The inaugural Halliday Wine Companion Top 100 Wineries selected by Campbell Mattinson is a celebration of the best wineries of right now. Below is the list of wineries ranked from one to 25 from across Australia.
"In short, this is a list of producers who know, in their heart and in their head, that consumers don’t owe them a living. This is a list of producers who are prepared to stake their reputation on every single wine they release." – chief editor Campbell Mattinson
Oakridge Wines | Yangarra Estate Vineyard | Mount Pleasant | Giant Steps | By Farr | Grosset | Cullen Wines | Tyrrell's Wines | Bindi Wines | Mount Mary | Giaconda | Henschke | Penfolds | Yarra Yering | Hoddles Creek Estate | Chatto | Coldstream Hills | House of Arras | Adelina Wines | Yeringberg | Wynns Coonawarra Estate | Yabby Lake Vineyard | Clonakilla | Gembrook Hill | Vasse FelixYarra Valley, Victoria
The best way to drive a brand is to drive it with vineyards. Oakridge has been doing that to an elaborate degree for a long time now, but if anything the wines continue to improve. Indeed Oakridge was for some time renowned as a master of chardonnay, which it still is, but it’s become overwhelmingly clear that Oakridge is a master of pretty much all the varieties in its orbit. Oakridge won the Best Value Winery title at our annual awards this year but really, even when value is put aside, the wines are great, full stop, with no modifier necessary.
McLaren Vale, South Australia
No Australian winery has performed better than Yangarra over the past decade. It has covered all the bases so well that the word dominant comes to mind. It has helped revolutionise McLaren Vale grenache, it has taken Rhône whites to new levels, it’s put single-block shiraz on a pedestal and it’s been a leader of quality, drink-now, preservative free wines. Yangarra makes good wine at good prices and it also makes the best of the best; sometimes it even combines the two. If you were only going to take one Australian winery to the world, Yangarra may well be it.
Hunter Valley, New South Wales
There’s an argument to say that Mount Pleasant is Australia’s most important wine estate. It’s certainly ground zero of fine Australian table wine, thanks to the legendary exploits of its founding winemaker, Maurice O’Shea, from the 1920s onwards. But successive winemakers, from Phil Ryan to Jim Chatto to Adrian Sparks, have inched the wines of this estate to higher and higher levels, to the point where now a whole series of its current-release wines are classics in the making.
4. Giant StepsYarra Valley, Victoria
Every year for the past 20 years the reputation of Giant Steps has inched higher. The land has been its brand; it has been, and continues to be, the champion of the single site, especially when it comes to chardonnay and pinot noir. Everywhere you look in the Giant Steps Yarra Valley range you find wines of structural integrity that are as delicious as they are complex. It’s a case of Giant Steps by name, giant quality by nature. Its Applejack Pinot Noir 2022 won Pinot Noir of the Year in the latest Companion edition but that’s just the tip of an amazing quality iceberg.
5. By FarrGeelong, Victoria
Every year, in any list, Geelong’s By Farr winery is one of the first picked. This is a single-minded producer if ever there was one; this is a producer interested in quality and nothing else. This is viognier, chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz, planted in volcanic loams and quartz gravels, drilled down to the specifics of site and soil and hands. There is, simply, no such thing as a boring By Farr wine.
6. GrossetClare Valley, South Australia
Grosset's reputation is built on riesling – the latest 2023 releases are outstanding, but the Gaia cabernet-blend and Adelaide Hills chardonnay have long been excellent too, and are in absolute top form. Slowly though, over the years, the Grosset range has grown to also include fiano, shiraz (blended with nero d’avola) and others, and with every new step the overall quality bar has never even quivered, let alone dropped. In short, you cannot go wrong with any Grosset wine.
7. Cullen WinesMargaret River, Western Australia
Vanya Cullen was on a hiding to nothing when she took over the family winery in Margaret River in the 1990s. It was already iconic and already ensconced on the Langton’s classification of fine wine; the best she could achieve, it seemed, was more of the same. And yet, somehow, inch by inch, she has made both the estate and the wines that it grows even better, and more exciting, and more authentic, and she has done so in a way that could only have been achieved by her. Vanya Cullen is a unique talent on a special site; the result is greatness.
Hunter Valley, New South Wales
What Tyrrell’s has done in, and for, the Hunter Valley over the past 20 years – and of course for a lot longer – is nothing short of remarkable. This family produces terrific wine after terrific wine, most especially with chardonnay, semillon and shiraz, but really with whatever it turns its hand to. In fine wine terms, Tyrrell’s has been a pillar of strength for its region, and a saviour at times, and it’s done so principally by keeping its range perpetually alive with beautiful, site-specific, regionally-true wines.
9. Bindi WinesMacedon Ranges, Victoria
If you moved Bindi 100 metres to the left or to the right, geographically, the wines would taste different, or at least that’s the impression the wines create. Bindi is one of the ultimate Australian wine estates, singular in its quality vision, completely unique to its site. The shtick here is of unhurried, thoughtful, inquisitive excellence. The wines, chardonnay and pinot noir, are reflective of this approach, and of their land. The recent expansion of the range does nothing but heighten the estate’s reputation.
10. Mount MaryYarra Valley, Victoria
Mount Mary at its best is the best that there is. For lovers of Australian wine it is heart, mind, soul and saviour. It’s white (Triolet) blend, pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon are all Yarra Valley benchmarks, both historically and currently. Mount Mary should be the cornerstone of any serious Australian wine collection. The wines are as elegant as they are ageworthy. This is Australian wine greatness.
11. GiacondaBeechworth, Victoria
The one and only. The master. The (high) reputation of Giaconda extends back to the 1980s but the wines have never rested, and have never been anything other than superlative. They are intense wines, distinctive, relentless and commanding. They are grown in rock-strewn earth, like gold, like diamonds. This is true of all the estate’s wines but the chardonnay is the superstar; you don’t need to be told that you have Giaconda chardonnay in your glass, you know.
12. HenschkeEden Valley, South Australia
Henschke’s Hill of Grace Shiraz may well battle it out with Penfolds Grange for the title of Australia’s premier wine – no mean feat for a small-run, single-vineyard wine off ancient vines – but the Henschke wines below this headline act are also in tip-top form. In other words, the wines of this great Australian wine family live up to the name, and to the reputation, where it counts the most: in the glass. The appointment last year of Gwyn Olsen as new senior winemaker was yet another in a long line of highly astute decisions.
13. PenfoldsBarossa Valley, South Australia
It’s impossible to put the story and the history of Penfolds aside, when judging the merit of this great Australian wine producer, but if you managed to it would be easy to judge that the white wines – specifically the chardonnays – are the best wines in the range. Penfolds is a great chardonnay maker, and would make it onto this list on the strength of these wines alone. But of course there are the reds, all of which above Koonunga Hill level have the ability to be excellent or greater. If you want proof – and have deep enough pockets – try the Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2021. It’s magnificent.
14. Yarra YeringYarra Valley, Victoria
If you’ve been around fine Australian wine for any length of time then Yarra Yering has always been on your radar. But what winemaker Sarah Crowe has done here since she arrived in 2013 almost beggar’s belief; she has untied the shoelaces of the entire operation and re-knotted everything for the better. This is a case of exactly the right person in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. Wine drinkers are the beneficiaries. The wines of Yarra Yering have never been better, across the board, no ifs or buts.
Yarra Valley, Victoria
There were times in the early days of Hoddles Creek Estate when I wondered if this wonderful producer was too good to be true. The quality in the glass, and the value routinely on offer, was so extraordinary that it seemed unlikely to be sustainable. And yet, over twenty years later, every year they’ve kept it up and built on it. Hoddles Creek Estate offers value for certain, but it’s a high quality producer full stop.
16. ChattoSouthern Tasmania, Tasmania
Every wine Jim Chatto touches turns to gold, as his vast and enduring body of work across a range of regions and varieties shows. But his own estate winery in southern Tasmania is where the real magic happens, and with every release it becomes more and more obvious that the Chatto range is one of the best in the land. Try the Isle Pinot Noir 2021. It’s sensational.
17. Coldstream HillsYarra Valley, Victoria
Coldstream Hills should always be mentioned in any discussion of top Australian wine estates. It’s a brilliant producer of chardonnay and pinot noir in particular, both in single site form and as blends from across the Yarra Valley. Indeed, Coldstream Hills has been a champion from way back in the 1980s and has never been allowed to skip a beat, present range included. The wines are not inexpensive but, given their quality, it could easily be argued that they are underpriced.
18. House of ArrasNorthern Tasmania, Tasmania
One of the great shames of Australian wine is that the House of Arras is not better appreciated. Winemaker Ed Carr has made steadfastly sure that Arras is a wine name you can trust. The endeavours of this Tasmanian sparkling wine house have been nothing short of outstanding, consistently, for over 25 years now, and throughout this period the wines have only ever improved, as time and Carr’s knowledge combine to work their magic. The House of Arras was recently bought (from Accolade) by Handpicked Wines. Guess is that, on sealing the deal, they opened a bottle of the superb EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2007 and marvelled at the beauty they’d signed into.
19. Adelina WinesClare Valley, South Australia
Every one of Adelina’s wines is carefully grown, designed and made; every wine is both flavoursome and interesting. These are wines of both body and finish; they are modern and they are traditional, too. If you’ve not yet experienced the joys of Adelina you can essentially take your pick of any wine in the range and it is guaranteed to illustrate the reason for the excitement.
20. YeringbergYarra Valley, Victoria
The long game is the good game, and in Yarra Valley terms Yeringberg has played the longest game of all. Every bottle produced from this winery is a treasure. Yeringberg’s ‘Yeringberg’ cabernet blend 2021 scored 98 points in the latest Companion, the Yeringberg Marsanne Roussanne 2021 scored 97 points, and both the Rosé 2022 and Pinot Noir 2021 scored 96. This place is not just about historic charm; the wines are good, now. Yeringberg was founded in 1863 and yet production, on a good deal of prime agricultural land, is still in the vicinity of only 1500 dozen annually. Modesty is the way here. Quality is a given. These wines are the perfect dinner table companions.
Coonawarra, South Australia
Sue Hodder is a celebrated winemaker but by rights she should yet be celebrated more. What she has achieved over a long period at Wynns makes her a modern day legend, though due acknowledgement no doubt needs also to be paid to her long-time deputy, Sarah Pidgeon. The fact though is that the red wines of Wynns remain as terrifically good or better than they’ve ever been, and the skill and tenacity of Hodder is the driver of that.
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
It’s not a big range of wines and yet, in the current edition of the Companion, this Mornington Peninsula star still manages seven wines with a score of 96 points or higher. Indeed it’s $35 Red Claw Pinot Noir 2021 also notched a score of 95 points; the main game here is ultimate quality but value is not ignored. Syrah, chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris; every year, it seems, all these varieties excel. This producer never puts a foot wrong.
23. ClonakillaCanberra District, New South Wales
Clonakilla, we love you. Life always feels better when there’s a bottle of Clonakilla on the table. Shiraz viognier is of course the star but riesling, varietal viognier, cabernet and pinot noir can and do also shine here. Recent vintages have thrown their fair share of challenges but Clonakilla, as it always does, has risen to the challenge.
24. Gembrook HillYarra Valley, Victoria
Every year, every wine. This is the estate that, to all intents, put the Upper Yarra Valley on the winemaking map, and it did so by producing a small number of wines – sauvignon blanc, sparkling, chardonnay and pinot noir – to the highest and most fastidious of standards, year in, year out. This is how it built its reputation, and this is how it remains.
25. Vasse FelixMargaret River, Western Australia
Vasse Felix has been good forever, but what I really like about this winery is its constant drive to be better than it was yesterday. The top-tier chardonnays here now purr their funk rather than parading it; the cabernets are more elegant than ever, but not at the expense of pure, delicious fruit. Vasse Felix is a pioneer of the Margaret River wine region but today, now, it remains a standout.
Join us at the Top 100 Wineries tasting events in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne next month. Don't miss your chance to taste wines from some of the nation's best producers.
Wednesday November 15