In the vast world of wine there are bound to be regions and countries that don’t get nearly as much attention. Australia knows this all too well, with many wine drinkers associating Aussie bottles with the massively imported and heavily-marketed Yellow Tail. Fortunately, there are rising female winemakers, indigenous-owned wineries, and collaborations of friends focused on shedding a more modern light that are changing all of that. And that's exactly who you'll find in June's selection curated by Paula de Pano, a Chapel Hill-based sommelier. And because we’re headed into warmer weather, the wines in the June box are all ideal for summer, too.
- Mt. Yengo, Blanc de Blancs | Adelaide Hills, AU; sparkling, chardonnay: The Aboriginal art on this label connects its roots to the First Nations People of Australia and the wine community, which owner Gary Green hopes will help break the stereotype surrounding Aboriginal people in alcohol, which is normally a negative one. With chardonnay grapes harvested from one of the coolest wine regions in Australia, this bottling exhibits expressive freshness and simplicity. Taking a sip of this wine brings about a creaminess on the palate reminiscent of green apple pudding with grated lemon zest on top. It’s a dry and zippy wine, with delicate bubbles best to drink at the very beginning of summer, when the air still has a bit of chill but with the warmth of the early afternoon sun providing an excuse to take another sip.
- Charlotte Dalton "Isolated" | Adelaide Hills, AU; rosé, tempranillo, Montepulciano: New Zealander Charlotte Hardy (Dalton is her middle name) launched her wines in 2005 to bring joy with the wines she makes. Indeed, even on the outset, her wine labels are unbound in their creativity. The grapes for the Isolated Rose come from Langhorne Creek, southeast of Adelaide, made from tempranillo and Montepulciano grapes. Apparently, this is what one gets when you blend a Spanish and Italian grape and make a rosé! I tasted this (chilled) with a couple of friends, and we all kept on going back to this juice. Not only does it uncannily taste like liquefied cherry lollipops, add in a dose of wild strawberry sherbet and candied blood orange zest to the mix and it is truly summer in a bottle. This wine screams two things: fun and swimsuits. I dearly wish we were next to a pool that day.
- Charlotte Dalton "What a Ride" Red | Adelaide Hills, AU; red, shiraz, carignan: It can sometimes be disconcerting when you have preconceived notions about how certain wines should taste and someone like Charlotte Hardy flips the entire thing and constructs a different profile instead. This is fresh, bright, tart, even gulpable – not really what one thinks of immediately when drinking shiraz. The carginan holds its own in the mix, elevating the more ripe fruit of shiraz by pulling it back. It tempers the bolder and darker flavors of shiraz with its tarter red fruit flavors, resulting in a wine tasting more like a cold bowl of summer berry parfait rather than a blackberry pie. I wouldn’t mind this with some crusty sourdough bread and a (very) large dollop of chicken liver mousse with a thin layer of sour cherry jelly.
- Colab & Bloom, Shiraz | McLaren Vale, AU; red, shiraz: I have a confession to make. I don’t like grapes and I don’t like raisins. If someone gave me a dollar for all the incredulous laughs and looks of disbelief I get when I say that… well, I’d be taking Penfolds Grange baths every day. I guess this is the reason why I am not the biggest fan of ultra-rich, extracted, full-blown wines. It’s probably also why Colab & Bloom’s shiraz made the cut. It’s still got your classic shiraz black and blue fruit, savory and warm spices, and roasted coffee beans but without the cloying heaviness that makes it hard to drink another glass. It’s easy to defer to big boy meats – roasted joints or racks of ribs, but really, this can be paired with something like grilled swordfish with olive oil and basil, or seared duck breast with figs and rosemary.
- Ashbrook Estate, Verdelho | Margaret River, AU; white, verdelho: Ashbrook Estate is a small, family-run winery in Australia’s Margaret River working with vines that are a little over 40 years old. Verdelho is known as being one of Madeira’s most important grapes; it’s also one of the few white grapes that absolutely thrives in warm climates, just as it does in this Western Australia beauty. It’s fresh, light, and herbaceous and packs a long finish and sharp acidity. Ideal for summer, this reminds a lot of people of a lemon slushie.
- Chalk Hill, Wits End Vermentino | McLaren Vale, AU; white, vermentino: Chalk Hill is a family-owned winery, dedicated to making small batch wines. At its center is the Harvey family, which has been growing grapes for six generations and has six vineyards spread across the beautiful McLaren Vale wine region. This wine is crystal clear with slight green hues, and vibrant and textural wine with apple and pear mixed with citrus fruit. It has a crisp line of zesty acid and a mineral-driven, dry finish.
- Karatta “Gold Miner's Trek” Pinot Noir | Limestone Coast, AU; red, pinot noir: Karatta is owned by David and Peg Woods who established their farm, Griffin Pastoral Company, in 1975. Their vineyards are exceptional examples of Australian terroir like Robe, a maritime sub-region of the Limestone Coast halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne. This pinot noir (named after a 400 kilometer trip made by gold miners in the mid-1800s) is wonderfully light in body. It’s fruity with notes of cherry cola, raspberries and strawberries, and a little rhubarb.
- Mt. Yengo Shiraz | Adelaide Hills, AU; red, shiraz: Owned by Gary Green, Mt. Yengo focuses on making a difference in the indigenous communities by promoting culture, art, and heritage through their wines. (This label was designed by Indigenous artist Wayne Quilliam, one of Australia's pre-eminent artists.) Like the Colab & Bloom, this shiraz from Mt. Yengo feels right for any occasion; it’s not too rich or overbearing as you might have expected. Still, it packs a ton of flavor like dark cherries and spiced first berries.
- The Hare & The Tortoise, Pinot Noir | Yarra Valley, AU; red, pinot noir: Single vineyard pinot noir that was hand-picked, de-stemmed, and fully fermented in open-top fermenters (with a small addition of whole bunches). It comes to us from the Yarra Valley, known as the birthplace of Victoria's wine industry with vines dating back 170 years. Dark hues and a classic pinot noir nose with plum, spice, strawberry, and fall leaves. The palate is light to medium bodied and makes for an absolute classic with silky notes of red cherry and juicy plum. Pair it with roast chicken, pork, or your favorite pasta.