Great Value Australia

A Sizzling Selection of Summer Wines
Great Value Australia
Last week, we put forward a selection of great-value imports to kick off the year—brilliant wines for immediate enjoyment, priced to share readily. This week, we offer six Australian wines that fit the same brief.

We’re blessed to live in a country where so many conscientious producers make exciting wines at prices that belie their quality. We start with a super Semillon from Andrew Thomas, a master of the art. Fordwich Hill’s riper style lends itself perfectly to early drinking.

Then, we turn to one of the country’s Pinot Gris flag-bearers: Quealy. Tussie Mussie Vineyard 2022 is a brilliant expression of their ripe, detailed and vital style. Also from Mornington, Barney Flanders’ Stagiaire wines are among the country’s great bargains. The Chardonnay has more texture and complexity than you’d have any right to expect at this price point.

Peter Dredge’s Tassie Rieslings have won no end of plaudits, and his Meadowbank 2022 is no exception. James Halliday summed it up nicely in his Top 100 wines of 2023: “It’s such a ravishing wine, as rich and deep as it is pure and fine. Redefines citrus. 98 points.”

We’ve also selected two chillable reds ideal for summer drinking. Toolangi’s just-released 2023 Pinot Noir represents superb value for a top-notch Yarra Pinot. Finally, Peter Schell of Spinifex has redefined fresh approachability in a Barossan context over the past 15 years. His Garçon 2022 is a refreshingly lively Grenache branded “deliciously good” by The Wine Front’s Campbell Mattinson. Campbell concludes—and we heartily concur: "Personally, in an ideal world, I’d be up to my neck in this.”

The Wines

Thomas Wines Fordwich Hill Semillon 2023
Thomas Wines Fordwich Hill Semillon 2023
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Thomas Wines Fordwich Hill Semillon 2023

This single-vineyard Semillon is drawn from the Fordwich Hill Vineyard situated on the western fringe of the lower Hunter Valley. This area experiences slightly lower annual rainfall than the rest of the region. Unusual for Thomas Semillon soils, which are generally lighter, here they are rich, red, deep and volcanic with flecks of ironstone throughout and this, coupled with the longer hangtime preferred by Thomas for this site, tends to produce a riper, more generously proportioned style of Hunter Semillon. The fruit was fermented in stainless steel and spent a few weeks on lees before being bottled. 

A more restrained expression than the OC, there’s a lovely red apple skin note and a slight chamomile tea sweetness lending complexity to the citrus-forward aromas. The palate is charged with a mineral depth, aligned beautifully with fresh and fleshy citrus and a lovely grapefruit pithiness. A come and get me wine.

A more restrained expression than the OC, there’s a lovely red apple skin note and a slight chamomile tea sweetness lending complexity to the citrus-forward aromas. The palate is charged with a mineral depth, aligned beautifully with fresh and fleshy citrus and a lovely grapefruit pithiness. A come and get me wine.

Thomas Wines Fordwich Hill Semillon 2023
Thomas Wines Fordwich Hill Semillon 2023
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Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2022
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Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2022

Managed by the Quealy team, the Tussie Mussie vineyard was planted on the site of a former rose farm in 2007 (hence the name—tussie mussie is an old term for a flower bouquet). In Merricks North, the vineyard’s 3.5 acres of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir is rooted in the Peninsula’s most prized soil: deep red volcanic clays. North-facing at 120 to 150 metres altitude, the site is well-protected and warm. Quealy notes all these attributes, along with the youthful vine stock, result in an exuberantly fruity style of Gris.

The fruit was hand-picked and whole-bunch-pressed over six hours at low pressure (Alsatian style) to capture only the grapes’ most delicate phenolics. Only the free-run was used and fermented in stainless steel. The wine was left to mature on lees for nine months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. 

Enticing from the get-go, the 2022 is bright with fleshy orchard fruits, florals, spice and a ripple of marine salinity. The wine flows beautifully through the palate, the lees-derived richness and weight are aligned to fresh acidity and some rocky minerality. it's complex and lengthy with poised elegance, powerful flavours and plenty of character in the glass.

“Intensely flavoured with stone fruit, poached apple and pears drizzled with lemon honey and powdered ginger. Luscious on the palate but not weighty, it’s all about texture with creaminess throughout. The flavours linger long and the finish, too.”
95 points, Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion 2024
“A Gris that brings lively aromas of Nashi pear, almonds, fresh bread dough, pomelo. There’s a crunch of green fruit but also a softness of yeasty layers with a pinch of salt and a warming spice dust at the end. It has a vegetal/herbal spectrum taking the edge of sweet nuances. It does it all very well, I really enjoy the savoury mouthfeel with a salty pastry touch. It’s a top game Gris and you gotta love it for the texture.”
93 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, The Wine Front
"Pale lemon with lime tints. Fragrant nose of gardenias and spice poached pears. Medium to full weight, serious fruit weight on entry the glides with an oily persistence across the palate. Ripe pear and tropical floral notes linger underneath, acidity is in there but as a light guiding hand, the very long finish is brushed by it to clean it up."
95 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2022
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Garagiste Le Stagiaire Chardonnay 2023
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Garagiste Le Stagiaire Chardonnay 2023

Merricks North forms the backbone of the 2023 release, weighing in at 45% of the blend, followed by Balnarring (35%) and Tuerong (20%). The fruit was sorted in the vineyard and winery before being pressed as whole bunches directly to 500-litre puncheons. The fruit fermented with indigenous yeast with no temperature control, followed by a seven-month maturation on gross lees to build richness slowly. A couple of barrels went through malolactic conversion, and the nicely integrated new oak component stands at 15%. 

In the words of Barney, the 2023 is “just as delicious as the 2022. There’s a touch more freshness due to the cooler season, but overall, there’s a great balance between fruit weight and structure.” The hallmarks of the season—freshness, finesse and potent flavour—are clear and crystal in the glass. Teeming with citrus, flowers and stone fruits, and balanced by round texture and snappy acidity, there’s linear drive and a savoury, salty close. It’s a smashing release, on equal footing with the brilliant 2022. At a time when we are calling out for great value, this wine delivers in spades.

Garagiste Le Stagiaire Chardonnay 2023
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Meadowbank Riesling 2023
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Meadowbank Riesling 2023

Meadowbank’s Riesling vines are spread across three sites planted in 1974, 2005 and 2015. The block planted in 1974 predates the establishment of Meadowbank, and the clone is unknown. The 2005 block, which accounts for 65% of the blend, is planted to Geisenheim 198, a clone susceptible to botrytis—something winemaker Peter Dredge lets run in most years (provided conditions are dry). You learn something new every day! He advocates for the botrytis influence to add intensity and weight to his Riesling and points to the practice used widely in Germany—he’s in a cool climate, using a German clone: what’s good for the goose… 

All blocks were handpicked. The fruit from the 2005 block fermented in stainless steel and was handled oxidatively, with a touch of residual sugar remaining and some integration of clean botrytis. The fruit from the other plantings was fermented in old oak barriques to round out the texture. Both parcels were matured on their lees before blending and bottling without fining.

Pete told us last year that the 2022 Riesling was the best he’d made at Meadowbank. He may already have surpassed it. The 2023’s recent inclusion in Halliday’s Top 100, clocking in at a cool 98 points, is likely just the beginning of the acclaim this wine will receive. It’s a case of grab-some-while-you-can. Ravishing indeed!

“It’s such a ravishing wine, as rich and deep as it is pure and fine. Redefines citrus.”
98 points, Halliday’s Top 100 2023
Meadowbank Riesling 2023
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Toolangi Pinot Noir 2023
Toolangi Pinot Noir 2023
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Toolangi Pinot Noir 2023

Kaspar Hermann has now been at the Toolangi helm for six years. Under Hermann’s site-first approach—allowing the place and vintage to dictate the result rather than forcing a particular style—the true character and quality of Toolangi’s vineyard are starting to reveal themselves.

At Toolangi, 2023 was another in a string of low-yielding vintages. Thankfully, the lack in quantity was more than recouped in quality, and the wines are marked by vibrancy, pure flavours and textural finesse. Drawn from 20+-year-old vines, the estate Pinot Noir was handpicked over two days in the third week of March. The fruit was partially destemmed and fermented as whole berries, with a small portion of whole bunches included (10%). After 14 days, the wine was pressed to oak (10% new) for nine months’ maturation. 

We don’t need to tell you about Kaspar Hermann’s serious winemaking chops. And we really don’t need to tell you how much bang for your buck you get from this diligently farmed single-vineyard bottling. This release says it all. 

Toolangi Pinot Noir 2023
Toolangi Pinot Noir 2023
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Spinifex Garçon 2022
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Spinifex Garçon 2022

Celebrating the legacy of Barossa Valley Grenache, Pete Schell sources this wine from four dry-grown, old-vine parcels in the Barossa Valley with vine ages ranging from 35-100 years. The winemaking was very much in the traditional Spinifex mould: slow, natural fermentations with gentle pump-overs and foot-stomping. With a focus on freshness and drinkability allied to a supple core of Barossan generosity and depth of flavour, the 2022 Garçon was crafted with 40% whole bunches and fermentations took place in stainless steel and concrete. Maturation took place on light lees in a selection of vessels including steel vats, seasoned, thick-staved 600-litre demi-muids, with an additional stint in 2,500 litre foudre. Bottled unfined and without filtration, eight months after harvest. 

A typically evocative example of a Grenache that values freshness rather than power, this is energetic and lively with aromas and flavours of red ripe summer berries, earthy spice and sweet blue florals, egged on by refreshing acidity and a gentle nip of tannin. How Pete Schell continues producing such goodness at this price is beyond us, but we’re mighty thankful. Over to Mr Mattinson…

A typically evocative example of a Grenache that values freshness rather than power, this is energetic and lively with aromas and flavours of red ripe summer berries, earthy spice and sweet blue florals, egged on by refreshing acidity and a gentle nip of tannin. How Pete Schell continues producing such goodness at this price is beyond us, but we’re mighty thankful. Over to Mr Mattinson…

“Some people love a bit of reduction in their reds; other don’t. I’m in the former camp, and this wine plays that angle beautifully. Raspberries and rust, throws of dry spice, twiggy herb notes, licorice and that smoky, earthen, slightly burnt reductive character. The flavours come both tense and sheeted; it’s a light-ish wine of juicy, taut finesse. Pricing is spot on. This is deliciously good. Personally, in an ideal world, I’d be up to my neck in this.”
93 points, Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
Spinifex Garçon 2022
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