The winemakers behind the private label bottles at Coles, Woolworths and Aldi are a closely guarded secret.
Private label wines, which are increasingly coming to dominate wine-store shelves, are almost impossible to distinguish. They have labels that point to an exclusive provenance – there's nothing to hint at ownership by a major grocery store.
What only a few knew, until now, is that some of the best wine sold at Aldi and Coles – award-winning vintages that are just $5 a bottle – is being made in Victoria. By an award-winning winery.
At the same time as its own brands are winning big awards, this winery has been producing some of Australia's best and most-affordable wines.
Two of Aldi's star wines, their $12.99 Tudor Central Victorian Shiraz, and $4.99 South Point Estate Rose, are both being made by Nagambie and central-Victoria-based McPherson Winery, it can be revealed.
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Those two wines attracted attention after grabbing gongs at the Sydney International Wine Competition, where McPherson also won an award for a bottle sold under its own name. They have a string of other awards, including wine-show medals from across the country.
Aldi offers a Tudor stablemate in a near-identical bottle, the Tudor Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, but it is made by a different winery.
McPherson also makes multiple wines for Coles, which it has supplied for almost two decades, including the $5 2015 James Busby Big & Bold Shiraz – named by Winestate as the best Australian/New Zealand wine under $20 in November – along with the $11.10 Fabulist Pinot Noir.
The Busby is the lowest-priced wine ever to win the award. The head of Winestate's judging panel, Peter Simic, called it "a great expression of shiraz – and at an extraordinary price" when handing out the gong.
At the same time as producing value-oriented wines, McPherson's winemaker Jo Nash is also putting out a range of top-quality wine for more sophisticated palates.
The $21.99 2015 MWC Shiraz Mourvedre won the best red blend at the Victorian Wine Show in November, and eight other wines picked up silver and bronze medals.
The $18.99 Princess Butterfly Marsanne 2014 grabbed a gold award at the Sydney International Wine Competition, and the $23.99 2014 Don't Tell Gary Shiraz was awarded 95 points by influential wine critic James Halliday this year.
McPherson's winemaker Jo Nash. Photo: Supplied
Gary Williams, McPherson's general manager, said Ms Nash was very good at making both sophisticated and value-oriented wines.
"She's quite exceptional," he said. "She has the capacity of making higher-end wines, but also the higher volume value for money, commercial wine."
"Most wine consumers ... their palate is different, their taste profile is different.
"They do prefer to drink a nice fruit-driven style, not too oaky, not too alcoholic. And over time their palates develop and they move up to other brackets."
Coles says about 10 to 20 per cent of the wine brands sold by its liquor arm - Liquorland, Vintage Cellars, First Choice and Liquor Market - are private label, and it plans to increase that number on the back of the Busby's win.
McPherson was predominantly an exporter, selling wine into the UK, Europe and the US, before support from Coles and Aldi allowed it to reorient its business, Mr Williams said.
"We sell to multiple market segments," he said. "Because we're lucky enough to be able to take part in selling to those two chains, it's given us the platform to take our products to the broader global market.
"The success of those particular organisations is they both work with the producer. They've both visited our winery in the last 12 months. They are actively involved."
An Aldi spokesman said the German giant was proud to work with McPherson.
"Aldi has been fortunate enough to partner with a number of high-calibre international and Australian wine suppliers, including McPherson Wines, who we have worked with for over a decade. It's a relationship that has seen this independent winery grow and prosper."