The eagerly anticipated 2005 fourth edition of Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine is now released. It is already attracting plenty of interest and heated debate among wine enthusiasts, critics, collectors and wine industry figures throughout the world of wine. To view an interactive gallery of all 101 wines in Langton’s new 2005 Classification select The Market/Classification Wines on this site. Langton’s new 2005 Classification is available now in a limited collector’s edition art quality poster which can be ordered by clicking on the Classification Poster panel to the right.
Langton’s 2005 Classification IV distinguishes Australia’s finest wines in a simple but highly potent way. It works on the essential elements of track record and reputation, both of which are measured through auction market presence, consistency, volume of demand and price realisations.
In Langton’s 2005 Classification Australia’s top 101 wines are calculated and then rated using historical records of sale volumes and price data from a highly informed, and increasingly international, market of buyers and sellers. Langton’s 2005 Classification embraces the many subsets and enthusiasms of the Australian wine market. For the first time it also benefits from the extraordinary information gathering made possible by the online auction technology that Langton’s now uses.
The Classification is an ‘all round’ list which captures the heart of the contemporary secondary wine market. These ultra-fine wines have a reputation for evoking the spirit of the Australian landscape, the nuances of each season, the intellect of the winemaker and his or her emotional connection with the vineyard.
These are Australia’s top 101 wines voted not by wine judges or wine critics, but by the ultra-fine wine consumer – the many thousands of wine enthusiasts who regularly participate in buying and selling fine Australian wine at Langton’s.
Langton’s 2005 Classification comprises four rankings: Exceptional, Outstanding, Excellent and Distinguished. Each level represents a certain strength and market definition. All wines included in the Classification require a minimum of 10 vintages made and a track record on the auction market.
It is a tradition that the historically important Penfolds Bin 95 Grange Shiraz, a cornerstone of the secondary wine market, heads the Classification in the Exceptional category. In the 2005 Classification it is accompanied by 10 other Exceptional wines renowned for their sheer quality and consistency.
The newest additions to this top level are the madly rare, profoundly intense Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir, the complex and beautifully structured Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon, Rick Kinzbrunner’s ethereal Giaconda Chardonnay and Robert O’Callaghan’s remarkable Rockford Basket Press Shiraz.
They join Henschke Hill of Grace, Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Mary Quintet Cabernet Blend, Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and Wendouree Shiraz in the Exceptional category.
Exceptional (11 wines)
The most highly sought-after and prized Australian wines on the market.
4 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet blends – 5 South Australia
4 Shiraz – 3 Victoria
2 Chardonnay – 3 Western Australia
1 Pinot Noir
Bass Phillip Reserve Pinot Noir (new)
Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot (promoted from Outstanding)
Giaconda Chardonnay (promoted from Outstanding)
Rockford Basket Press Shiraz (promoted from Outstanding)
Outstanding (22 wines)
‘Super seconds’ of the Australian wine market, these are benchmark quality wines with a very strong market following.
This level of the Classification has changed dramatically, illustrating the astonishing changes in market sentiment over the last five years. The move towards single vineyard wines and the inevitable ‘gentrification’ of some cult wines shows a dynamic market which embraces all factions of the Australian wine scene. 15 out of the 22 wines are single vineyards although it can be argued an additional three Coonawarra wines are individual vineyard selections.
14 Shiraz/Shiraz blends – 14 South Australia
4 Cabernet Sauvignons/Cabernet Blends – 5 Victoria
2 Pinot Noir – 2 New South Wales
1 Riesling – 1 Western Australia
Barossa Valley Estates E&E Black Pepper Shiraz (promoted from Excellent)
Best’s Thomson Family Reserve Shiraz (new)
Chris Ringland (Three Rivers) Shiraz (new)
Clarendon Hills Astralis Syrah (new)
Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier (new)
Grant Burge Meshach Shiraz (new)
Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Shiraz (promoted from Excellent)
Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock Shiraz (promoted from Excellent)
Katnook Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon (new)
Kay Brother’s Amery Block 6 Shiraz (new)
Majella The Malleea Cabernet Shiraz (new)
Parker Coonawarra Estate First Growth Cabernet Sauvignon (new)
Yalumba The Octavius Old Vine Shiraz (new)
Excellent (34 wines)
High-performing wines of exquisite quality achieving slightly lower values and market interest.
17 Shiraz/Shiraz Blends – 20 South Australia
11 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Blends – 8 Victoria
3 Pinot Noir – 3 New South Wales
2 Semillons (1 sweet/1 dry) – 3 Western Australia
Bannockburn Serre Pinot Noir (new)
Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir (new)
D’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz (new)
Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz (new)
Greenock Creek Roennfeldt Road Cabernet Sauvignon (new)
Greenock Creek Roennfeldt Road Shiraz (new)
McWilliam’s Lovedale Semillon (new)
Noon Reserve Shiraz (new)
Torbreck Run Rig Shiraz (new)
Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet Blend (new)
Veritas Hanisch Vineyard Shiraz (new)
Distinguished (34 wines)
Secondary market staples or emerging classics. Sometimes undervalued by the market.
11 Shiraz/Shiraz Blends (1 Sparkling) – 14 South Australia
13 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Blends – 13 Victoria
4 Chardonnay – 4 Western Australia
2 Pinot Noir – 2 New South Wales
2 Riesling – 1 Tasmania
Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir (new)
Best’s Bin O Shiraz (new)
Crawford River Wines Riesling (new)
Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon (new)
Houghton Jack Mann Cabernet Blend (new)
Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz (new)
Majella Cabernet Sauvignon (new)
Mitchell Print Label Shiraz (new)
Plantagenet Shiraz (new)
Seppelt Great Western Show Sparkling Shiraz (new)
Tim Adams The Aberfeldy Shiraz (new)
Yarra Yarra Vineyard The Yarra Yarra Cabernet Sauvignon (new)
A Timely Release
Langton’s Classification embraces regional definition and diversity, the strengthening appeal of high quality Australian Shiraz and the growing interest in single vineyard wine. It also illustrates the extraordinary change in perception of Australian wine quality.
The 2005 Classification is extremely timely. It is released at a time of intense rivalry between international competitors. Australia is sometimes criticized (particularly by the French) for making industrial type wines. The Classification, however, reflects a completely different reality providing a clear message to a growing national and international market that Australia is able to make some of the most exquisite and highly individual wines of the world.
Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine has evolved as an important yardstick. It reflects the diversity of Australia’s fine wine makers and transcends the brand building of corporate wine culture. Notwithstanding the success of commercial brands, our industry needs to embrace the idea of diversity, difference, regional provenance and individual sites in a meaningful way.
The list is released every five years. It is compiled using secondary market data –
volume of demand, track record and price realisations – from Langton’s extensive database of Australian fine wine information dating back to the late 1980s. Capital appreciation of individual wines and vintages does not enter the equation in selecting the list.
Langton’s 2005 Classification (IV) embraces regional definition and diversity, the strengthening appeal of high quality Australian Shiraz (regardless of production level) and the growing interest in single vineyard wines. It illustrates the extraordinary change and perception of Australian wine quality. Inevitably there are wines which no longer hold a particular cache. Markets are cyclic and fashion-driven wines drop off for a reason, usually because they haven’t captured consumer interest. The evolution of the Classification illustrates the inexhaustible freshness of the Australian wine experience over the last decade.
The Evolution of the Classification
The original 1991 Classification was released “in a decidedly mischievous mood” and with the expectation that it “would please few and upset many”. The wine market has of course evolved considerably over the last 14 years and with it the Classification has grown in stature.
Langton’s 1991 Classification (I) was released during a time of great change in the Australian wine industry. Brian Croser, the founder of Petaluma, coined the expression ‘distinguished vineyard site’ foreseeing the evolutionary future of the ultra-fine wine industry. Our first Classification recognised Penfolds Grange as the top Australian wine. Grange had established a phenomenal market presence, accounting for a large share of Australian secondary market value.
The history and development of Grange is remarkable – its technical innovations and philosophical ideas profoundly influenced wine styles and the orientation of the Australian wine industry. Curiously Penfolds Grange dominated a market more interested in Cabernet Sauvignon than Shiraz. The market saw a strengthening interest in Margaret River and Coonawarra Cabernet. Only six Shirazes were included!
Langton’s Classification came of age in 1996. The elevation of Henschke Hill of Grace and Mount Mary Quintet to the Exceptional category echoed the contemporary nature of the ultra-fine wine market. Langton’s 1996 Classification (II) also recognised the market presence of smaller producers and the emerging interest in single vineyards and regional provenance. The Classification auction held at the Sydney Opera House in 1996 realised a record price for a complete Grange set ($86,000) creating a huge level of interest in ultra-fine Australian wine from collectors and the international media.
Langton’s 2000 Classification (III) reflected an extraordinary leap of confidence in Shiraz and the emerging importance of the Barossa as a classic wine region. This may seem extraordinarily recent, yet inclusion requires a track record. It is remarkable to remember that prominent viticulturalists were predicting the demise of the Barossa as a wine growing region in the early 1980s.
The addition of Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon, Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and Wendouree Shiraz into the Exceptional category was timely. While Langton’s 2000 Classification mirrored remarkable advances in wine quality and extraordinary diversity, the structure of the secondary market was under challenge from internet technology and new market entrants. A changing business environment, the introduction of the GST and the arrival of the cult wine scene required a physical and philosophical re-orientation.
The arrival of the dot.com phenomenon brought with it the winds of innovation and madness. The fear of ‘missing out’ and the prospect of business failure – touted by the purveyors of dot.com technology – created a frisson within Australian commerce. There is a strange symmetry between the dot.com/tech boom and the cult wine scene. The motivation, sentiment and timing are almost identical.
Although 1994 Clarendon Hills Astralis had appeared on the secondary wine market in August 1997, the cult wine movement gathered momentum in 1998/1999. Three Rivers (now named Chris Ringland), Noon Reserve Shiraz and Torbreck Run Rig Shiraz all rose to prominence during these heady days, largely on the reviews of US wine critic Robert Parker Jr. The 2000 release of Langton’s Classification (III) in such uncertain times was cause for reflection. Five years on, it is interesting how perspective changes with time. The dot.com phenomenon lost its intensity and glamour in 2001. Langton’s embarked on our own great internet adventure in October 2002. After only a few weeks, we realised that our days as live fine wine auctioneers were over.
In recent years we have witnessed much misrepresentation of the Australian ultra-fine wine market. Unscrupulous wine sellers have taken advantage of this heightened market recognition to promote wine investment to the uninformed general public. While it is true that wine is an emerging asset class, performance is dependant as much on entry point as on secondary market conditions. ‘Buy earliest lowest cheapest’ is not always achievable. However it is surprising to see the extraordinary volumes of ‘investment wines’, laden heavily with costs and margins, lying in storage around Australia.
Langton’s Classification has evolved as an important yardstick. It reflects a wider community of fine winemakers and transcends the brand building conscience of corporate wine culture. Notwithstanding the success of commercial brands including Yellow Tail and Jacob’s Creek, our industry needs to embrace the idea of diversity, difference, regional provenance and individual sites in a meaningful way. The secondary wine market is a subset of a much greater industry, but it provides extremely valuable data and informed market sentiment.
The secondary wine auction market is a subset of a much larger industry, yet it provides highly informed market sentiment. Langton’s 2005 Classification of Australian Wine (IV) mirrors the overall mood of the contemporary wine market. No doubt it will continue to fuel the debate that has raged now for 14 years.
For more information about Langton’s 2005 Classification, and to view an interactive gallery of all 101 classified wines, select The Market/Classification Wines on this site.
Langton’s 2005 Classification of Australian Wine (IV) is published as an art quality poster. It can be ordered by clicking on the poster panel on the Magazine cover page of this site.
Andrew Caillard MW
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