I’ve just come back from several days in Griffith, the heart of NSW’s largest wine region (the Riverina), where I spent plenty of time wading through a mix of very ordinary (cheap) wines, interspersed with a few – relatively expensive – highlights.
In amongst all this, it was a brief stop at the De Bortoli cellar door that reminded exactly what the Riverina does best – that is, to make very good wines for minimal dollars. What’s more, the whole experience just further highlighted how satisfying it is to find wines that are inexpensive AND high quality.
So, in response, I’ve decided to setup a revolving (updated every month or so) list of the wines that I personally think are the best under $20 (which I’m calling inexpensive, feel free to disagree and comment below) that I have tried this year (restricted only to current vintages that I’ve sampled, so no wines included based on reputation).
The aim here is to simply highlight any wine that sells for <$20 that I would enjoy having in my glass on a regular occasion, purely because ‘value wines’ such as these deserve the extra attention. Some of the wines below have been published elsewhere on the site, if so the name will link back to the original tasting note. The wines: Elderton Eden Valley Riesling 2009 (Eden Valley, SA) $19
Showed great form in a three way Eden Valley death match a few months back, this is pure Eden Valley Riesling in the green and slatey style. Lovely unforced acidity too.
Pewsey Vale Riesling 2009 (Eden Valley, SA) $18
Old Pewsey turns up on many a value wine list, as few can match it for consistency of style and quality. This vintage of Pewsey Vale Riesling is a teensy bit softer and more forward than those from the last few years, but it’s unquestionably Eden Valley and seriously fresh.
Kurtz ‘Boundary Row’ GSM 2006 (Barossa Valley, SA) $18
I have banged on at length about this wine and I’m utterly unapologetic about that. Rich yet savoury with carefully balanced oak, a trademark GSM charcuterie meatiness and a chewy finish. Hearty, solid Barossan fare.
Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Goulburn Valley, Vic) $19
In truth I should probably include the Shiraz too, but I marginally prefer this Cabernet so it wins a spot. What I like most about this Tahbilk red is the tannins. More specifically, it has some. Far too many Australian Cabernets are deficient in tannin, which becomes glaringly obvious when placed in a global Cabernet context. Shortens their lifespans too. This, however, is just built for the cellar – in fact, the only criticism might be that it is so un-showy that not everyone will immediately love it. Not me.
Wine By Brad Cabernet Merlot 2008 (Margaret River, WA) $15
The typical $15 Cabernet Merlot neither comes from Margaret River nor is it as refreshing as this. The Wine By Brad Cabernet Merlot is hardly a blockbuster, but it is a light, savoury, happily varietal wine with loads of appeal. Not for the cellar, but known to empty at speed with Spag Boll.
De Bortoli Deen Botrytis Semillon 2007 (Riverina, NSW) $14
When tried next to it’s famous elder brother (Noble One) this is so seriously close in terms of style and structure that it defies belief. It’s a baby Noble One, no question about it, lacking only the marmaladey intensity (and a fraction less sugar). What I most like is the lemon toffee character on the (refreshing) finish – which is a pure (desirable) Sauternes character if ever there was one. Delicious.