I'll drink to that: Avenel winery makes prestigious ‘best of the best’ US list

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An Avenel wine-making family that specialises in wild game pairing wines has been recognised by one of the most important wine publications in the world.

The 2020 Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines list includes just three Australian wineries – South Australia’s Penfolds, Margaret River’s Vasse Felix and Strathbogie Ranges’ Fowles Wine.

The wine that has given Fowles world-stage recognition is the 2018 Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Wild Ferment Shiraz.

The "Ladies" range is a relentless award winner, with grapes sourced from family-owned vineyards in the Strathbogie Ranges and fermented in Fowles Wine’s Avenel winery.

Fowles Wine owner Matt Fowles said getting a wine onto the best 100 wine list was a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".

“In saying that, this is the second time we’ve been on the list, so it’s extraordinarily rare,” Mr Fowles said.

In 2014 the 2012 Victoria Are You Game? Shiraz introduced the Fowles to the US-based Top 100 list.

“The Ladies Who Shoot and Are You Game ranges are sort of sister-wines, it’s a style we’ve hit upon, which people are really liking,” Mr Fowles said.

“Some of the old Australian shiraz are big and muscular, whereas we’ve made ours more restrained and almost sensitive, so it goes better with dinners.”

The Fowles run a cellar door and restaurant in Avenel popular with Melbourne visitors, making the business’ situation throughout 2020 and the COVID-19 lockdowns incredibly fraught.

“It’s been a brutal year,” Mr Fowles said.

“This amazing thing right at the end has been emotional for everyone.

“It was emotional . . . this (US) is the biggest fine wine market in the world, and Wine Spectator is the biggest wine publication in the world.

“It’s the stuff of dreams.”

The 2018 shiraz comes from one of the best vintages Mr Fowles has seen.

“So much of wine making relates to the vintage year and 2018 was warm and constant,” he said.

“I’ve done 15 to 16 vintages now and 2018 is certainly one of the best ever.

“Mother nature did everything right.”

Since 1988 Wine Spectator has released a Top 100 list where editors select the most "exciting wines" reviewed by the publication during the course of the year that generated a bit of an "x-factor".

Wine Spectator says itself the top 100 is not a "shopping list", because many wines are made in limited quantities and not available as readily in the US, but rather the list is a guide to wineries to watch.

Coming in 97th in the top 100 list, the $35 home-grown shiraz is hemmed in by a $55 Cornas Les Chailles from Cornas, France (a region making wine long enough to have its own name-brand type of wine) and a $22 sauvignon blanc from a historical winemaking estate in Italy.