The best-value drinking in Victoria

Published on 3 December 2021

Photo: The best-value drinking in Victoria (illustration: Marie Fauritte).

How to make your buck go further and get the most deliciousness per dollar at the bar, the table or the bottle-o.

The question of price is a sensitive one in drinks land. Are you a second-cheapest bottle on the wine list person? Or more of the “quality is remembered long after price is forgotten” school? In any case, whatever you think about cost, there’s one thing we can agree on, and that’s the case for value.

Whether it’s a smashable can of beer or a special-occasion bottle in one of those sizes that’s as tall as a toddler and named for an Old Testament king, you still want to get the most bang for your buck. And with that in mind, in the course of putting together our Drinking Victoria column, we’ve put the question to a whole lot of professionals in the drinks trade, winemakers, retailers, brewers, bartenders and beyond, asking them to finish the sentence “There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle shop in this state than…”

Here’s what the brains trust had to say.

2019 Hochkirch Blanc
"Considering this wine is from a vineyard that’s been farmed biodynamically for 20 years, and is a delicious bottle with or without food, I think it's very hard to go past. There are two bottlings of this wine, one with preservatives and one without, and we really love the one without added SO2. This is a really beautiful and outrageously good value snapshot of great Victorian biodynamic farming. It's round with delicious yellow fruit and has the subtle influence from time spent in the barrel. This wine is pretty much always in the fridge at Public." Campbell Burton,sommelier, Public Wine Shop, Fitzroy North

Best's Great Western riesling
"A little under three hours’ drive from Melbourne, this landmark family-owned producer dates back to the 1860s and their Nursery Block represents some of the oldest genetic vine material in the country. Brisk and fresh, Best's riesling has a lightness that belies the intensity of its flavour – all green apple skin and lemon sherbet, crushed stone and white blossom. Refreshing in youth, it also has the ability to mature attractively in bottle. What a piece of Victorian wine history! And it’s widely available in bottle shops for only $25." Leanne Altmann, beverage director, Trader House restaurants, Melbourne 

Fleet Wines
"Good friends making fresh, super delicious, fun wines."
Mac Forbes, winemaker, Mac Forbes Winery, Yarra Valley 

The extraordinary fortified wines from Rutherglen
"Yes, yes, I know: these luscious brown drinks are daggy and old-fashioned and talking about them makes me come across like your boring old uncle banging on about the old days, but I don’t care: they’re brilliant and cheap and if you don’t want to drink them, I will." Max Allen, journalist and author, Melbourne  

Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown
"Tessa Brown and her husband Jeremy Schmölzer make a range of wines called Pret-à (Blanc, Rosé and Rouge) from fruit they purchase in the King and Alpine Valley regions. Easy-drinking wines that deliver bang for buck. The fruit comes from sustainably farmed vineyards and they take a hands-off approach in the winery." Liz Carey, Vivant Selections, Melbourne 

Granite Hills riesling
"Mature vines growing in a fabulous location with a consistent and thoughtful hand."
Michael Dhillon, Bindi Wines, Gisborne

Anything by Fin Wines
"But especially Slurpy Boi." Ben Carwyn, founder, Carwyn Cellars, Thornbury

Victorian riesling
"Think anything from Henty, Upper Goulburn and the Grampians in particular. Our minds are often conditioned to look to the Clare Valley, the Eden Valley or the Great Southern, which are undeniably great regions, but resist the temptation and my – you’re in for a big surprise. And it won’t just be the price." Jeni Port, wine writer, Melbourne

Lambert chardonnay
"Pretty much any wine from the Lamberts is frustratingly balanced, consistent, and delicious. The best." Pat Underwood, winemaker, Little Reddie Wine, Castlemaine

Dirty Black Denim
"Or any of the young winemakers who are making great, accessible and fun wines from lesser-known grapes in lesser-known wine regions. Dirty Black Denim’s Sunbury Sauvignon Blanc or the Heathcote Carménère are just the kind of wines you want to throw in the middle of the picnic blanket for everyone to share." Cara Devine, manager, Bomba Rooftop, Melbourne

3 Ravens Nat Rav Range
"They’re bloody well priced. Experimental barrel-aged sour beers that look like pét nats from Victoria’s oldest independent brewery (from Thornbury, too)." Ben Duval, general manager, Carwyn Cellars, Thornbury

Best’s Bin 1 shiraz
"It’s an absolute bargain, and it can be found in most larger bottle shops and in great pubs. Best’s source their fruit from the wider Great Western area which displays lovely spice and perfume plus loads of fleshy blue fruits. They’ve also been making wine since the late 19th century, giving these wines an incredible lineage." Chris Crawford, general manager of beverage, Crown Resorts, Melbourne

2018 Crawford River Young Vine Riesling
"This wine retails for about $30 and is one of the best rieslings made in Australia. Period. I really love the direction that Belinda [Thomson, chief winemaker] has taken the winemaking in; this wine is fragrant, expressive, bright, and balanced." Jane Lopes, author, Vignette

Granite Hills riesling
"Consistently fantastic and such good value." Tamara Grischy, head of auctions, Langton’s Fine Wine Auctions, Melbourne

Craiglee shiraz
"I don’t see it around as much these days but when I do I make a bee-line for it. This boutique producer reliably makes wines of immense poise and structure. The shiraz is undoubtedly the jewel in their crown with a fine balance between fruit, spice and savouriness. In my view it’s cheap at double the price – especially given their tiny production quantities and incredible (long) history." Rollo Crittenden, winemaker, Crittenden Estate, Melbourne

Italian varieties grown in Australia
"Fiano in particular is really exciting at the moment." Jess Ghaie, co-owner, Blackhearts & Sparrows, Melbourne

Rutherglen fortified wines
"I can’t think of many other wines that offer such range, complexity and age, while leaving such a small dent in your wallet." Sacha Imrie,sommelier

2019 Farr Rising Chardonnay
"It has a minerality up there with mid-level Burgundy in my opinion." Costa Nikias, founder and chef brewer, La Sirène Brewing, Melbourne 

Payten & Jones VV Wine Series
"This is tough. We are absolutely spoilt for choice. I love Payten & Jones VV Wine Series (magnums for just more than a pineapple, anyone?). And, of course, Rutherglen for fortified wines." Hannah Day, sommelier

Brown Brothers NV Sparkling Brut
"I’m biased, but it absolutely over-delivers. The blend of pinot noir and chardonnay has a creaminess that finishes with refreshing acidity, which leaves the palate wanting more." Eliza Brown, director, Brown Family Wine Group

Dirty Three pinot noir
"From South Gippsland, and Hoddles Creek chardonnay from the Yarra." Stuart Gregor, co-founder, Four Pillars Gin, Healesville

Prince Wine Store
"Is there anything better when your good mates Michael McNamara and Alex Wilcox not only run one of the best wine stores in the world but also have a restaurant like Bellota where you can tap into their wine selections and eat amazing food crafted by Nicky Riemer? And I might be a little biased (our family own Hoddles Creek Estate in the Yarra Valley and my twin brother is the winemaker) but everything we do at Hoddles is to try and create the highest quality wine at the lowest price. My twin brother and I planted the first 12 acres back in 1997 on our university holidays and I quickly realized manual labour wasn’t for me. Fast-forward 20 years and my brother is still there." Anthony D’Anna, director of operations, Bocaccio Cellars, Melbourne 

Little Reddie’s Super Juice
"It’s made from nebbiolo grown near Heathcote and it’s so bright and vibrant, it’s perfect for when the weather starts to warm." Andrew Fitzgerald, co-founder, The Gospel, Melbourne

Garagiste!
"Viva la Barney. All good at all levels." Andrew Joy, co-owner, Pyren Estate, Melbourne

Patrick Sullivan Wines
"Much like virtue, value too, is in the eye of the beholder. For all the effort and soul that goes into Pat’s products, to be able to get a hold of any of his wines for the price you can is exceptionally fortunate for us all." Joe Jones, owner, Romeo Lane, Melbourne 

Terrason Wines
"I haven’t had a bad bottle from Marc, whether it be his cab franc, gamay, aligoté or fizz. The wines are about $30, $35 a bottle retail and always overdeliver for the price." Jasmine Wakely, winemaker, Le Timbre, Melbourne

Rutherglen fortified
"Generations in the making and world-beating in quality. We all need some more fortifieds in our lives." Jen Pfeiffer, winemaker, Pfeiffer Wines, Wahgunyah

Hoddles Creek
"Chardonnay or pinot noir. How do they make it so good yet so cheap?" Sarah Crowe, winemaker and general manager, Yarra Yering, Hunter Valley

Craiglee chardonnay
"Underrated and undervalued, this wine is an absolute gem."
Belinda Thomson, winemaker and viticulturalist, Crawford River

Rutherglen’s muscats and muscadelles
"They’re massively underappreciated. Many have been lovingly crafted by multiple generations and are always high quality and beautifully decadent." Nick Brown, winemaker, Mount Ophir Estate, Rutherglen

Pacha Mama
"I may be biased – the wines are made by my partner, Callie – but they’re cracking examples of grapes from all over the state that punch way higher than their price tags would suggest. If I had to choose just one of their wines it would probably be the Yarra chardonnay." Nic Sandery, founder and brewer, Molly Rose, Melbourne

Hoddles Creek Estate 2018 Chardonnay
"For around $25, this is a great introduction into what makes the Yarra Valley such a great place to grow and make what is Australia’s most planted white variety. Made from a vineyard that the D’Anna family first planted at Hoddles Creek in 1996, the fruit is all picked by hand before being barrel fermented in mainly older French oak. There are stonefruit, pear and flint aromas while the palate has enough tension to ensure this will still be looking good three to four years – and probably longer – from now." Philip Rich, general manager wine, Hero, Melbourne

Jeffrey Wines’ Wimble Blanc
"It’s interesting and legit booze for a great price." Simon Denman, director, Neighbourhood Wine

Victorian riesling
"Such a misunderstood variety. I particularly love Crawford River from the Portland region for its lovely floral notes. Rieslings can differ so much. Many still think of it as the sweet grape, however the riesling that is grown in Australia is not sweet at all. It has high acidity with underlying citrus, mineral and floral notes." Martin Pirc, proprietor, Punch Lane and Waygood, Melbourne  

Hoddles Creek Estate and Wickhams Road
"Both labels are made by Franco D’Anna in the Yarra Valley who, together with his brothers Anthony and Stef, has an incredible ability to understand that often tricky relationship between quality, value for money and producing the kind of wines people want to drink." Matt Skinner, sommelier, Sand Hill Road Group, Melbourne  

Rutherglen muscat
"Australia’s unique gift to the world of wine that deserves far more attention and appreciation." Jancis Robinson, wine writer, London, jancisrobinson.com

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