The 20 Best Australian and New Zealand Wines for ‘Down Under’ $20 Slideshow
March 11, 2016
We’ve found the best Australian and New Zealand wines at the lowest prices
Paringa Sparkling Shiraz 2012 ($18) - Australian
This Australian sparkler is composed entirely of shiraz. The fruit was sourced from 14-year-old vines. Black raspberry aromas lead a huge nose that is fruity and floral. If the nose of a wine could be compared to an invitation, this one is welcoming you to a party that is fun and a bit loud. The palate is studded with vibrant black fruit flavors; blackberry and raspberry are most prominent. Molasses, anise, black cherry, and a mélange of spices are all present in the above average finish. The bottom line here is that the Paringa Sparkling Shiraz is a fun and delicious wine. Pair it with rich chocolate desserts, a burger, or drink it by itself. Each alternative will work.
Henry’s Drive Morse Code Chardonnay 2011 ($13) - Australian
Sweet and ripe orchard fruit aromas leap from the glass of this Australian chardonnay. Oodles of tropical and continued orchard fruit flavors are present on the incredibly pleasing palate. Bartlett pear, pineapple, Yellow Delicious apple, and mango emerge alongside a core of spices such as nutmeg, clove, and vanilla bean. The finish is crisp and refreshing with terrific acidity and good length. This is a very solid chardonnay for a bargain price.
Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($14) - New Zealand
One vintage after another, this particular release, from New Zealand, stands as one of the great sauvignon blanc values in the world. It’s a wine of consistent style and quality. Citrus and tropical fruit aromas abound on the nose. The palate is generously laced with tons of gorgeous fruit flavors and tiny wisps of grass. Papaya, yellow melon, and white pepper emerge on the lovely finish. It’s a middle-of-the-road sauvignon blanc in the way you want an entry-level wine to be. It has good varietal character and lots of drinking pleasure. It’ll appeal to a wide array of taste buds. Stock up and drink this all spring and summer.
Jacob’s Creek Two Lands Pinot Grigio 2014 - Australian
This Aussie pinot grigio has a bold nose laced with gooseberry and fleshy yellow melon aromas. Those characteristics continue through the palate and are joined by lemon curd and cardamom spice, as well as Anjou pear. The refreshing, crisp, fruity and lingering finish has a nice bit of richness with a touch of crème fraîche. It has terrific varietal typicity; more in fact than some well-known Italian examples that sell for almost twice as much. Whether you pair this with light foods or drink it as an apéritif, it’s delicious and well-priced.
Yalumba Chardonnay Y Series Unwooded 2015 ($16) - Australian
I enjoy plenty of chardonnays that receive oak treatment of one sort or another. However, there’s something about the purity that comes with chardonnay that sees no oak that speaks to me. Tropical fruit and spices inform the welcoming nose of this Australian entry. A burst of yellow apple, pineapple, and a hint of vanilla are all evident on the palate. Wet limestone, lemon zest, and more are all apparent in the above-average finish. This is a solid example of unadulterated chardonnay for the price.
Yalumba Riesling Y Series 2014 ($16) - Australian
One of the things I look for in wines less than $20 is consistent reliability. This riesling from Australia's Barossa Valley has that in spades. Year after year, this is a lovely and well-priced selection. A mélange of citrus aromas dominate the nose. Apricot, peach, and lychee fruit flavors dominate the palate. Lemon zest, white pepper, and bits of marzipan are apparent on the above average finish. If you don’t think of Australia for riesling, think again.
Wakefield Estate Riesling 2014 ($17) - Australian
All of the fruit for this wine (100 percent riesling) was sourced in the Clare Valley, Australia. Fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel with a range of select yeasts. Lychee fruit and hints of linseed oil emerge on the vibrant but even-keeled nose. The palate shows off orange peel, lemon zest, and apricot flavors. Tart yellow melon, hints of Granny Smith apple, and spices such as cardamom and white pepper are present on the finish. This gloriously dry wine is an excellent example of riesling. It’ll pair as well with Indian dishes as it will with pork loin roasted with apples.
Robert Oatley Signature Series Margaret River Chardonnay 2014 ($18) - Australian
Anjou pear and wisps of white peach emerge from the nose of this Australian entry. The palate is fruit-forward, while remaining proportionate and lovely. Lots of orchard and stone fruit characteristics are joined by subtle hints of spice. Bits of limestone are present on the above-average finish. There is a nice weight and terrific feel to this wine; I simply didn’t want to put it down. It’s a really expressive and clean chardonnay that is gently accented by oak.
Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($18) - New Zealand
The aromas here are slightly more reticent than on the other wines, but white flower and ruby grapefruit aromas are evident. The palate has tons of minerals and spice along with fruit flavors that fill a somewhat subservient role. Wet limestone, lemon ice, and a touch of chamomile tea are all part of the substantial finish, which has memorable length and depth.
Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard 2015 ($20) - New Zealand
Green apple notes along with bits of herb are present on the nose in this New Zealand wine from one of The Daily Meal's runners-up in this year's Winery of the Year ranking. The palate shows off both orchard and tropical fruits in droves. Mineral notes and bits of apricot are apparent on the long finish. My favorite thing about this wine is the mouthfeel, which is off the charts. It had a nice weight and texture that demands you come back for sip after sip.
Mud House The Woolshed Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($20) - New Zealand
The fruit for this wine was sourced from two blocks within the namesake vineyard in New Zealand's Marlborough region. It was fermented in stainless steel without any oak influence. Granny Smith apple aromas dominate the nose. Lots of mellifluous citrus flavors and bits of limestone fill the deeply layered and complex palate. This bone-dry wine has an impressive finish that shows all of the above characteristics remaining. This sauvignon blanc is really appealing all by itself, but it will marry with a wider than average array of foods. This is basically a $35 wine with a $20 price tag; grab a case!
Jacob’s Creek Two Lands Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($14) - Australian
The nose on this Australian cabernet is dense with lots of black fruit aromas. Plum and black raspberry are part of the mix, along with hints of toast. Generous and smooth in nature, this medium-bodied wine fills the palate with black fruit flavors. Dusty cocoa and black pepper emerges on the finish, along with bits of sour black cherry. Velvety tannins and firm acid provide fine structure.
Matua Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014 ($15) - New Zealand
The fruit for this New Zealander is predominantly from Marlborough with a small contribution from Central Otago blended in. It’s entirely pinot noir. After a cold soak lasting three days and fermentation, the wine was aged largely in stainless steel tanks while a small amount was aged in oak. Black tea and cherry aromas lead the gently alluring nose of this pinot noir. The palate is stacked with a range of red and black cherry flavors as well as wisps of wild strawberry. Hints of anise lead the refined and silky finish along with a touch of cinnamon and clove. This is a very enjoyable, easy to drink pinot noir, with sufficient depth and character. It’s hard to find good pinot under $20; here’s one for $15 that gets the job done in delicious fashion.
Criterion Coonawarra Cabernet 2013 ($17) - Australian
There’s a ton of excellent cabernet sauvignon being produced in a variety of distinct Australian regions. This under $20 selection really gets the job done for a nice price. It’s pretty dark in the glass. Red and black cherry aromas as well as savory herbs mark the welcoming nose. The palate is filled with juicy but proportionate red fruit flavors tinged with hints of darker fruits. Bits of olive and cranberry are present on the finish alongside a dusting of cocoa. This is a solid everyday cabernet sauvignon.
Henry’s Drive Pillar Box Red 2012 ($17) - Australian
This red blend was my first introduction to the South Australian Henry’s Drive brand a number of years back. It remains a solid entry in a great portfolio. It’s a bit coarse up front with hints of smoke on the mid-palate through the finish. White pepper notes and continued echoing red fruit characteristics stand out on the solid finish. This Pillar Box Red has been an excellent value for a bunch of years now.
Wakefield Estate Shiraz 2014 ($17) - Australian
The Taylor Estate in the Clare Valley was the source of the fruit for this shiraz. After fermentation, it was aged in American oak for 12 months. Big red and black fruit characteristics emerge on the boisterous nose. The palate is studded with similar characteristics, as well as bits of espresso and dark bitter chocolate. The long finish is spice-driven and loaded with additional fruit elements such as blackberry and raspberry. This is a fruit-driven shiraz that is also proportionate and even keeled.
Robert Oatley Signature Series McLaren Vale GSM 2014 ($18) - Australian
This wine from South Australia's McLaren Vale is a blend of grenache (60 percent), shiraz (30 percent) and mourvèdre (10 percent). There’s a gentle bit of pleasing tar on the nose, alongside a potpourri of red fruit aromas. Blackberry and forest floor elements are in evidence throughout the palate, while Earth, minerals, and hints of smoked meat are evident on the finish, which is well above average for the price point. This is a fantastic food wine.
Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2014 ($18) - Australian
This is produced from Barossa Valley fruit. Violets and plum leap from the effusive nose of this wine. There’s also a tiny tinge of tar present. Red cherry characteristics lead a host of red fruits and spices on the plate of this tempranillo. The finish is persistent and shows both length and depth. Red fruits continue alongside Earth, cocoa, and leather. Firm acid keeps things in check here. Pair this wine with hard cheeses and grilled meats. This is a fine example of tempranillo that shows how adaptable this variety can be. Having had several vintage so this wine, I’m impressed with what they’re doing in the Barossa Valley with tempranillo.
Yangarra McLaren Vale Grenache 2013 ($20) - Australian
Grenache is one of the most food-friendly grapes on the planet. This old vine example from the McLaren Vale region of Australia is no exception to that. Red and purple fruit aromas light up the nose. Black tea, red raspberry, spices galore, and a hint of anise are all in evidence on the lush and generous palate. The finish shows off sour red fruit, bits of Earth, and a host of minerals. Firm, racy acid is the key to this wine pairing with so many foods. You could pour this as your only red of the day and it would hold its own with the entire smorgasbord.
Hardys Whiskers Blake Tawny Port ($16) - Australian
When I started drinking dessert wines, ports, and the like, this offering was an early go-to for me. Some 20 years later, I still find it to be delicious and an outstanding value. It’s loaded with toasted nut and caramel notes on the nose. Bits of toffee, brown sugar, and marzipan are apparent on the deep, dense, and beautifully sweet palate. Hints of chocolate and toasted pecan appear on the finish.