Australia’s 52 top wineries: the 2021 list
By Huon Hooke – Sydney Herald June 5, 2021
What a year. COVID-19, drought, bushfires, smoke taint, punitive Chinese tariffs – what else could go wrong for Australian wine? While our exports to China have dropped to almost zero, it’s had no effect on the quality of wine produced over the past 12 months, nor its price in the domestic market thus far. The small 2020 harvest was therefore not such bad timing, as exporters re-group and refocus their efforts on other markets.
Fire damage and smoke taint have hit the bottom line of many wineries but not harmed the quality of their output. Improved grape testing means few smoke-damaged crops were harvested, and this saved the affected wineries their biggest winemaking cost. Forgoing a year’s income is another matter, and may send some to the wall, but this is yet to be seen.
The good news is that the just-finished 2021 harvest had plentiful crops of high quality in most regions of the country. The cooler regions struggled a bit for ripeness, but that was no great drama. Alternative markets are being pursued for the billions of litres of wine that would have gone to China. The UK market is up more than 20 per cent in both volume and value since December, while the US and Canada are importing strongly. Efforts are also ramping up in Vietnam, Thailand, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
This is the fourth year that wine website The Real Review has created its “Top Wineries of Australia” list, and the second year we’ve teamed with Good Weekend to publish the top 52 of the more than 400 wineries on our list. How do we do it? Each year, The Real Review publishes about 10,000 wine reviews. Using the most recent reviews, we rank the wineries by aggregating the scores their best wines achieved in our tastings. For 2021, Yarra Yering in the Yarra Valley comes in as our top winery. It’s been outstanding for many years but the 2018 vintage was especially successful, the 2018 Carrodus shiraz excelling with a 99-point rating.
Fifteen different wineries feature this year that weren’t in 2020’s Top 52, but while that means 15 from last year didn’t make it, there’s a cigarette paper between them, as the standard is so high.
Location: Clare Valley, SA.
Best known for: Owner/winemaker John Hughes only makes Riesling, hence the name, and there were 10 labels at last count.
Huon says: Dry, off-dry and sweet, fortified and sparkling, single vineyard Polish Hill River, wood-matured and bottle-aged, and an Eden Valley wine (all the others are Clare), Hughes does them all. The 2015 No 6 Aged Riesling top scored, two of the 2020s scored gold ribbons and the other 2020s were close behind. If you love Riesling, Hughes is your guy.