2023 Major Winners

Wine of the Year

By The Tasting Team
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2023 Best Wine of the Year in Australia

Best’s Wines Foudre Ferment Riesling 2021Great Western, Victoria

96 points | Price when tasted $35

Anointing just one Wine of the Year from more than 8000 wines tasted for this edition was no trivial task. The complexity of the challenge was again compounded this year by bringing the full tasting panel in on the final decision. Every standout wine of every style from every taster was on the table to be assessed blind, rigorously discussed and voted upon.

The winner of each category was then in the running for Wine of the Year. Lining up 18 winners in one taste-off to single out one winner would have proven insurmountable, so again we first voted on our Sparkling Wine of the Year, White Wine of the Year and Red Wine of the Year. The three were then tasted off, and the panel cast its votes for Wine of the Year. It was ultimately between the white and the red, and the result could not have been closer, with only one vote between them.

The winning wine comes from Best's Wines in Victoria's Great Western, winner of our 2021 Best Value Winery. Of all the wines submitted to the 2023 Companion, riesling has been dubbed the best-value grape variety – with 33 per cent earning the value rosette – no other variety came close. So it comes as no surprise that a value-for-money riesling has taken out the title of Wine of the Year.

Winemaker Ben holding the Best’s Wines Foudre Ferment Riesling 2021Managing director, vineyard manager and fifth-generation family member Ben Thomson.

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Yangarra Estate Vineyard Old Vine Grenache 2021

The Foudre Ferment Riesling was one of the first wines Justin Purser made when he joined Best’s in 2011. The winery had just received a 2500L oval-shaped oak vat known as a foudre, which was intended to ferment chardonnay.

The riesling juice was given extended skin contact, before wild fermentation in two French oak foudre – one made by Marc Grenier in France and the other by the Schneckenleitner family in Austria – the result is flavours of lemon curd and lime pith, with crunchy minerality balancing the richness.

Justin says of the Foudre Ferment's success – like all good wine, it starts in the vineyard. “Wine only has one ingredient, essentially. If your vineyard is well managed and well nurtured and cared for, you're onto a pretty good start. It’s certainly the most important thing, that’s for sure.”

Peter Fraser holding the Yangarra Old Vine GrenacheYangarra Estate Vineyard winemaker Peter Fraser.

“Grenache is a very transparent variety in the fact that it kind of shows the place. It also shows the touch of the winemaker,” says winemaker Peter Fraser. That means gentle handling, organically and biodynamically, of course. But it’s also about giving grenache’s fragrance, tannins, brightness and prettiness a chance to showcase themselves. 

Yangarra’s old grenache vines are planted in the fine, white sands of Blewitt Springs. “Sand seems to bring out a fragrance, a purity, a tannin expression to grenache like no other,” says Peter. 

Peter, who has worked with Yangarra's vineyard manager Michael Lane for 25 years, says Michael has an incredible eye for detail. “He sets us up for so much success from a winemaking perspective.”

“Grenache has been on a real high of recent times,” says Peter. “It was once, I suppose, the ugly duckling, and it has kept shining and shining, especially in McLaren Vale...and I think the scarcity of it [gives it] a huge future in the premium wine world.”

2024 Wine of the Year

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Previous Wine of the Year recipients were Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 (2014), Xanadu Stevens Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (2015), Serrat Shiraz Viognier 2014 (2016), Best’s Thomson Family Shiraz 2014 (2017), Henschke Hill of Grace 2012 (2018), Duke’s Vineyard Magpie Hill Reserve Riesling 2017 (2019), Yangarra Estate Vineyard High Sands McLaren Vale Grenache 2016 (2020), Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hunter Valley Shiraz 2018 (2021), Yarra Yering Dry Red No. 1 2019 (2022) and Best’s Wines Foudre Ferment Riesling (2021).

The 2024 Halliday Wine Companion is available now. Secure your copy of Australia's most comprehensive wine guide here – and at all good bookstores.

This is an edited extract from the 2024 Halliday Wine Companion, with reviews by James Halliday, Campbell Mattinson, Dave Brookes, Jane Faulkner, Jeni Port, Mike Bennie, Ned Goodwin MW, Philip Rich and Shanteh Wale. Cover art by Ka Mo.

*Panel decision – score awarded by the Halliday Tasting Team at the annual Awards judging.