Australia's best red wines: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache

Wine news

Wed 20 Jan 2021

Some of the best Australian Shiraz comes from the Barossa Valley

Refinement is how you can best describe the progress of Australian red wines in recent years. The country has earned its stellar red reputation on Shiraz, with Cabernet providing solid support. Barossa winemaker Peter Lehmann nailed it when he said: ‘When God invented Shiraz, he did it with Australia in mind.’

Shiraz is still king – it absolutely dominates the Aussie red category, as you’ll discover in the list of winners below – but there’s a growing appreciation for Mediterranean varieties, such as Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Barbera and Grenache. The latter, in particular, has soared in popularity in recent years, and taps into the trend for lighter, fresher reds, but still with plenty of character. Rough Diamond Grenache 2019 from Langmeil Winery is an IWSC Silver winner this year, and wowed judges with its balance of red fruit, spice and pepper.

The curious thing about Australian wine is that its success has been built around everything France is not – its info-packed labels and all-round user-friendliness was a refreshing change from the old guard – but now Australia is proudly shouting about its regional differences, and that’s abundantly clear in its wine.

Shiraz from the Barossa, for example, is all velvety opulence, while McLaren Vale versions ramp up the spice and fragrance, and those from the Clare Valley add a touch of finesse. The notion of one-dimensional ‘Aussie Shiraz’ is most definitely a thing of the past, which is great news for the wine drinker. The following are the best Australian red wines as judged in the latest IWSC tasting.


Platinum Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2016iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-1.png
Wolf Blass

A smart, elegant and complex wine which evolves on the palate. Dark and brooding, the dark cherry and blackberry aromatics are joined by the interplay of ground coffee, light smoke, and a peppery, leathery complexity. A powerful core with lingering flavours. 14%

Shiraz 2018iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-2.png
Mum's Block

Powerful yet restrained and elegant, the nose displays evidence of evolution from tomato chutney characters to classic ripe berry fruits. The oak influence is beautifully intertwined to create balance and harmony. 14.5%.

Rutherglen Estate Red Shiraz-Durif 2018iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-3.png
De Bortoli

Tiny sweet fruit clusters of dark ripe berries; complex savoury notes: intense spiced cedar, garrigue and luscious bramble fruit. Perfectly refined, elegant and well-balanced. Bursting with personality! 14.9%. $14; Just Wines

Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz-Malbec 2012iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-4.png
Wolf Blass

Indulgent notes of blackberry, blueberry and figs unfurl on the nose before an opulent palate delivers beautifully developed dark fruit and savoury, meaty complexity alongside sublimely integrated tannins. This is a sumptuous and supremely structured wine of exceptional class. 14.5%. Find on Wine Searcher

The Pioneer Shiraz 2017iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-5.png
Wakefield Taylors Wines

Complex aromas greet the senses with sublime oak drifting across. The palate is svelte with an exquisite black fruit profile complemented by a savoury meaty kick with just a hint of pepper spice and dried currant. A stunning wine. 14.5%. £85; Wine Direct (2013/14 vintage)

Shiraz 2019iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-6.png
Heirloom Vineyards

Deceptively light at first, yet the palate has power depth and great fruit structure. The tannins are ripe and rounded and the hint of spice provided by a judicious use of oak. 14.5%. £16; Vinvm (2017 vintage)

Shiraz 2018iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-7.png

Enticing meaty and gamey nose. Appealing and complex wild fruits mingle with spice, violets and clove notes. Well judged wine in a Rhone style. 14.5%

1919 Shiraz 2013iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-8.png

Liquorice, peppercorn, prune and juniper on the classic nose, which has lovely development. Blackcurrant and delicious leathery spice with a rich, full bodied texture. 13.8%. £65; Home Delivery Wine (2006 vintage)

Punch Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2016iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-9.png

Displaying a pretty nose of flora and spice that marries well with the black cherry and tobacco leaf characters. Tannins are robust and the finish is luscious and long. 14.5%

Echelon Collection Shiraz 2018iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-10.png

Forward and expressive on the nose with plush plum fruit and bags of spice. The oak is evident but not overpowering. Rich tannin and vibrant acidity balance beautifully. 14.8%

Antiquus Shiraz 2017iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-11.png
Peter Lehmann

True of place, with flavours of baked black plum, bramble fruits, tobacco leaf, eucalyptus, leather and game. Fine, structured tannins are well integrated with warm alcohol and lifted acidity. 14.7%. $34; Laithwaite's Wine People

Dark Corner Reserve Shiraz 2015iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-12.png
Casella Family Brands

Sublimely balanced with engaging complexity and a great palate of succulent black cherries, leather and spice. All elements have integrated beautifully and the finish just keeps giving. A fantastic example. 14.5%

Rutherglen Estate Shiraz 2018iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-13.png
De Bortoli

Plummy plump, pleasingly mellow intro followed by waves of inviting poised, bright freshness; black and red fruit, bacon, herbs; structured tannins. A generous supple finish and sublime focus. One to watch! 14.8%

Deen Vat 9 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-14.png
De Bortoli

Dark, plush and powerful expression with notes of dark cherry and cassis, and complex notes of coffee, dark chocolate and tobacco with peppery, eucalyptus touches. Smooth body with fine tannins. 14.5%. £9.25; Drink Finder (2012 vintage)

Rough Diamond Grenache 2019iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-15.png
Langmeil Winery

Appealing nose of concentrated red and purple fruit, spices and pepper. The palate has a good weight with sound tannins and amply balanced acidity. 14.5%

Vintage Bell Cabernet Sauvignon 2017iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-16.png
Wirra Wirra

Silky and moreish. The nose has maturing damson and tomato characters finishing with ripe blueberries and fresh leaf. Great balance and intensity with well integrated tannins and acidity. 13.5%

Single Vineyard O'Deas Red Blend 2016iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-17.png
Wynns Coonawarra Estate

Spiced plums on the nose, with the palate being directional and lifted by good bright fruit. Tannins are full, with a good finish. A very appealing wine. 14.2%

Command Single Vineyard Shiraz 2017iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-18.png

Bright, youthful and fruit-forward with notes of rich blackberry and black cherry, despite showing signs of development with aromas of fig, leather, coffee and game. A powerful wine. 14.9%. £49.95; The Vinorium (2016 vintage)

Oracle Shiraz 2016iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-19.png

An excitingly spicy expression with deeply concentrated blackberry notes and a hint of blueberry lozenge. The palate is sumptuous and giving with a touch of delicious meatiness and smooth tannins. 14.5%. £37.95; Fareham Wine Cellar (2014 vintage)

509A Shiraz 2017iwsc-top-australian-red-wines-20.png

Complex nose of leather, balsamic, raspberry jam and white pepper. The palate shows hints of oak, with sweet spices and an earthy finish. A well-made wine. 15.5%