Top 10 Australian wines to take to dinner

Pete Dillon


So you and your current squeeze have been invited to friends for dinner, and of course, you need to bring wine.  You know that they like a good drop and you are not sure what is best to take. Pete Dillon picks out his top 10 wines to take dining - and a spare if you feel like going over the top.

What follows is a list of 10 sure picks that will please even the most discerning of wine drinkers, at a variety of price points to suit every budget.

It always helps to know what is on the menu. If it is Asian food, you can be safe with a quality riesling, pinot grigio or even a safe light red. For Mediterranean food, it is safe to bring a ballsy wine of either colour as you know that the food will have loads of flavour.  Indian food is always great with a rose, a full flavoured boutique or imported beer, and for Oz Fusion, the choices are endless.

The easy way to think about the marriage of food and wine is not to get hung up on old rules, and make sure the wine will complement rather than dominate the flavour of the food.

1. Windy Peak Pinot Grigio 2008

For under $20, try an 08 Windy Peak Pinot Grigio.  Whilst not the best on the market, this wine has great pinot grigio characteristics and is incredibly good value. Lots of nutty floral type aromas on the nose, and a smooth and creamy finish, with the required melon and lemony mid palette punch. Its not as complex as something at the higher end of the scale but will work well with most foods, excepting big bold sassy meaty stuff.

2. Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2008

Also in this price range, you will find the 08 Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir.  I am a fan of this winery nestled in the main street in Healesville in Victoria. Representing excellent value, there is the hint of cherry flavour with this wine. It has a medium body and the finish is very fruity with a light tannic hint.  It doesn’t need to lie down for long and is easy drinking at the moment, but will cellar for 2 years if you require. The nose is all floral and berry.  A great buy for about $20

3. De Iuliis Verdelho 2007

At $17, the 07 De Iuliis Verdelho from prime Hunter Valley grapes often sold to Tyrells is a beautiful wine for Asian food. With hints of lychee or rambutan, this zesty little wine has a stunningly subtle aromatic nose and is delicious, clean and elegant. The wine can sit on the rack for a good while under screw cap without any worry of it being overdone.

4. Fox Gordon Abbey Viognier 2006

From the Barossa in SA and selling for about $22 is the 06 Fox Gordon Abbey Viognier.  Another member of the aromatic family, this is a well made and utterly drinkable viognier. With hints of stewed apricots, nutmeg and zesty grape skins, this wine made by Tash Mooney is a fabulous example of the variety.  Drink it with pork belly.

5. Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir 2006

Back to the Pinot Noir again, this time an 06 Hoddles Creek from the Yarra Valley. A bright spicy start with minty, dark cherry and strawberry hints mid palette, this Pinot Noir will cellar and drink well at the same time. For value for money, you can’t go wrong at $18 or thereabouts.  The finish is a little tannic without being overbearing. It is both sweet and savoury at the same time.

6. Crabtree Watervale Tempranillo 2006

Tempranillo, the Spanish red variety, is taking off like a storm across the country. From the Clare Valley comes Crabtree Watervale 06 .  With a dark plum and aniseed nose, a sprinkle of spice leads you to a great mid palette weight and length. It has enough acidity to ward off the very fruity ballsiness of the wine, and is eminently drinkable right now. About $22.

7. Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 2005

Something bigger take your fancy?  Then try the 05 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz.  In similar style to previous vintages, the dark chocolate and vanilla kick will remind you of Christmases past. Its a little broody and earthy, yet very clean and not overdone.  A great wine to have with some prime angus beef and at $48 not cheap, but a worthwhile investment with good meat.

8. Donny Goodmac Shiraz 2006

From Victoria’s Pyrenees area comes one of my faves, the 06 Donny Goodmac Shiraz. This will be hard to get, but will be worth the time and energy to find.  It is seamless in its balance- not too big and yet not thin and wimpy. It has a beautiful peppery nose, balanced on the palate with strong plummy cherry like characteristics which will have your tongue humming. With exotic spicy notes, this will drink perfectly well now or will cellar well also.  For around $30, if you can get it, buy as much as you can – probably one of this country’s best Shiraz offerings.

9. Skillogalee Gewurtztraminer 2007

From the Clare Valley comes one of the most under rated varietals we make.  Meaning spicy and dry, Gewurtztraminer is rarely purchased except by those in the know. The 07 Skillogalee Gewurtztraminer has a nose that is all lychee and rose petal with an oily rich and intense palate. This wine will confuse as it smells sweet but delivers a crisp clean finish with a tiny hint of sweetness at the back.  With perfumes and waves of spice, match this with some Thai food for a marriage made in heaven, and less than $25.

10. Lake Breeze Cabernet Savignon 2005

For lovers of Cabernet Sauvignon, head straight to Lake Breeze from Langhorne Creek. The 2005 cab sav is a corker. It has a full body that is all blackcurrant and chocolately, with a beautiful finish that will have you smacking your lips. I call it chewy because you want it to stay on the palate to chew it, its that good. Hints of mint and cedar balance this wine perfectly and with great finesse, making it elegant and mildly tannic on the finish. You will want more, and especially with a slow cook like osso bucco. Buy it for under $25

11. Cullen Diana Madeline 2005

Ten is never enough. For the piece de resistance comes my mother of all wines, the 05 Cullen Diana Madeleine. Made by the award winning Vanya Cullen, this Margaret River winemaker has become one of the best in the country. The Diana Madeleine  is sublime in its presentation on the nose and the palate. Starting with a beautiful spicy aroma, the wine offers fine tannins from front to back, that linger but are not persistent. Concentrated black fruits are juxtaposed against super slick oak to create a dynamic length and finish to this wine.  The elegant deep and intense fruit handle the tannins beautifully. If you want to impress, splash out the $90 or so that you will need to buy this baby. Will cellar until at least 2017.


This article first appeared in Q Mag in June 2009. Reproduced with permission.


June 30th, 2009
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