Australia has a $6 billion dollar wine industry, with a style for everyone from tongue-tingling Riesling to peppery Barossa Shiraz. With this abundance and variety, there is plenty of premium quality wine on the market - with the prices to match.
The 2021 Australian vintage has been described as a unicorn, with a near-perfect growing season that created high yields of high quality, as reported in the recently released Vintage Report from Wine Australia. A welcome relief after drought, catastrophic bushfires and, well, 2020 in general.
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And in 2021, the Australian wine industry is at a pivotal point while it wrestles with the fallout of a trade spat with China that has severely impacted exports. It has also been getting it in the neck from climate change; in 2019, the University of Tasmania reported that all 71 wine regions in Australia must adapt to hotter conditions. Nonetheless, while it may have built its reputation on cheap wine with cute animals on the label, it is also an industry that has a skin thicker than a Shiraz berry at veraison.
The 2021 vintage report illustrates expanding plantings of drought-tolerant Italian varieties and the Australian Government is taking China to the World Trade Organization, so at least the problems are being addressed. That said, it may be an age before we see Nero d'Avola and Carricante on a list of Aussie wallet-lighteners.
Because let us be honest, there are plenty of staunch stalwarts to compete with – Penfolds, Henschke and Chris Ringland have their roots firmly planted and the price, availability, and popularity of these provide stiff competition to newcomers.
But despite many familiar names from the last time we ran this list, the pricing is very different. An average of $1089 has dropped to an average $804 in 2021 due to changes in how wines qualify for our most-expensive lists. A lack of recent vintages has seen Seppeltsfield Para Vintage Tawny drop off the list, for example, although that was slightly misleading anyway – its $6400 global average bottle price is based on a 750ml serving and it only appears in 100ml formats.
However, despite these changes, there have been some welcome shifts, too. The increase in average critic score from 93.3 to 94.7 this year illustrates no compromise in quality.The World's Most Expensive Australian Wines on Wine-Searcher:
|Wine Name||Score||Ave Price|
|Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz||96||$700|
|Chris Ringland - Three Rivers Dry Grown Shiraz||92||$671|
|Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir||94||$653|
|Torbreck The Laird Shiraz||96||$653|
|Penfolds Grange Bin 95||96||$631|
|Powell & Son Kraehe Marananga Shiraz||96||$520|
|Powell & Son Steinert Flaxman's Shiraz||95||$513|
|Hundred Acre Deep Time Ancient Way Vineyard Summer's Block Shiraz||93||$434|
|Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon||94||$432|
|Two Hands Wines My Hands Shiraz||96||$406|
It will surprise no one that Penfolds Grange secured a top 10 position of the lavish Aussie offerings (although not many would have predicted a fifth-place finish). With the inaugural 1951 vintage recently fetching AUD$142,131 at auction, investing a mere $631 today seems palatable, particularly to the patient investors among us.
This is the first time we welcome Powell & Son to the fold. With an inaugural vintage in 2014, the newcomer sits eagerly two and three spots below Torbreck’s The Laird, the company that Dave Powell of Powell & Son founded. After a very public ousting in 2013 following a fallout with investor Pete Kight, the appearance of these two side by side is quite captivating.
Worth noting is that only cool-climate variety on the list is the Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir. As of 2020, new co-owner and Singaporean businessman Soo Hoo Khoon Peng told the Financial Review that "bringing this brand to a global stage is what we envision. [Becoming] the DRC [Domaine de la Romanée-Conti] of the southern hemisphere eventually is our aim". Big words, not least considering Gippsland’s current La Tache is a patchy growth on a viticulturist’s top lip.
To finish, this is the first time an Aussie offering from the St. Helena-based, Hundred Acre has made the list. Of the many cult winemakers in Napa Valley, Jayson Woodbridge is one of the most outspoken and wildly successful. If you're blessed to be on the mailing list and have $602 to spare, be ready upon release – the 2021 vintage in Australia sounds particularly promising.