James Halliday only gives out one perfect 100 score for a wine in his annual Wine Companion, reserved annually for the release of the 100-year-old Seppeltsfield Para Liquer.
"We tend to use the word unique loosely from time to time but this one truly is," Halliday says.
"It's absolutely unique in the wine world and I say that without any hesitation because there is no other winery in the world that is releasing each year a wine that is 100 years old."
It kind of puts a 98 into perspective.
Clonakilla's 2017 shiraz viognier, at 98 points, was the district's best wine. Its 2017 O'Riada shiraz and Nick O'Leary's 2017 Heywood shiraz were given 97 points.
Gundog Estate's 2018 riesling was the highest ranked white in the district with 97 points.
Halliday again puts Clonakilla at the top of the region's best wineries, recognising its long track record of excellence. Eden Road Wines, Mount Majura Vineyard, Nick O'Leary Wines and Ravensworth were noted for their high level of consistency for at least three years. Helm, Lark Hill and Lake George also made the three-tier, five-star ranking list.
"Canberra is doing terribly well," Halliday says, "particularly with riesling, which has always been a strength, but shiraz as well."
More than 9000 wines were tasted by the seven-person tasting team and Campbell Mattinson was quite partial to Lark Hill's 2018 gruner veltliner.
"Wow is this a wine," he writes in the companion. "Intense fruit flavour, gorgeous mouthfeel, a finish full of running and character."
Lark Hill winemaker Chris Carpenter said this was one of the winery's best years in the Halliday companion.
"We received 95 points each for 2016 shiraz viognier and 2018 gruner veltliner this year, and 94 points each for 2018 Regional riesling and 2018 Lark Hill Vineyard riesling," Carpenter said.
"It is especially wonderful to see the stylistic differences in our two rieslings recognised and individually rewarded, and also to see the result for the gruner veltliner.
"We planted the first gruner in Australia in 2005 and to see this wine still setting a benchmark is very rewarding - and it drives me to keep iterating and keep experimenting and try and improve."
Halliday said Lake George Winery was now in the "good hands" of Sarah and Anthony McDougall.
"We hadn't been rated with wines for Halliday since 2015, so that's a few wines in between the years," Sarah McDougall says.
"We were thrilled to receive gold medals (95 points) for our 2017 tempranillo and 2017 pinot noir.
"Our wines were reviewed by David Bicknel and he said he liked all our whites, noting the purity of fruit, elegance and lightness of touch as the hallmarks.
"He also said our tempranillo, 'The more I drink, the more I like'. We liked that."
In his snapshot of the 2019 vintage, Halliday noted the district's yields were down 15-20 per cent, yet "shiraz is singing a heavenly song, particularly when there is some co-fermented viognier to work its particular magic".
The overall wine of the year was Yangarra Estate Vineyard's High Sands McLaren Vale grenache. Jim Barry Wines, in Clarevale, won winery of the year while Vanya Cullen of Cullen Wines won winemaker of the year.
Halliday Wine Companion 2020, Hardie Grant Books, $39.95.