Our tasting team’s most memorable wines of 2019

As we move into the new year, four members of the Halliday Wine Companion tasting team tell us about their most memorable wines from the past year.

The best wine isn’t always the fanciest or most expensive. More often than not, it’s about the moment, company or occasion, or what the wine represents, as these four esteemed members of our tasting panel reveal.  

The Halliday Wine Companion tasting team

Jeni Port

“I’m going to cheat a little because for me, it was one Adelaide Hills producer and a clutch of memorable wines that made such a huge impression. Interestingly, it came towards the end of a long year of tasting, too. So much for the jaundiced palates of wine writers! The name New Era Vineyards was unknown to me. Expectations weren’t there, simply because I knew nothing about the maker. I tried the 2016 Basket Pressed Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a ‘wow’ moment. Here was a maker with a thoughtful approach, confident in celebrating the variety without too much background winemaking noise. It got 96 points straight off the bat. But was it a one-off? Next came the 2016 Basket Pressed Merlot. Another accomplished winemaking display and a bit of a surprise, really, from a wine region normally obsessed with pinot noir. The 2018 Pinot Rosé completed a trio of beautifully expressive, well-crafted wines. And they were all priced under $30, punching well above their weight. It was a revelation.”

Steven Creber  

“When asked this question, I tried to recall the best wines I’ve had this year, and immediately my mind went to places like Corton Charlemagne and Pomerol. I’ve pulled a couple of pretty good ones out of the cellar, and wine-loving friends have similarly shared some gems with me. But the most memorable wine wasn’t actually the best, in pure quality terms anyway. It was a bottle of the 2012 Penfolds RWT Shiraz, a gift from my son some years ago. He lives in Italy now, and I haven’t seen him for a long while. I drank it by myself on my birthday. Bittersweet I suppose, but memorable in its own way. I’ve kept the empty bottle.”

Jane Faulkner 

“Emotions tend to dictate the most memorable of wines, and gee, I’m lucky as I’ve had many a contender linking people and places. But one wine above all else spoke to me about possibility. About the future. About hope. While tasting it, a shiver ran down my spine. It signified a glimpse of the future of Australian wine as it grapples with our warming climate. That wine is the 2018 SC Pannell McLaren Vale Aglianico, the first vintage of this most excellent southern Italian red variety. In its youth, already the all-encompassing tannins are led by a freshness and brightness of acidity, and a level of detail belying its age. This wine is not merely alive – it’s electrifying. Without question, it was the most important wine I savoured in 2019.”

Ned Goodwin MW 

“It’s hard to come up with one most memorable wine, despite this inevitable edict as each year turns afresh. That said, wine is all about intangibles, such as its capacity to evoke place and one’s memories. With this, my most memorable wine is fresh off the synapses – the 2014 Chateau des Tours from the Rhone in France. It’s a lesser light amid those most luminous, crafted by the estate I believe to be responsible for the most consistently rewarding and delicious wines irrespective of vintage: Rayas, in Chateauneuf du Pape. Indeed, ’14 was lousy in the southern Rhone, and this is a mere Cotes du Rhone. Yet make no mistake, this is pinot-esque grenache, soused in dried herb and redolent of crunchy, sour red fruits. The tannins, expansive and gentle. The acidity, uncannily fresh. The wine, inimitably of place. Its gait, clearly of the galets, garrigue and calcareous clays of this part of the world. Warm and Mediterranean, yet far from hot. Never jammy. With a new love by my side and a surge of optimism, nothing ever tasted so good.”