For reasons of tradition (lots of bad cheap European wine combined with a sudden influx of more reliable Australian wine in the 90s) many people in the UK have developed the habit of turning to the New World (in particular Australia) for their more everyday wines (thinking of them as cheaper and better value), but reserving the special occasion bottle for something French, 'cos it's posh like.
I would suggest this is a big mistake and you should turn it upside down! In the bargain end of drinking, most New World wine at around £6 to £9 is very fruit-forward and not overly interesting for my taste. Sure it's well made, but in a straight-ahead fruit juice kind of way. By contrast a lot of wine in that price bracket from Mediterranean places like Southern France, Spain, Southern Italy and Portugal is superb, with real local interest and a great sense of place. One example (of countless) I'd cite is Masseria Monaci's Eloquenzia Copertino from the heel of Italy that I recently wrote about. A terrific wine with great character and only £6.50.
Moving up to the £10 to £18 mark or so, things start to get really interesting in the New World, with wines showing much greater complexity, structure and elegance than their cheaper counterparts. There are thousands of Old World wines in this bracket that are also excellent (it's a great price point) and I'm not saying stop buying French wine for £15, far from it. However, I am saying you should really buy some premium New World wines too. They're particulary great with a straight ahead piece of griddled or barbequed meat and I often pull one out when it's time for a steak.
As was the case last night! A prime sirloin from Godfrey, the excellent if expensive butcher in Highbury Park, demanded a wine of equal quality and power to match. I went for a bottle of 2002 Filsell, a premium cuvée of Barossa Old Vine Shiraz from the quality producer Grant Burge. I picked up for the absolute bargain price of £13 from the Wine Society about three years ago (the current release, 2008, sells for about £18 from a few online retailers). The wine was mature, pronounced in flavour with full deep red fruit flavours along with tobacco and licorice complexity and a very long finish. It also had elegance with the power, showing a classic Syrah (or Shiraz in this case) perfumed lift. Really well structured with full but ripe tannins perfectly integrated with the wine, it was a classic foil to very bloody steak.
I love premium Australian wine! Try and find some with a few years bottle age and get the griddle on.