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Best of Australia: Top medal-winning wines to try

A definitive list of Australia's top-scoring wines from the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Blind tasted and rated by the world’s leading wine experts across three stages of judging, medals awarded at Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) are recognised globally as objective merits of quality. So when Australia saw its best-ever performance at the 2023 competition, the wine world took notice.

‘One of the really great things about DWWA is, you imagine this huge pyramid of wine – more than 18,000 – and every wine getting tasted, judged and slowly moved through the process,’ explains DWWA Co-Chair Ronan Sayburn MS.

‘If it’s a good wine it will slowly move up through several tasters’ palates to ensure that it really is deserved of its Gold, until it reaches the very top of that pyramid, where it will come out (if it’s an amazing wine) as either a Platinum or one of the competition’s Top 50 Best in Show.’

At DWWA 2023, Australia saw a record 10 wines awarded Best in Show medals, a category representing just 0.27% of the 18,250 wines tasted. Outcompeting Europe’s power trio (France, Italy and Spain) in this category, it was a milestone win for the New World nation.


Scroll down to see the Top 10 Australian wines of DWWA 2023


Giving the competition a real edge, it’s important to note that wines are judged by regional specialists with palates finely tuned to the nuances and typicity of wines they are judging, ‘so the people who are judging Champagne know a lot about Champagne; the people that are judging Australia know a lot about Australia,’ says Co-Chair Michael Hill Smith AM MW.

Headed by joint Regional Chairs Huon Hooke and Justin Knock MW, the Australia judging panel awarded almost 100 Gold medals in 2023. Re-tasted in second and third rounds of judging, 17 of these were elevated to Platinum and 10 to Best in Show.

‘The number of wines entered in the D, E and F price categories (£50+ per bottle) was proportionally very high, giving us a very high calibre of wines to taste, and no doubt leading to the strong performance of Australia overall,’ says Knock MW.

In recognition of Australia Day and the annual Wine Australia tasting in London next week (where tasters might find the below wines to try), we highlight Australia’s ‘best of the best’ from DWWA 2023, all scoring 97 points and marking the nation’s momentous moment at the world’s largest wine competition.

Below discover the white, red and fortified wines from across the nation that earned top spots amongst the competition’s Top 50 Best in Show medal winners.

Australia’s Top 10 Best in Show wines to try

New South Wales

Brokenwood Wines, ILR Reserve Semillon, Hunter Valley 2017


Best in Show, 97 points
Anyone trying this extraordinary wine, marked by classic Hunter cleanliness and freshness, might be surprised to find that it came from a summer season with temperatures that topped 35⁰C here for 32 days in a row, with a run of three days at around 45⁰C in early February. The vines had had adequate rainfall prior to midsummer, though, and the secret to Hunter Valley Semillon is early picking. It is this that makes it an inarticulate wine in its early years – but with time comes character. After six years, you can see growing aromatic richness, as innate toasty, smoky notes begin to join the subtle lime fruits, while on the palate the structure of acidity – intense to the point of inscrutability in the early years – is beginning to deepen, to soften and to modulate towards something more aromatically resonant. During all this time, of course, the wine maintains its overall lightness and delicacy, the legacy of just 11% abv. Articulate now, but further storage will reward. Alcohol 11%

South Australia

Gatt, Wines Riesling, High Eden (Eden Valley) 2017 


Best in Show, 97 points
There are three different benchmark styles of Riesling produced around the wine world – from Germany/Austria, Alsace and Australia — and we have examples of each in our Top 50 Best in Show selection this year. The Clare Valley and Western Australia provide two of Australia’s Riesling hotspots; this wine comes from the third, the Eden Valley. Despite neighbouring Barossa, Eden lies at much higher altitudes (exceeding 500 m in places), and the longer seasons and marked diurnal temperature variations help craft fragrant, intricate, fruit-structured flavours. This six-year-old wine is green-gold in colour, with haunting aromas which combine floral notes and the variety’s classic citrus-oil character. On the palate, you’ll find a very dry wine of almost tongue-lacquering intensity, once again cascading with citrus and essential oils. Alc 13%

Heirloom Vineyards, Alcalá Grenache, McLaren Vale 2022 


Best in Show, 97 points
McLaren Vale Shiraz has been a regular feature of our Best in Show and Platinum selections in recent years (as it is again this year), but this distinctive GI to the south of the Adelaide Hills is also celebrated for its astonishing patrimony of old-vine Grenache. Our judges pounced on this Grenache from the excellent 2022 vintage (dryer in McLaren Vale than elsewhere). A translucent black-purple in colour, this wine has beautiful aromas of sweet, beguiling fruits (strawberry and cherry) without any sticky jamminess; instead those fruits have a fresh, almost perfumed sheen. The wine is dark, vigorous and lively, despite its relatively low acidity; deftly extracted tannins and the innate vigour and tenacity of the fruits deliver that freshness. Fine raw materials and the best of contemporary Australian winemaking come together here. Alc 14.5%

Jacob’s Creek, Johann Shiraz-Cabernet, Barossa Valley 2013 


Best in Show, 97 points
The chance to taste Australia’s flagship blend from one of its most celebrated regions with ten years of age was welcomed by our judges — and they weren’t disappointed by what they found in this particular glass. Even as it sails past its tenth birthday, this wine retains a dark, opaque black-red colour. The aromas, by contrast, have long since left their youthful primary characters behind. The wine is aromatically harmonious and serene, a teasing and enticing combination of glowing fruit warmth, scuffed underbrush, dried flowers and cured tobacco leaf. It’s ample but soft on the palate and long, mellow and laid-back: the tongue seems to glide through the wine like a boat easing through a tropical lagoon. This brilliant blend of Shiraz generosity, Cabernet firmness and Barossa ironstone complexity, though, makes for exceptionally satisfying drinking. Alc 14.5%

Penfolds, Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills 2021 


Best in Show, 97 points
Attention may sometimes wander to other varieties like Shiraz or Pinot when it comes to teasing out clear distinctions between Australia’s regional styles, but in truth no variety tells the regional story better than Chardonnay. And few Australian regions, too, manage to offer us Chardonnays which combine grace and charm with sap and sinew better than the Adelaide Hills, the city’s green antechamber. This very pale, steel-green wine is fresher and more pungent than most, as if its grapefruit fruits had been pounded with leaf, cream and a little white pepper. On the palate, it is clean, pure, driving and fresh: restrained Chardonnay flavours in a style which almost succeeds in recalling a muted, complex Sauvignon or Savagnin. The acidity is ripe, though, and the stealthy nine-months in oak bring extra class to this compelling bottle. Alc 12.5%

Wirra Wirra, Chook Block, McLaren Vale 2019 


Best in Show, 97 points
Two Best in Show appearances for McLaren Vale this year underscore the enduring potential of this South Australian region, with its beneficial, heat-moderating Gulf of St Vincent breezes, and it will surprise no one that one of these wines is a pure Shiraz from the small but concentrated 2019 vintage. The wine is dark black-red in colour with luscious, sweet-plum scents, dripping with the fruited wealth of autumn. On the palate, the wine is deep, long and satisfyingly savoury once you peek behind that lusciously brocaded fruit; it is those incipient savoury flavours which bring this smoothly textured wine its complexity and its balance. Once the sweetness of the fruit subsides, a quietly saline dimension to the fruit becomes apparent, underscoring its savoury as well as fruited appeal. Alc 14.5%

Victoria

Morris, Cellar Reserve Grand Muscat, Rutherglen NV 


Best in Shows, 97 points
The small town of Rutherglen in inland Victoria is home to some of the world’s most extraordinary fortified wines, made from a combination of lusciously sweet grapes (Muscat à Petits Grains Rouges or Brown Muscat), grape spirit, prodigious Australian sunshine, acres of time and a solera system or variant thereof, in order to create consistent blends for regular bottling. This distinguished example is walnut black in colour: a swirl will leave the glass brown-tinted for a minute or more. The wine smells as much of treacle as grapes, with notes of coffee and antique furniture for complexity; the orange notes typical of Muscat are just a distant aromatic echo here. The wine’s colossal, raisiny sweetness (264 g/l in this instance) unrolls across the tongue both almost smokily, with the burnt and oxidative complexities which are the legacy of heat and time providing the wine’s balance. Like Spain’s PX, it is as much food as wine, and in addition to drinking it by the fortifying thimbleful, you can also use it creatively in desserts. Alc 17%

Western Australia

Domaine Naturaliste, Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 2020 


Best in Show, 97 points
If there is a ‘winning region’ in this year’s Top 50 Best in Show selection, it has to be Western Australia’s Margaret River, with no fewer than three featured wines including two different Cabernets – and with two of the three wines hailing from the early, warm, low-yielding 2020 vintage, described by local growers at the time as ‘the best yet’. This 2020 Cabernet (seasoned with a little Merlot and Cabernet Franc) is dark, opaque black-red in colour, with very fresh woodland aromas seasoned with a little spice. The wine is dark and intense in character, its fruits mingling with plant sap, earth and gravelly stone; there’s ample soft tannins to give the wine dignity and food friendliness; and despite the overall freshness it still contrives to convey a sense of beguiling warmth and sweetness at the very end. Appetising, high-definition, and with near-invisible oak, this wine is very much on the pulse of its region. Alc 14%

Evans & Tate, Redbrook Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River 2018 


Best in Show, 97 points
This is the slightly older of our two Margaret River Best-in-Show Cabernets, made after the warm, Indian-summer vintage of 2018, considered exceptional for Cabernet. You wouldn’t know it was two years older than its 2020 regional sibling by its colour, which remains an opaque black-red. The summer warmth is very much apparent in the wine’s aromas, though: a broad, structured upland of currant, plum, black cherry and bramble fruit with just a little menthol to bring freshness and dimension. On the palate, the wine is acid-balanced and smooth, once again throwing a spotlight on to those long, complex fruits. It’s amply accessible already, though its fruit qualities will certainly hold for some years yet. Alc 14%

House of Cards, Ace of Spades Chardonnay, Margaret River 2022


Best in Show, 97 points
Even though Chardonnay’s home territory lies in one of France’s most continental locations, this endlessly adaptable variety has taken well to the maritime conditions of Western Australia’s Margaret River, with its warm nights, luminosity and year-round gentleness. Chardonnay in Margaret River is fashioned with scrupulous restraint today, and this young example from the warm 2022 vintage is no exception. It’s pale in colour, more silver and green than gold, with clean, understated aromas in which shy stone-fruits are seen through a mist of milky softness. On the palate, the wine is clean and lithe, its fruits appearing slender at first yet gradually filling with time in the mouth, and characterised by appetising lemon and lime flavours. Just four months’ oak is barely more than a kiss, yet it provides the brushstrokes of richness needed to set off this delicate fruit at its best. Alc 13%


Search all DWWA-awarded Australian wines


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