Introducing my Australian and New Zealand Wines of the Year 2017.
Buying wine is not what it used to be. Never have wine lovers been taunted by such an enormous selection of choice. Australia’s 2,500 wineries and New Zealand’s 800 are making more labels than ever before. The big retailers are disguising their own labels under countless pseudo brands. And imports have never been more diverse nor more prolific. For the innocent shopper simply looking for a great bottle at the right price, it’s a veritable minefield out there.
Australia drinks more than 700 million bottles of wine every year, and among these there are more varieties, more brands and more regions to get your head around than ever. Inevitably, growing diversity sadly means there are more mediocre wines to avoid.
And yet in the midst of this maelstrom the truly great wines have never shone brighter. Grand estates small and large, fastidiously tending dramatic terroirs; resilient folk toiling season after season, outfacing the ever more dramatic extremes of this great south land, painstakingly coaxing their fragile fruits into remarkable wines.
It is to the very finest of these that this report is dedicated, a hand-picked selection of just 150 heroes from the thousands of wines I’ve tasted over the past year. This report does not pretend to be exhaustive. You don’t need to be concerned with the thousands of also-rans when you can be drinking the best at every price.
Australia is a price-sensitive market and most of us know exactly what we want to spend, so I’ve ordered my selection accordingly, making it easier than ever for you to quickly zone in on just the right wine for your budget and your occasion. For a full alphabetical listing, see the index at the end.
For the first year ever, I have not recommended any wines under $10. Cost of production in Australia and New Zealand increasingly dictate that our future as wine-producing countries must be founded on premium wine production. There are great wines out there for $15. There are no great wines under $10. Sorry. And, well, you’ve taken the time to read the introduction to a wine report, so you clearly care about what you drink! And for the record, you will find wines in this list discounted as low as $11 right now.
My line up is unashamedly biased toward the great varieties of the wine world: shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and chardonnay. Not by design, but simply because these wines meet the grade to be worthy of your table this year. Shiraz is Australia’s strongest suit again this year, with cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay in second and third places. Pinot noir is New Zealand’s hero, snaring more than three-quarters of my pinot highlights. Other varieties and controversial styles like natural wines are fads worthy of a cursory glance, but the greatest wines of the world are and will always be founded on classic varietals on great terroirs.
I’ve also assembled for you plenty of sparklings along the way, because these are what you should be drinking when you’re not shelling our for champagne. For a detailed analysis of 500 Australian sparklings, see my Australian Sparkling Report 2017.
I’m pleased to offer this 42 page report and my Sparkling Report free of charge and I welcome you to download them and to reproduce, forward and share them ad nauseam. I’ve been privileged to massively successful back-to-back years in the world of wine communication, and this is another little way for me to give something back to the wine lovers, winemakers, wholesalers and retailers who so generously support my writing, events, tours and television.
Here’s to the top Australian and New Zealand wines of the year!