Many wine drinkers assume that Australia must not make great wines because so much of what is stocked in that aisle are popular bargain brands like Yellow Tail and Fish Eye. It’s true that Australia is known for such cheap and cheerful “critter wines,” with their brightly colored animal cartoon labels. However, the lighthearted approach to wine taken down under doesn’t mean they don’t take fine winemaking seriously.

Insurrection Cabernet Sauvignon, an Australian wine.
Insurrection Cabernet Sauvignon, an Australian wine.

Every country that makes wine makes bargain brands, so none should be judged solely on their quality. Australia’s top wines easily can rival the best Napa Valley has to offer. In fact, cost-conscious shoppers should definitely keep an eye out for Australian wines in particular, whose offerings in the $15 to $20 range tend to be great values for the dollar. Why? It comes down to supply and demand. Australia makes a lot of truly world-class wine and has every incentive to sell them here in the U.S. since this is the world’s biggest wine market in dollar terms. American demand for Australian bargain wines lowers shipping costs for their exports across the board, keeping prices reasonable despite the distance. But those same bargain bottles impose a reputational cost on Australia’s vintners writ large, limiting the perceived value of even truly spectacular premium wines, and keeping wineries, importers and retailers on tight margins.

The winner in this competitive landscape is the savvy American wine shopper, who can be confident that they can get better quality for the dollar in Australia than in most other countries. This terrific cabernet sauvignon sourced from cool-climate coastal zones south of Adelaide makes a great example by overdelivering on price. Loaded with dark bing cherry and ripe blackberry flavors, it is drier and less jammy than people expect from the land of Oz, with a snappier and more food-oriented finish.

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Insurrection Cabernet Sauvignon South East Australia (15.5% ABV)

On sale for $11.99 through March 1 (regularly $14.99); PLCB Item #2394