The judging for this year’s Halliday Wine Companion Awards was conducted as a blind tasting by the Tasting Team. The winners were determined through a series of tastings and round-table discussions, meaning each title awarded is the result of a truly collaborative effort. We present the 2024 Winery of the Year Shortlist – meet our finalists below.
All Saints Estate is a winery
that demands to be celebrated. Its range of fortified wines is nothing short of magnificent. But there is also of course more to All Saints Estate than fortified wine; it produces excellent examples of durif, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese and blends.
There’s an argument to say that the Bleasdale winery, both historically and most certainly at the hand of winemaker Paul Hotker, should be regarded as every Australian wine lover’s best friend. There was no doubt a great foundation and culture to build on, in vineyards and growers, people and history, but the work of Bleasdale’s head winemaker Paul Hotker cannot be underestimated. He and his team are relentless in their determination to work magic.
The Silkmans (Liz, Greg and Shaun) sure know how to produce great wine
. First Creek Wines is, in short, a champion of the Hunter Valley. The quality of the wines has been consistently exemplary and there is every reason to believe this will continue in the years to come.
One step forward for this leading Yarra Valley winery is one giant step forward for Australian wine. The championship of a host of single-vineyard sites by this producer over the past 25 years has been as inspiring as it has been uniformly delicious, and the march forward in this quality-obsessed, land-driven focus continues at pace. The addition of the (outstanding) 1986-planted Bastard Hill vineyard to the Giant Steps fold in 2023 was yet another coup, as has been the addition of head winemaker Melanie Chester. Former head winemaker (and current consultant) Steve Flamsteed’s words that Giant Steps is about ‘beautiful ingredients, carefully made’, couldn’t be more apt.
Since purchasing the substantial Brokenback Vineyard in 2009, Bill and Vicki Widin have wasted no time. Leogate Estate does the regional specialties of semillon and shiraz
exceptionally well, as it does chardonnay, the latter of particular note after a decade in the cellar.
Oakridge is one of Australia and the Yarra Valley’s most pre-eminent producers, and while its long-standing and ongoing specialty is chardonnay, it has for quite some time now completely outgrown this definition. It is also a wonderful producer of Yarra Valley cabernet sauvignon, and a star of pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, shiraz, pinot meunier, and even at times riesling.
Penley Estate is not a new name and yet its wine range right now is as fresh as it is exciting. Indeed few (if any) wineries can match Penley Estate in the way it combines traditional, cellar-worthy wine styles with newer, fresher ways of thinking and drinking. Winemaker Kate Goodman is the driving force here, though she’s clearly been uncommonly well enabled by the estate’s owners, and supported by clever marketing and label-redesign. Penley Estate has always been a good producer but in recent years it has elevated its standing considerably.
Pepper Tree’s wines taste great now, and they age incredibly well, demonstrably so, there’s no guess-work about it. Indeed you can try them for yourself: these aged wines are available as museum releases. Chardonnay, shiraz and semillon are no doubt the winery’s stars, as they should be for a Hunter Valley producer, but cabernet sauvignon, merlot and riesling (from Orange) also excel.
Owned and run by the Hill-Smith family, Yalumba’s history is as rich or richer than any other producer in Australian wine, and still its current-release wines remain stellar. The synergy of the range of brands, varieties and prices is obvious, but it received added lustre with the creation of The Caley. Yalumba simply never takes its foot off the quality pedal. When Yalumba goes all-out at quality, its wines are the rival of anyone, anywhere.
Great vineyards, great management, great winemaking, great wines. Everything here, on both the land and in the cellar, is treated with respect, with care, with thought and with good reason. Critically, over and over, it shows in the glass. Yangarra doesn’t deal with a great deal of different varieties, but it fundamentally lays down the law on grenache, shiraz, roussanne and various Rhône inspired reds and whites.
*This is an edited extract from the 2024 Halliday Wine Companion, with reviews by James Halliday, Campbell Mattinson, Dave Brookes, Jane Faulkner, Jeni Port, Mike Bennie, Ned Goodwin MW, Philip Rich and Shanteh Wale. Cover art by Ka Mo.
The winner of each category will be announced at the 2024 Halliday Wine Companion Awards on Wednesday August 2, 2023.
The 2024 Halliday Wine Companion is available from August 3. You can pre-order your copy of Australia's most comprehensive wine guide here.
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Words by Campbell Mattinson