Last year, one of my goals was to expand my Australian wine collection. I already had a few bottles from Penfolds and Mollydooker, but I wanted to find more collectible Australian wine to add to my cellar. The problem was that I wasn’t sure exactly where to start. This country is known for producing some of the most delicious, distinctive wines in the world, but, like many collectors, I wasn’t as familiar with Australian producers as I was with French or Italian ones. To get more familiar with Australian wine regions, I spent some time sampling wine from well-known producers, including Clarendon Hills, Glaetzer, and Greenock Creek. The wines I tasted were so impressive that I ended up buying much more wine than I had initially planned. Today, my Australian wine collection is plentiful and diverse, and I had a lot of fun getting it to that point.
Collecting Australian wine is very much worthwhile; not only are these wines delightful to drink in their youth, but some of them also grow more complex with age. The top wines from this country make reliable investments, too. Whether you’re looking for a wine to drink now or one you can lay down and resell or drink later, this guide will help you find the most collectible Australian wine on the market today.
What Makes a Wine Collectible?
Whether or not a wine is worth collecting is a matter of opinion. For some people, a collectible Australian wine is one that is rare or unusual. A completionist might want to collect every single bottle that Penfolds has ever made, for instance. To this type of collector, a collectible Australian wine might be an ultra-rare unicorn wine like Penfolds 2004 Block 42. For others, what makes a wine collectible is its value on the secondary market and its aging potential; these collectors are seeking wines that will make good investments. And finally, some consider a collectible wine to be any top-quality bottle that is worth drinking. These collectors are not necessarily interested in completing their collections or reselling their bottles for a profit, just in enjoying their wine.
Because everyone has a different opinion about which wines are collectible, it’s impossible to make a definitive list of the best wines from this country.
These are all valid reasons for collecting Australian wine. However, because everyone has a different opinion about which wines are collectible, it’s impossible to make a definitive list of the best wines from this country. Instead, this guide offers a few tips on how to decide which Australian wines are right for your own collection. We’ll cover the different wine styles made in each region, list the highest-quality producers, and rank the top-rated vintages among critics.
Where Can You Find Collectible Australian Wine?
Australia’s wine regions are very diverse. From the breezy, coastal Margaret River to the hot, dry Barossa Valley, each region has its own distinct climate and soil composition. This, in turn, affects the flavor profile of the wines made in each region. For example, I’ve come to love wines from the Margaret River region because they remind me of fine Bordeaux (the two share a similar temperate climate). However, other collectors favor wines from hotter regions, like the Barossa Valley, because this area produces some of the richest, most complex Shiraz in the world.
If you’re starting an Australian wine collection from scratch or adding to an existing collection, you should consider regions that tend to make wines that match your own preferences. Here are some of the top-rated Australian wine regions, according to professional critics and wine investors:
The Hunter Valley
Climate: The lower Hunter Valley has a warm, wet climate while the upper part of the valley is much drier. Cooling winds temper the summer heat and give the wines more acidity.
Soil: Mostly hard, heavy clay that retains water. Some of the top-quality vineyards have volcanic soils that give the wines distinct minerality.
Varieties: Dry, long-lived Sémillon; rich, oaky Chardonnay; gamey, long-lived Shiraz; earthy Bordeaux-style blends; some small plantings of Pinot Noir and Verdelho.
Collectibility: Hunter Valley wines are praised by professional critics and the region is one of the most successful winemaking areas in the country. Some of this region’s top producers include Tyrrell’s Vineyards, First Creek, and Audrey Wilkinson.
The Barossa Valley
Climate: The Barossa Valley gets very hot in the summer; however, diurnal temperature swings prevent the grapes from over-ripening.
Soil: Fast-draining sandy, loamy soil.
Varieties: Rich, full-bodied Shiraz; intense Grenache; rich, oaky Chardonnay; smaller plantings of Riesling, Sémillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre.
Collectibility: This is perhaps Australia’s most renowned wine region, especially among collectors. It’s known for producing some of the finest, most intense red wines in the country. Some of this region’s top producers include Chris Ringland, Penfolds, and Torbreck.
The Adelaide Hills
Climate: Very cool and dry, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and develop high acidity.
Soil: Sandy, loamy soil in most parts of the region. Some areas have denser soil than others, allowing for better water retention during dry spells.
Varieties: Elegant Sauvignon Blanc; fresh, crisp Riesling; dry Sémillon; some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (these are also used to produce sparkling wine).
Collectibility: Not as collectible as the Barossa Valley, but the quality of its white wines has made it a popular choice among collectors. Some of this region’s top producers include Bird in Hand, The Lane Vineyard, and Hahndorf Hill Winery.
Climate: A Mediterranean climate, with dry, warm summers and gentle winters. The wines here are well-balanced and very consistent in quality from year to year.
Soil: The soil composition varies from terroir to terroir. Most vineyards have very fast-draining soil, making the grapes small and concentrated.
Varieties: Very concentrated, spicy Shiraz; dry styles of Grenache and Mourvèdre; rich, ripe styles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese; rich, elegant Chardonnay; clean, fresh Sauvignon Blanc; some smaller plantings of Petit Verdot, Verdelho, Viognier, Zinfandel, Fiano, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne.
Collectibility: This wine region is considered one of the top viticultural areas not just in Australia, but in the world. The wines made here are concentrated yet incredibly balanced and finessed. They are also known for having great aging potential. Some of this region’s top producers include Clarendon Hills, Mitolo, and Mollydooker.
The Eden Valley
Climate: Cool temperatures give these wines plenty of acidity; this is balanced out by exposure to ample sunlight throughout the year.
Soil: The rocky soil is fast-draining and gives the wine strong minerality.
Varieties: Complex, elegant, age-worthy Riesling; ripe, smooth Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon; some complex, toasted Chardonnay.
Collectibility: While the Eden Valley is not as famous as some of Australia’s other top regions, it’s well-known among white wine collectors for producing elegant Riesling. Some of this region’s top producers include Henschke, Yalumba, and Hutton Vale Farm.
The Margaret River
Climate: There’s a strong maritime influence in this area, meaning that it is exposed to coastal breezes and has an overall temperate climate.
Soil: The region has mostly granite and iron-rich soils. What makes its terrain unique is the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge that runs the full length of the peninsula and protects the grapes from harsh winds.
Varieties: Light, refined Cabernet Sauvignon (usually blended with Merlot); earthy, gamey Shiraz; acidic Chardonnay; herbaceous Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc; some smaller plantings of Chenin Blanc.
Collectibility: Wine enthusiasts compare the taste of wines from the Margaret River to those made in Bordeaux during particularly warm, dry seasons. These wines are elegant, Old-World in style, and very consistent in quality from year to year, making them a reliable investment. Some of this region’s top producers include Leeuwin Estate, Cullen, and Howard Park.
The Yarra Valley
Climate: This region overall is much cooler than other areas of Australia. The valley is divided into two subregions: the Valley Floor and the Upper Yarra. The Valley Floor is slightly warmer, while the Upper Yarra is colder and windier.
Soil: The Valley Floor has mostly fast-draining granite and limestone soils that give the wines excellent concentration. The Upper Yarra has denser red soils that retain more water, but the region receives little rain, so the grapes are rarely diluted.
Varieties: Bright Chardonnay; complex, elegant Pinot Noir; spicy Shiraz; finessed Cabernet Sauvignon (often blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot); crisp, fresh Sauvignon Blanc.
Collectibility: This wine region is becoming more popular as lighter, elegant styles of Australian wine are getting more attention from professional critics and collectors. While the wines made here still aren’t as sought-after as those made in the Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale, we’re seeing an increase in secondary market value for the best Yarra Valley wines. Some of this region’s top producers include Domaine Chandon, TarraWarra Estate, and Seville Estate.
Keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive. Australia is home to many other wonderful wine regions that produce delicious, easy-drinking table wines. Fine wine producers outside of the regions above are also making collectible wines. However, these seven regions are known for producing the most collectible Australian wine on the market today, and focusing on these regions specifically will help you find producers that make top-quality wines that also have value on the secondary market.
The Best Australian Wine Producers
While terroir can tell you a great deal about the potential quality of a wine, the producer’s unique winemaking style and philosophy also significantly impact a wine’s flavor and quality. For example, Penfolds’ lead winemaker Peter Gago cultivates the estate’s grapes in individual vineyard blocks, believing that this gives each single block label its own distinctive flavor. Penfolds is also known for making wines that are very rich, complex, and full of concentrated fruit flavors. If you enjoy full-bodied, intense wines, then Penfolds is a great option for your collection. Other producers, like Leeuwin Estate, prefer to make lighter, more delicate styles of wine. This is why it’s important to look at each producer’s preferred house style and choose the wines that best match your own personal tastes.
The producers in the list below all make top-quality, collectible Australian wine:
- Ballycroft Vineyard and Cellars
- Belle Boots & Hogg Ltd.
- Burge Family
- Cape D’Estaing
- Chris Ringland
- Clarendon Hills
- Colonial Estate
- De Lisio
- Domaines Tatiarra
- Fox Creek
- Good Catholic Girl
- Greenock Creek
- Hare’s Chase
- Henry’s Drive
- Jim Barry
- Kay Brothers Amery
- Leeuwin Estate
- Marquis Philips
- Noon Winery
- Richard Hamilton Wines
- Shirvington Family
- Stella Bella Wines
- Stumpy Gully
- Three Rings
- Two Hands
- Wild Duck Creek Estate
All of the producers above make at least one label that is age-worthy and valuable on the secondary market. These producers are also known for making wines that are consistently high in quality year after year.
The Most Collectible Australian Wine Vintages
One of the challenges of collecting Australian wine is that the flavor of these wines changes a great deal over time. All fine, age-worthy wine gets more complex with age, but this process is even more noticeable in Australian wine. For example, I once drank a glass of 2010 Shirvington Shiraz that was very tannic and full of intense fruit flavors. It had a sharp-edged finish, though, and I wasn’t sure whether this quality would change with age. Recently I tried the wine again and found that the sharpness had disappeared completely. The flavors were better integrated and the wine was unbelievably rich and voluptuous. Many fine Australian wines are like this, especially Shiraz. In their youth, these wines tend to be very tannic and heavily oaked, with strong fruit flavors and high alcohol content. These flavors usually become much more balanced with age, especially if the wines are made by top-quality producers. However, unless you have years of experience with Australian wine, you may struggle to identify which wines will age gracefully.
Professional critics reviewing Australian wines should be able to pinpoint subtle issues in a wine that will impact its flavors in the future.
This is where professional vintage ratings can help. Vintage ratings can tell you which wines may have serious flaws and which wines will likely age well. Professional critics reviewing Australian wines should be very familiar with the country’s wines and terroir, and will be able to pinpoint subtle issues in the wine that will impact its flavors in the future. Moreover, critics base their vintage scores on weather conditions as well. An especially hot year will produce a more alcoholic wine, and this characteristic won’t change with age.
To find the highest-rated, and therefore most collectible, Australian wine vintages, take a look at the list below. These scores are based on The Wine Advocate’s ratings for Barossa and McLaren Vale. We chose these ratings because wine from these two regions is among the most collectible in the country and is highly sought-after among many enthusiasts.
- 2015 (94 points): Very intense and concentrated wines.
- 2013 (94 points): The season was hotter than usual, giving the wines great concentration.
- 2012 (94 points): Lower than average yields; these wines have great intensity.
- 2010 (96 points): Rainfall offered these wines more acidity; they are pure and well-balanced.
- 2006 (94 points): Delicate, balanced wines that are less intense than usual.
- 2005 (96 points): Perfect weather conditions produced well-balanced wines.
- 2004 (94 points): Pure, graceful wines that have aged well.
- 2002 (95 points): Cool weather produced acidic wines that taste very fresh.
- 2001 (95 points): Hot temperatures produced deeply concentrated, bold wines.
- 1998 (95 points): Very rich, ripe, bold wines.
If you plan on buying wine outside of these two regions, you should also consider Jancis Robinson’s top vintage reviews for all of South Australia:
- 2018: It’s still early, but Robinson says all regions and varieties look promising and the wines should have great aging potential.
- 2017: The quality was generally high, but there was a threat of disease in some regions.
- 2015: Riesling from Clare Valley was especially high in quality this year.
- 2012: Quality was high for many varieties and regions.
- 2009: A decent year for reds, but not a great year for whites.
- 2008: A good quality year for whites, but not a good year for reds.
- 2006: Cabernet Sauvignon was fairly successful this year.
- 2005: Both reds and whites were extremely successful this year.
- 2004: The reds are aging very well and are quite intense.
- 2002: The harvest was later than usual; many wines are high in quality.
- 2001: Low-yielding vineyards had some great quality wines this year.
- 1998: Hot weather made reds exceptionally high in quality this year.
- 1997: The wines have been long-lived and will likely continue to age well.
- 1996: A big, bold vintage that’s full of intense fruit flavors.
Even if a particular vintage wasn’t given a high score overall among professional critics, you can generally still find some fantastic wines from that year–just take a look at individual wine scores and tasting notes. For example, while 2011 is considered by most collectors to be a very poor year for collectible Australian wine, you can still find a few gems, especially among the most reputable producers and vineyards.
How to Start an Australian Wine Collection
The most collectible Australian wine is generally lucrative on the secondary market. For example, Penfolds Grange (considered by most collectors to be one of the most valuable wines made in Australia) typically increases in value significantly within just a few years of release. The 2014 Penfolds Grange vintage sold for about $500 per bottle in 2018 and now its average price on the secondary market is about $700 per bottle. Many wines from top producers in the country gain significantly in value within just a few years.
Shopping online makes it easier to find rare bottles that aren’t commonly sold at brick-and-mortar shops.
Whether you plan on reselling your collection for a profit or drinking the wine yourself, the best way to invest in these wines is to search for the top vintages, producers, and labels online. Some websites provide detailed tasting notes on every wine they sell, helping you find wines that match your personal preferences. Shopping online also makes it easier to find rare bottles that aren’t commonly sold at brick-and-mortar shops, such as Torbreck The Laird Shiraz. This label is difficult to find because it’s made from a very small parcel of ancient vines using dry-farming techniques. A very limited number of bottles were released, so only a few retailers have it in stock.
As an added benefit, some online retailers offer professional wine storage for bottles that you purchase through the website. This means that you can keep your most collectible Australian wine safe and ensure that each bottle ages under ideal conditions. With these tools and services at your disposal, you can build a valuable Australian wine collection that you’ll treasure for many years.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.