Each year James Halliday reveals his top 100 wines and has done so since the late 1970s when he wrote for the National Times before moving to The Australian in the early 1980s. The annual list provides a snapshot of all that is good about Australian wines (and Champagne) reflecting the quality of the wines chosen across all varieties, styles and regions.
His annual ‘Wine Companion’ has been published every year since 1986.
This year, over 1000 wines were submitted by 325 of Australia’s foremost wineries, with no entry fee, just the requirement they will be available for sale on the date of publication in November.
An unmatched authority on every aspect of the Australian wine industry, Mr Halliday has been a wine critic and vigneron for 49 years and is considered the world’s leading authority on Australian wine.
Announcing his Top 100 for 2021 in The Australian over the weekend, Mr Halliday wrote, “As if to make up for the loss of China, the impact of the pandemic, the drought (small vintages in 2018, ’19 and ’20), bushfires and shipping delays trashing supply chains, nature has given us a 2021 vintage like no other.”
The flow on effect from this, he says, is that over the next twelve months, he expects to see thousands of wines that will transform the Top 100 for 2022 as the oak fermented and/or matured styles come onto the market.
Mr Halliday puts the value of the 2021 crush at approximately $1.56 billion, up 36 per cent on 2020 and with red varieties at $1.06b and white at $501m.
He also believes “the exit of China and the resurgence of the UK market is providing a far more balanced view of Australia’s rich wine offer”.
His piece also acknowledged the increasing importance and strength of the DTC channel with sales up 17 per cent by value and 14 per cent by volume and cellar door sales which surged with the boom in domestic tourism with value up by 22 per cent, and volume by five.
The full list is available here but for now, a nod to those that achieved an impressive 99 points:
Krug Grande Cuvée NV: 99 points $329
Mr Halliday: “What can one say? Magnificent; all this power with all this finesse, elegance and freshness, from the first whiff to the aftertaste. Apple, grapefruit blossom, dried and fresh fruits and spicy pastry. One glass is never enough, with or without food. 169ème Édition; 146 wines, 11 different years ’00-’13; 43/35/22% pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.”
House of Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2006 99 points $266
Mr Halliday: “Extraordinary: still so fresh and balanced, minerally, laser-like acidity; infinite length, apple, pear, brioche and honey coexistence seems impossible, but it’s not, nor is its ability to stare down Champagne. 67/33% chardonnay and pinot noir from Derwent Valley and the East Coast. Spent 14 years on lees, the dosage only 2.6g/l. Disgorged March ’21.”
Reds Over $40
In the Reds Over $40 category, Mr Halliday said, “Four pinot noirs make up for the small number with a cascade of high points – for which I make no apology. This is ‘Lucky Country’ stuff.”:
Pooley Jack Denis Pooley Pinot Noir 2020 99 points $140
Mr Halliday: Matured in 33% new French barriques. This 33% whole bunch pinot has depth beyond that of its siblings. It’s full-on forest floor, full-on savoury spices, and tannins made to measure, but all bow down to the primacy of the dark berry fruit of the impossibly long finish. World class. Screwcap, 13.1% alc.”
Whites over $30
Brokenwood ILR Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 2014 99 points $100
“Still freakishly green-straw, it is an exercise in purity from start to finish, all the facets of the bouquet and palate utterly harmonious, balanced and long with citrus, beeswax and lemongrass floating on a transparent film of acidity. A flawless wine that is a vinous masterpiece. Screwcap, 11.5% alc.”