Hardys, Houghton & St Hallett

What do these three H’s of Australian wine have in common? All are now part of the Accolade Wine group, a global business with many famous brands as part of its stable.

The heritage of Houghton and Hardys stretches back to the 19th century, but along with numerous others they became part of a powerful multi-national conglomerate called Constellation Brands during the 20th century.

After a series of mergers and acquisitions, Accolade Wines was hived off to become a stand-alone company in 2011. Its primary focus is Australia, but it owns and operates wineries and brands from South Africa to California, including such well-known names as Kumala, Echo Falls and Lambrini.

Hardys, Houghton & St Hallett

With its first vintage in 1857, Hardys is one of Australia’s oldest producers, established in South Australia by Thomas Hardy at a time of poineering spirit. Led by members of the Hardy family, it grew through the 20th century, its expansion including its own acquisitions of Houghton and Chateau Reynella among others. Hardys merged with Constellation Brands in 2003, the new company being the basis of the brands that would one day form a large part of the Accolade wines portfolio.

Houghton was founded in the Swan Valley, Western Australia, in 1836 – more than a century before the first vines appeared in Margaret River. Houghton’s winemaker Jack Mann, who spent 51 years at the company, created the Houghton White Burgundy. In fact a Chenin Blanc-based wine, HWB achieved iconic status – it is said that at one time over half of all white grapes grown in Western Australia went into the blend. Today the brand sources fruit from multiple regions across Western Australia.

St Hallett cannot trace its roots quite so far back, but it was established in 1944 by the Lindner Family in the Barossa Valley. Shiraz has always been the main focus for St Hallett, and it remains so since its acquisition by Accolade Wines in 2017. That was a deal that also brought Petaluma and Stonier into their portfolio. Today there are no fewer than 15 different Shiraz bottlings in the St Hallett line-up, with a sprinkling of Grenache and other varieties appearing too.

Deserving Accolades?

The loss of family wine estates to large corporations is rarely something that wine lovers celebrate. Looking at these three companies, one can see that they have changed substantially. It would be hard to deny that the change has included a loss of identity, from Houghton’s historic winery being sold, to increasing diffusion of the Hardys brand into alcohol-free and other derivatives. However, wine making is a difficult business and the world needs big brands as much as it needs small artisan producers.

Thankfully, the brands featured below and others in the Accolade portfolio do maintain their premium and super-premium presence. That’s where this tasting was focused, with wines costing between £25 and £130 per bottle.

The Wines

(2023) The 2019 vintage in Frankland River was characterised by persistent cool and dry conditions and a low yielding crop for this blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Very bold and deep in colour, there's lift here, with floral and high kirsch-like notes, the minty/herby edge adding to the elevation. Delightful fruit, the tannins noticeably softer than some in this tasting, creamy with good acid balance making for a very pleasing drink. No UK retail stockists listed at time of review.
(2023) The 2019 vintage in Margaret River was similarly cool and dry. This shows a certain luminosity to the colour suggesting a lighter style, and indeed the nose has graphite and chalky freshness, a touch of olive adding an edge to the black fruit. In the mouth the ripeness is not in doubt, lots of fleshy black fruit sweet and succulent, the tannins dry but fine and the acidity does give this a freshening edge into the finish. No UK retail listing at time of review.
(2023) Also from Frankland River, this top Cabernet has an intense purple/black colour and a composed, serious nose, where dark chocolate notes melt into blackcurrant and just a hint of leafiness in a savoury style. Lovely texture, creamy black fruits flood the palate with a stripe of sour cherry acidity and plush tannins. Returning to the glass, floral notes have joined the picture, and the savoury, chewy palate suggests longevity - though could be very approachable now given a serious bit of protein on the dinner plate. Price and stockist quoted is for a previous vintage at time of review.
(2023) From a typically warm and dry growing season in McLaren Vale, this has a saturated depth of colour and blueberry and blackberry aromas touched with violet and light, smoky, ashy character. In the mouth the fruit is bold and succulent, black fruits, with a certain gloss and intensity. A touch of bittersweet chocolate, tannins, acid and the alcohol giving a grippy finish that should soften over a few years in the cellar. Price and stockist listed at time of review are for a previous vintage.
(2023) Unusually this is a blend of Coonawarra and Margaret River fruit, from South and Western Australia respectively. A big, bold cassis nose, touches of eucalyptus and sweet plummy depths. In the mouth the oak adds a mocha underpinning, but sweet and juicy black fruit drives this. Tannins dry the side of the mouth, the acidiy has a certain sparkiness that freshens the finish, in a lovely Cabernet for drinking now or laying down. No UK retail stockists listed at time of review.
(2023) Another cross-state blend, this time fruit comes from Yarra Valley in Victoria and Margaret River in Western Australia. A tinge of gold to the colour here, but aromas are of restrained, cool fruit and a creamy rather than toasty oak, ripe pear and touches of tropical fruit, but all tempered and elegant. In the mouth it is a similar picture: perhaps a little more of the tropical, with notes of mango and pineapple, but again there is restraint and balance, the oak supporting rather than dominating. No UK retail stockists listed at time of review.
(2023) From higher altitude and cooler climate vineyards of the Eden Valley, there is definitely a cooler climate lift to this Syrah, violet and a touch of garrigue herbs, cool blackberry and raspberry notes. Fabulous sweetness on the palate: a luxurious, deep dive into summer pudding fruits with creamy texture, yielding tannins and plenty of cherry-skin acidity to add some edge to the finish. Delicious drinking this. No UK retail stockist listed at time of review.
(2023) The grapes are sourced from vineyards in the northwest of the Barossa Valley at relatively high elevations. Big, plummy, black fruited stuff and yet there is lift here, some florals for sure and a pencil shaving finesse. In the mouth copious fruit, all ripe black berries and chocolate, spices too, with great concentration. The tannins are quite formidable at present, which along with plenty of alcohol and punchy acid, suggest a few years in the cellar will suit this.
(2023) Bottled in magnums only, grapes are selected based on their intensity of fruit and muscular tannin structure. Such a saturated colour, barely a chink of light on the rim. We're into meat-stock and umami territory here, stopping short of leathery, but dark and brooding. The palate has to bring a smile to your face: after all that muscle on show, there's a soft heart here, enveloping super-sweet fruit, cashmere texture and both tannins and acid combining to give a bit of backbone to a big, hedonistic and utterly delicious wine. Maybe too much for Northern Rhône fans, but archetypal Barossa Shiraz. No UK retail stockist listed at time of review, though Harvey Nichols stocked the previous vintage and that price is given.


  1. Many thanks for the reviews Tom,

    I’m a fan of the Eileen Hardy Chardonnay – bought quite a bit of the 2015 when it was offered a few years back – very high quality for about £30 at the time, a few bottles left but its quite mature now – doesn’t seem to last as long as Art Series et al. The 2016 was also pretty good but there wasn’t such availability – and haven’t seem any vintages since.
    used to love the St Hallett Shirazes – the basic, Faith, Blackwell and Old Block was definitely part of my wine evolution – as was their superb straight Semillon – but recent tastes of the Blackwell shows it t be too full on for me now.
    Never had the Jack Mann – one the few traditional Aussie icons I’ve yet to try .

    1. Cheers Gareth. Yes, the Jack Mann is fabulous, but is definitely BIG, so whether it would be to your taste is hard to say Not as big as the St Hallet ‘Mighty Ox’, which does what it says on the label! But, the world needs these, as well as more reserved red wines 🙂

  2. It’s nice to see reviews of the Eileen and Thomas Hardy wines. These are bottles that first got me into the rabbit hole of wine.

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