The Top 12 Australian Wines of 2020 under $25
Like my Top 12 Australian Wines of 2020, my Top 12 under $25 is not a curated list, but simply my top-scoring wines of the year under $25. By glorious fortune, it just happens to fall out that this is a wonderfully diverse line up this year, with representation of sauvignon blanc, shiraz, riesling, merlot, rosé, sparkling, sparkling shiraz and a grenache blend. The notable omissions are chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, both of which enjoy disproportionate representation in my Top 12 Australian Wines of 2020 – it pays to spend more on these varieties.
I surprised myself that sauvignon blanc is the surprise star under $25 this year. This is testimony entirely to the stunning 2020 season in the Adelaide Hills. Sentiment plays nothing in my wine scoring, but the good folk of the Hills sure deserve a stunning vintage after the year they’ve had! And it’s not just sauvignon – it turns out that the Adelaide Hills makes up more than half of this list, thanks most of all to Mike Press Wines, with four inclusions! If you win the bargain award every year, it means you’re underpriced, right?!
Mike Press Wines Jimmy’s Block Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Shiraz 2018
$16 | Adelaide Hills | 14.7 % alcohol | Screw Cap
My Australian Wine of the Year 2020 under $25 is Mike Press Wines Jimmy’s Block Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Shiraz 2018. After 20 years in the ground, it was only a matter of time before Mike Press singled out his favourite block, egged on by his son and vineyard manager, Jimmy. On paper it’s identical to the beloved estate shiraz of the same season, but the wine projects an altogether different and much more serious and polished mood. Grand testimony to the distinctiveness even of blocks within the same vineyard, this wine is much closer in style and shape to Mike Press’ fabled shiraz prior to its evolution to a more approachable style since 2016. And it’s more than that, too. A medium, vibrant purple hue, it’s built around a fantastic and focused singularity of satsuma plum, blackberry and black cherry fruit, confidently supported by the dark chocolate and fine-grained tannins of 12 months maturation in American oak barrels. Vibrant acidity, fabulous fruit and beautifully deployed tannins unite on a finish of profound line and length. Ignore the playful label and ludicrously low price, because this is a monumental wine and one of the greatest yet to emerge from this beloved estate.
Irvine Spring Hill Eden Valley Riesling 2020
$24 | Eden Valley | 12.2 % alcohol | Screw Cap
My Australian White of the Year under $25 is Irvine Spring Hill Eden Valley Riesling 2020. This was a vintage of low-yielding, drought-induced concentration, infused with tremendous promise thanks to the acid retention of cold nights. In seasons like this, fine-tuned phenolic control is tricky at this level of concentration in riesling, calling for a steady hand in the vines and the winery. Endowed with amiable flesh and spice while upholding impressive tension and zest, this is an impeccably assembled riesling at a fantastic price. Picked at precisely the right instant, shot with exact lime and granny smith apple fruit.
Ninth Island Tasmania Rosé NV
$25 | Tasmania | 12.5 % alcohol | Cork
My Australian Sparkling of the Year under $25 is Ninth Island Tasmania Rosé NV. The smartest bargain sparkling rosé is back on form in the 2019 base. There’s nothing else within miles of this price with such elegance, character, texture and polish. Piper’s River pinot assumes a magnificent lead (61%) in signature rose petal, strawberry hull and raspberry, with precise balance of flesh and tension. Chardonnay (24%) builds focus, the balance meunier for subtle flesh and spice. Acidity, dosage and phenolics marry seamlessly with the texture that only méthode traditionnelle can produce. I love this cuvée. Look for ’19NIRO’ in the bottling code near the shoulder to indicate the 2019 base.
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020
$12 | Adelaide Hills | 13.7 % alcohol | Screw Cap
A pretty, pale straw green hue heralds a sauvignon bursting with flavour, character and precision. In fruit concentration, perfectly integrated yet tense acid drive and unadulterated persistence, this is hands-down the finest under this label yet. It’s loaded with every sauvignon signature in the book: gooseberries, white nectarines, passionfruit, lemons, lantana. If this were a year in which wine shows were functional, Mike Press would have been in all manner of trouble with his peers because his $12 sensation would surely have trumped every sauvignon class going. Don’t miss it.
Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz NV
$23 | Langhorne Creek | 13.5 % alcohol | DIAM
Now boasting a distinctive bright red label and neck foil, under the surface this is still the same blend that has won a beloved place among the most legendary of Australia’s bargain sparkling reds. All the plush, spicy mulberry and blackberry fruits of Langhorne Creek are enveloped into its folds, laced with pepper and a wonderful greengage tang. Dark chocolate oak and the deep, spicy fruit cake of old reserves lend intrigue without ever interrupting its consummate primary focus. Impeccably managed, fine tannins, lively acidity and just the right level of dosage unite harmoniously on a finish of line, length and integrity completely unexpected at this price. It’s just a downright delicious drink – and begs the question of why there aren’t more sparkling reds made in Langhorne Creek.
Wirra Wirra The Lost Watch Riesling Hand-Picked Adelaide Hills 2020
$25 | Adelaide Hills | 13% alcohol | Screw Cap
All the generosity of a concentrated, low-yielding harvest heightens both fruit intensity and the tension of cool, crystalline Adelaide Hills acidity, making this an outstanding expression of one of the Hills’ best value rieslings. Classic lily fragrance and kaffir lime, lemon and granny smith apple fruit are heightened by generous layers of spice and endearing flesh.
Laughing Jack Jack’s Barossa Valley GSM 2018
$25 | Barossa Valley | 14.5 % alcohol | Screw Cap
Complex, complete and crafted. 58 year old vines bring a distinctly savoury edge to grenache (62% of the blend), amplified by mourvèdre (13%, the balance shiraz) playing a stronger role than its respresentation suggests. Firm, fine, mineral tannins, tomato tones and dried herbs create a distinctly classical and distinguished mood and promise medium-term potential.
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Merlot 2018
$13 | Adelaide Hills | 14.1 % alcohol | Screw Cap
Who would have thought that a straight merlot would win a place in my bargain dozen of the year? Well, here it is! In these days of ever warmer seasons, cooler sites are coming into their own, and this was exemplified in the warm summer of 2018 across South Australia. Merlot had been thriving in Mike Press’ vineyard for 20 years in that year, and this is the finest he’s made yet. Lifted violet fragrance and crunchy blackcurrant fruit define varietal identity rarely found at any price in Australian merlot, let alone at the princely sum of $13. It’s exactingly medium-bodied, a celebration of great fruit precision, elegantly and sensitively backed by 12 months maturation in a mix of American and French oak barrels. Structure is crafted as much on vibrant Adelaide Hills acidity as it is on medium-grained tannins, uniting to promise a tremendous future in the cellar.
Mike Press Wines Adelaide Hills Single Vineyard Shiraz 2018
$13 | Adelaide Hills | 14.7 % alcohol | Screw Cap
Mike Press’ shiraz vines celebrated their 20th birthday in 2018, and put on quite a show in celebration. A cool March provided reprieve to a warm end to summer, facilitating long, slow ripening and great flavour development. An impressive hue of medium, vibrant purple announces a flamboyant style that rejoices in enticingly glossy black and red fruits of all kinds, underlined by the dark chocolate of 12 months in American oak barrels. Mike Press has strategically morphed this label into a more approachable style since the 2016 vintage, accenting juicy fruit and downplaying oak and tannins. It works to compelling effect here, thanks to the vital fourth ingredient in this equation: the tension of Adelaide Hills acidity that brings structure and integrity of its own.
Turkey Flat Rosé 2020
$24 | Barossa Valley | 12.5% alcohol | Screw Cap
After the uber-refined 2019, the new vintage of this famous label is more flamboyant and generous than ever, brimming with all of the ripe wild strawberries and spice that characterises Barossa grenache. It frames this in a pretty, pale salmon hue, refreshing rose petal perfume and energetic acid drive, making for a style at once eminently classy and unashamedly party friendly.
Silver Lining Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020
$25 | Adelaide Hills | 12.5% alcohol | Screw Cap
A pretty, precise and graceful expression of Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, testimony to the fanatical approach of Marty Edwards and his wealth of experience in his former role taking The Lane Vineyard to lofty heights. Granny smith apple, lantana and lime present precise varietal detail, carried by cool Adelaide Hills acidity on a crunchy and streamlined finish.
Wirra Wirra Hiding Champion Sauvignon Blanc Select Vineyards Adelaide Hills 2020
$25 | Adelaide Hills | 13% alcohol | Screw Cap
Some of the Adelaide Hills’ cooler vineyard high in the Lenswood and Piccadilly Valley subregions make for a particularly graceful and enticing take on this powerful, low-yielding season. The result is fragrant, exact, and refreshingly tense.