Australia is getting hot again, but not because of those big, bold, in-your-face Shirazes we all learned to love in the 1990s. Lately, there’s been a movement among the country’s winemakers—characterized as nothing less than a “revolution” by Aussie wine critic Mike Bennie—that involves neutral oak barrels, picking grapes earlier, and growing them on cooler sites. The wines that result are an about-face in style from the traditional old trophies; they’re brighter, elegant, alive with natural acidity, and have a clear sense of place.
These are wines you want to drink, not just collect. To get an idea of what’s happening, here are nine of the most exciting bottles, hailing from the Hunter Valley to Tasmania, the Yarra Valley to the Macedon Ranges. Nearly all are small producers, but the cutting edge also includes some of the country’s most historic producers that have been making wine in this style for more than 100 years.