Langton’s, the important Australian wine auction house, publishes a Classification of top Australian wines every five years. Their latest (Classification V) was published in 2010 and included 123 wines that they regarded as being the “best performing ultra-fine Australian wines”. What can this classification tell us about the performance of different wine regions and varietals?
The Classification divides fine wines into four classes based on auction prices over an extended period. Hence wines with a limited track record (<12 vintages) are automatically excluded.
The first point to make is that the vast majority (88%) of the included wines are red. This might can as something of a surprise to lovers of Hunter Valley Semillon, Eden Valley Riesling or Margaret River Chardonnay. All of these wines have representatives in the Langton’s Classification V – just not very many of them. In 2010, 39% of Australia’s then vineyard total of 152,000 ha was given over to white varietals, so at a top level we may conclude that white wines are an underperforming sector. Yet varietals such as Pinot Gris and Viognier are relatively recent additions to the Australian vineyard. Hopefully we can look forward to fine examples of these varietals in future Langton’s Classifications.
Unsurprisingly, red wines are dominated by single varietal Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Although Merlot is used in top performing blends, there is currently no single varietal Merlot that makes it into this classification. Is this one area where the market (and not just in Australia) seems to under-appreciate a potentially great varietal? Two of the foremost up and coming black varietals in Australia are Tempranillo and Sangiovese, but with a limited track record it will probably be several future editions of Langton’s before these varietals feature.
The best performing states are South Australia and Victoria with strong representation in all four categories. In 2010, Victoria’s 26,000 ha of bearing vines was only a third of South Australia’s 72,000 ha, so its degree of representation in Langton’s is impressive. Fine wines are being produced across the state, but with a particular concentration in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula regions of the Port Phillip Zone. South Australia’s finest wines are more evenly spread across the state with representations from the Barossa Zone (Barossa Valley, Eden Valley), the Mount Lofty Ranges Zone (Clare Valley, Adelaide), the Fleurieu Zone (McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek) and the Limestone Coast Zone (Coonawarra).