The $32 Margaret River wine that is better than Grange.

By DES HOUGHTON

A $32 bottle of WA shiraz has controversially outscored the legendary $550 Penfolds Grange in a respected wine guide. In a decision sure to send the nation’s wine lovers scurrying for bargains, The Penguin 2010 Good Australian Wine Guide gives the 2007 Voyager Estate Shiraz 96 points and the 2004 Penfolds Grange 95 points.

The guide’s author, Nick Stock, rates 19 other varieties of Australian and New Zealand shiraz ahead of the Grange, including a $40 bottle of 2007 Shaw and Smith Shiraz, a $60 bottle of 2006 Seppelts St Peters Shiraz and a $60 bottle of d’Arenb erg 2006 Dead Arm Shiraz. Mr Stock, a Melbourne-based wine judge, also gives a $30 bottle of 2007 Church Road Reserve Syrah from Hawke’s Bay in NZ equal marks to the Grange.

Alex Wright, 35, whose family owns the Voyager Estate vineyard in Margaret River, said the result was “mind-boggling”. “It’s very humbling and exciting at the same time,” Ms Wright said. She said the survey showed that not all the nation’s great reds come from South Australia. Ms Wright described the Voyager Estate Shiraz as having a lovely perfume with the flavours of blood plumes, mulberry, blackberry spice with a hint of anise and well-balanced oak. She said it was a perfect accompaniment to venison or shanks.

Mr Stock said he tasted more than 8000 wines before making his selections. He names the 2007 Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay ($70) his wine of the year and its creator, Vanya Cullen, his winemaker of the year.

In his book, Mr Stock pokes fun at the mystique surrounding Grange. “Another year, another Grange and another formidable PR campaign,” he wrote. But in an interview, Mr Stock said: “Let’s not turn this into a Grange-bashing story because that’s not what the book is about. “I find the Grange very, very impressive, but there are many wines at a fraction of the price that outperform and out-finesse it.,, Mr Stock seems enraptured by the 2005 Henschke Hill of Grace, which he awards 99 points. It, too, is an iconic Australian red selling for $550. It is at the top rung of Australian shiraz, he said. He raves about its striking blackberry fruits, a spicy complexity, hints of fragrant rose petals and other profound aromas and an impressive complexity and harmony.

Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago was unperturbed by Mr Stock’s ratings. He pointed out that James Halliday, the doyen of Australian wine critics, had recently awarded the latest Grange 98 points, as had Huon Hooke, a respected critic and judge. And one of Europe’s most influential critics, Jancis Robinson, awards it 19.5 points out of 20, saying it was one of the great vintages of all time.

In the latest edition of the Australian Wine Companion (Hardie Grant Books), Halliday said the 2004 Grange had “amazing depth”, comparing it with the finest Grand Cru red burgundy. He gave the Hill of Grace 96 points, describing it as “second only to Penfolds Grange”. Halliday also gives 96 points to Peter Lehmann 2004 Stonewell Shiraz, another red wine with a cult following.

Last month a $25 Margaret River shiraz trumped the nation’s best wines to win best dry table red at the National Wine Show in Canberra. Sandalford’s 2008 Margaret River Range shiraz shared the accolades with Penfolds, which claimed the best table wine and best white table wine gongs for its 2008 Reserve Bin 08A chardonnay which will be released for $90 in May.

About Margaret River Discovery Tours
Sean Blocksidge is the owner operator of the Margaret River Discovery Company, an avid photographer, blogger and South West WA ambassador. In 2010 he won Western Australian Guide of the Year and his tours have been rated the #1 thing to do in Australia on the Tripadvisor website for the past two years.