caused difficult conditions in many areas, including flooding. In the worst-hit areas, cool, wet conditions continued into summer, delaying ripening and making mold management difficult.
Inventory pressures at wineries didn’t help either. More than 2.8 billion bottles of wine are reportedly stuck in tanks across the country thanks to the trade dispute with China. For select vignerons that do not have empty tanks, the only option is to leave the fruit to rot. His time in the vineyard is the harsh end of a grueling 12 months of yakka.
With cautious optimism, in early October China announced a long-awaited review of the crippling 200% tariffs that were the direct cause of this surplus. Australia has now wholeheartedly agreed to suspend action at the World Trade Organization as a trade-off.
The aforementioned review will reportedly take up to five months, with the final result consistent with a Southern Hemisphere vintage of 2024. It’s a welcome first step for wineries with full tanks and no market to sell to, but a complete change in direction from the Chinese government is still up in the air.
However, we Australians are known for our laid-back and easy-going personalities. Everyone starts out as “bros” and quickly graduates to personal nicknames. Because of this familiarity and relaxed friendliness, we all get to know each other fairly quickly. From Penfolds to Seppeltsfield to Henschke, the best Australian wines are full of familiar names.
Wine-Searcher’s world’s best Australian wines:
Fortified wine has long been hailed as the hero who started Australia’s wine industry, dominating the local market from the 1860s to the 1980s. At its peak in the early 1950s, fortified wine accounted for 86 per cent of Australia’s wine production. Of course, this was before big, bold Shiraz, oaky Chardonnay and, ultimately, cheap and cheerful goonbags took center stage. However, despite no longer being the style of the day, Fortified’s reputation seems to hold firm, with Penfold’s 50 Year Rare, Seppeltsfield’s Para Vintage and Para Liquor Vintage his Tawny his wines respectively. I ranked him 3rd, 8th and 9th.
The parallels in timing between the rise and fall of fortified wine and the birth and success of Penfolds Grange, Australia’s finest wine, are uncanny. The first vintage of Grunge was produced in 1951, when fortification was king. It took more than a decade for Max Schubert’s experimental wines to be accepted by the Penfolds board. However, by the 1980s, just as fortified wines had fallen out of favor, Grange was firmly established in the market as a popular collector’s item.
The grunge ‘halo’ effect is evident with Penfolds wines coming in second, third and seventh place. Australia’s finest wines have propelled the entire Penfolds collection into highly acclaimed and highly sought after markets. Penfolds has consistently placed multiple wines within the top 10 of Australia’s best wines each year from 2019 to 2022.
Like Grange, Henschke’s first vintage, Hill of Grace, was also produced in the 1950s. Again, it took him nearly 30 years to reach a position of prominence. Now his sixth generation of the Henschke family produces a collection of single-vineyard Shiraz wines, but it is always Hill of Grace that reaches the highest acclaim.
Finally, a special mention should be made of the Giaconda Estate Chardonnay. Ranked number 5 among Australian wines, it is the only white variety and the only wine produced outside of Australia’s main wine state, South Australia.
Good for you, buddy.
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