Small-Batch Wonders: gorgeous red wines that won’t break the bank
This party season, skip the show-offy bottles for reds with a little more nuance (and a lot less sticker shock)
As the holidays loom, Vintages stocks pricier wines to give and (hopefully) receive. It’s easy to impress with a $100-plus cult label from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany or the Napa Valley, and the wine will likely be excellent. But I can guarantee it will also be overpriced. Instead, opt for small-production wines from lesser-known regions. These five reds top out at $60 and will still demonstrate your discerning largesse.
Spend $60 on an Aussie shiraz and you’re only one tier below icons like Penfolds Grange. Lily’s Garden is a sumptuous whopper with 15 per cent alcohol, but the booziness barely registers amid black fruit jam and the chocolate and spice that come from 18 months in oak. Vintages 683086
There’s a wild valley called Heaven and Earth at Walker Bay east of Cape Town. Hamilton Russell pioneered pinot in the cool enclave, making intense versions with a firm burgundian edge. The 2012 is all sour cherry fruit, fresh herbs, meatiness and refined wood presence. Vintages 999516
Steve Green planted pinot in the 1990s in a sub-region of Central Otago called Bannockburn. Today it’s one of the world’s great pinot havens. This powerful, organically grown cherry-, thyme- and spice-scented example bristles with energy, firm structure and ageability. Vintages 919837
For off-the-rack mature reds, no region does it better than Spain’s Rioja, where tempranillo-based reservas and gran reservas age in barrels for years. This elegant, smooth yet vibrant example has sour cherry, tomato, leather, walnut and forest floor flavours, and outstanding length. Vintages 315531
Argentine wines have been value priced for so long that a $50 malbec might come as a shock. But this is an elite wine from high-altitude vineyards made by a pioneering house. It’s full-bodied, deep and youthful, but there’s pedigree and even some silk. Excellent length. Vintages 982355