The 2023 Shortlist

Best Value Winery: The Finalists

By The Tasting Team

We present to you the 2023 Shortlist for Best Value Winery. This category is closely tied to the awarding of rosettes for wines offering special value for money at their price point. With more than 1300 rosettes awarded this year, the number of value wineries featured in the the 2023 edition of the Companion is considerable indeed. Meet our finalists below.

Paul Hotker and Matt Laube in the vineyard

Bleasdale Vineyards, Langhorne Creek

Bleasdale Vineyards breathes history with direct descendants of the Potts family still actively involved with the running of the business. The climate is almost identical to that of Coonawarra, and the heat spikes of (say) the Barossa seldom challenge the otherwise calm, cool growing season. Malbec is its ace in the hole, ever reliable, and superb cabernet sauvignons should be no surprise given Langhorne Creek’s climate. Then there’s Paul Hotker, 2018 Wine Companion Winemaker of the Year. Recognising that Bleasdale’s larder of malbec, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz needed some balance, he went to the Adelaide Hills and purchased riesling and pinot gris – JH.

Bondar owners in the vineyard with their two children

Bondar Wines, McLaren Vale

A husband-and-wife team that has done everything right from the outset of Bondar Wines in 2009. The Rayner Vineyard, with vine plantings dating back to the 1950s, straddles a ridge that has Blewitt Springs sand on the eastern side, Seaview with its heavier clay loam over limestone on the western side. Shiraz is its key, with grenache flourishing on the Blewitt Springs side – JH.

Deep Woods winemakers

Deep Woods Estate, Margaret River | 2023 Best Value Winery

The team, led by previous Winemaker of the Year Julian Langworthy, has shown a thrilling (some may say flagrant) disregard for accepted price-point quality; ie, their entry-level wines present compelling drinking propositions, and their Reserve range (among the cheapest of the best in Margaret River) frequently blitz the competition in the quality: value stakes. Immune to hyperbole, this is an estate to watch (and buy, and drink) – EL.

Ben and Duke

Duke’s Vineyard, Porongurup

If you’ve ever been down to Porongurup, you’ll understand precisely this pristine, picturesque little spot, tucked away in the eastern reaches of the Great Southern. Duke’s Magpie Hill vineyard is planted at the base of the Porongurup Range, and this bony site produces wines which are an ode to high-quality, cool-climate elegance, punching far above their weight for price and quality. The vineyard is only so big, the production can only be so much; the heartbreaking limitation on quantity only adds to the excitement and the chase – if Duke’s is not already on your radar, you are missing out – EL.

Garagiste vineyard with clouds in the sky

Garagiste, Mornington Peninsula

The talented Barnaby Flanders focuses on Mornington Peninsula’s leading varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir, turning them into exceptional wines. It’s all about small batches from single sites leading the premium range at a reasonable $45, but there’s also Le Stagiaire, the entry-level wines at $30. Le Stagiaire wines are unequivocally the best value wines on the Peninsula, matched to excellence, of course. Both the chardonnay and pinot noir are stonkingly good but there’s also a terrific pinot gris, another variety that excels in this region – JF.

Franco from Hoddles Creek

Hoddles Creek Estate, Yarra Valley

This great vineyard has been created by the D’Anna family with minimal assistance from outsiders. The property was purchased in 1960, the vines planted in 1997. In the interim, father Tony D’Anna had driven up most weekends from Melbourne to tend the veggie patch, using water from the Creek that permanently flowed. Son Franco enrolled in CSU’s viticulture course in 1998, as planting vines had started the previous year. As the vines grew, Franco’s knowledge of the challenges – and the answers – accumulated. The winery was built in 2003, and in 2018 the Family purchased the adjacent Gembrook Road property, planting it with pinot noir on grafted rootstock. Says Franco, "Phylloxera will come. We want to be ahead of the curve." The value for money represented across this portfolio is unparalleled – JH

Nick O'Leary in the barrel room

Nick O’Leary Wines, Canberra District

Nick O’Leary has earned a reputation for making top-notch riesling sourced from the Canberra District, including the family vineyard, Heywood, plus another distinguished site called Westering, one of the oldest vineyards in Canberra District, planted 50 years ago. Yet White Rocks Riesling, produced from the Westering vineyard, is excellent value at $38, the Heywood Riesling at $34, with his regional offering crafted from several vineyards coming in at $25. No matter your choice, there’s a guarantee of an excellent drink. The reds are equally impressive, from savoury tempranillo to cool and spicy shiraz. If anything, Nick O’Leary represents quality and deliciousness in equal measure – JF.

Riposte winemakers plunging grapes

Riposte, Adelaide Hills

To know the man behind Riposte, Tim Knappstein, is to know that during his long winemaking history – he recently celebrated his 60th vintage – he has embraced and produced wines that everyday Australians can afford and enjoy. First at the Stanley Wine Company in Clare, then out on his own at Knappstein, also in Clare. Tim Knappstein fashioned beautifully clean, smart, precisioned wines, that were well-priced to boot. He and his son, Nick, continue apace at Riposte in the Adelaide Hills with little fanfare or fuss, sharing a similar philosophy. Be amazed at the quality of a host of Hills-sourced wines – from pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay to pinot noir – priced at just $24 – JP.

Xanadu vineyard

Xanadu Wines, Margaret River

It’s high stakes in Margaret River for Best Value Winery. The region is widely reputed for its high-quality wines which command a higher-than-average bottom-line price. However. In the hands of Glenn Goodall, Brendan Carr and the team at Xanadu, this is not an issue. The wines are made to an exceptional standard at every price point, showcasing their deep understanding of both the art of winemaking and the terroir of the region. While the Reserve and Stevens Road wines are undoubtedly the jewel in the Xanadu crown, the Black Label (the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon was the 2018 Jimmy Watson winner) has time and again proven its quality and ageability, an astounding feat for a wine of circa $40; not to mention the brilliant wines in the DJL range. Roll on Xanadu – the future is bright indeed – EL.

*This is an edited extract from the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion, with reviews by Dave Brookes, Jane Faulkner, James Halliday, Erin Larkin, Ned Goodwin MW, Jeni Port, Philip Rich and chief editor Tyson Stelzer. Cover illustration by David Lancashire.

The winner of each category will be announced at the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion Awards. Save the date to watch the live stream on Wednesday August 3, 2022.

The 2023 Halliday Wine Companion is available from August 4. You can pre-order your copy of Australia's most comprehensive wine guide here