Stock up the bar for a wet, hot Australian summer. Sommelier Samantha Payne shares her sips of the season.
Dec 01, 2022 3:00am
When it comes to the ultimate December drinks list, the default is usually to start with the classic thirst quenchers — a bright, summery Provence rosé perhaps, or a G&T to loll around with poolside. This December, though, La Niña threatens to throw the eastern states a few soggy curveballs.
On the bright side, that means everything in the libation world is back on the table; textural and aromatic whites with complexity and depth, light- to medium-bodied chilled reds that will combat the humidity and, of course, bubbles — always. This is also the time to stock the bar with the necessities (aka “the fun stuff”) should you have to batten down the hatches and avoid the rain — think modern styles of Australian whisky, mezcal and killer cocktails in cans.
A 100 per cent pinot noir style of Champagne that is a cult favourite among sommeliers and easily one of the best value, most consistently enjoyable Champagnes. The Fleury estate is widely recognised for pioneering the Champagne region in biodynamic farming. If you enjoy a more complex and robust style of Champagne, this is for you.
$113 for 750 mL
Champagne house GH Mumm has been exploring crafting sparkling wines in regions worldwide. Its first Australian incarnation is a celebration of pinot noir from Tasmania. The wine exhibits red currant and red apple skin notes with a hint of dark spices like clove and cassia bark, making it a match for Christmas puddings and black forest cakes.
$40 for 750 mL
From the family that planted the first prosecco grapes in Australia comes their most expressive sparkling to date. Made in a traditional Col Fondo style, the Tabelo includes concentrated juice from dried and pressed prosecco grapes, adding a layer of complexity to the sparkling. Cloudy in the bottle with a heady pear blossom perfume and a lemon pith character that would be excellent with a grazing board.
$49 for 750 mL
The 2014 vintage was an excellent one for Bollinger Champagne’s crown jewel. Crafted with pinot noir and chardonnay from 19 different crus, La Grande Année captures a saline essence before evolving into lemon balm, quince and bergamot notes.
$260 for 750 mL
Fermented using organically farmed chenin blanc grapes from the original 1978 plantings and made using méthode traditionnelle (like Champagne). This sparkling exhibits power and presence with green apple and pink grapefruit notes before softening out with lemon myrtle and meringue flavours that would make an excellent addition to a table filled with crustaceans.
$32 for 750 mL
With all the bright lights and incredible artwork capturing your attention, you’d be forgiven for forgetting MONA has a winery on site, Moorilla. To celebrate its 50th anniversary of winemaking, the winery has produced a limited-release aged riesling that shows the ageing potential of the wine, as well as winemaker Conor van der Reest’s exceptional skill.
$85 for 750 mL
The medley of citrus notes combined with sea spray minerality makes this wine your next go-to pairing for chargrilled fish and octopus. The vines for this chenin blanc were planted back in 1964, resulting in huge amounts of complexity and drive (especially for a first release).
$48 for 750 mL
There’s incredible potential for this variety in Australia (originally hailing from Austria), and the newest 2021 vintage from producer Tom Keelan is as impressive as always — the wine ticks all the boxes, textural with a voluptuous weight and mouthfeel, the MVP of any soirée. An all-rounder that will suit casual alfresco lunches in the sunshine or a Sunday roast chicken dinner.
$30 for 750 mL
This 50/50 blend of native Sicilian grapes grecanico and inzolia is a white wine for robust red drinkers and its white peach and jasmine notes will also keep riesling lovers happy.
$55 for 750 mL
The 2021 vintage marks the 25th anniversary of one of Central Otago’s most beloved wineries. The current release chardonnay has hints of mandarin, almond and vanilla with a subtle saline note. It uses no more than 10 per cent new oak to maximise flavours and highlight the mineral-driven texture.
$72 for 750 mL
Gembrook Hill boasts one of the oldest plantings of pinot in the upper Yarra. The Estate pinot noir is made from these vineyards. Elegance and finesse are always at the forefront of the Gembrook Hill wines, with that quintessential red-fruit character often seen in upper Yarra pinot noir.
$58 for 750 mL
Born from the desire to make something “fun and dangerously drinkable”, Mike De Iuliis’ shiraz-based sparkling rosé is precisely that. The wine is surprisingly complex with myriad red fruits weaving through the palate towards a bright and fresh finish.
$30 for 750 mL
Sour cherries are harvested by hand from the wild variety of Prunus Cerasus, native to the hilly countryside of Pesaro. In accordance with strict ratios, only three ingredients are used: sour cherries, local wine (in this case, 100 per cent Montepulciano) and sugar. After about four months of fermentation and subsequent ageing, the cherries are removed and the liqueur is ready, resulting in an aromatic red and an unexpected match for tiramisù.
$49 for 750 mL
No summertime drinks round-up is complete without a rosé, especially when afternoon barbecues are on the agenda. This one is lip-smackingly good (and certified organic), with its blend of mourvedre, cinsault, grenache and a small portion of clairette and ugni blanc grapes.
$65 for 750 mL
We can’t talk chilled reds without including something from Jura, the spiritual home of chilled reds and textural whites. The rouge is a crunchy red-fruited medium-bodied red that works superbly with a cheeseburger.
$50 for 750 mL
From the brand that brought us Tequila Tromba Tommy’s Margaritas and the Archie Rose Espresso Martini comes its most recent collab with Melbourne’s Bar Bambi, an Amaretto Sour in a can (of course). Curatif has perfected the art of crafting incredibly high-quality cocktails in its patented special-lined cans so you can savour every sip. The Amaretto Sour is no exception, with its almond flavours chased by zesty lemon freshness, it’s ideal for the Boxing Day wind-down.
$45 for 4 x 130m
Level up any summer spritz with this vibrant yuzushu, made with a one-year-old Junmai sake and juice from the whole citrus fruit (peel and all) at an exceptionally high one-to-one ratio. The result is concentrated floral citrus notes perfect for summer.
$67 for 720ml
When a fifth-generation winemaking family with more than 160 years of fortified experience releases a whisky using smoked muscat barrels, you know it will be good. Baked biscuit maltiness meets rich raisin and date notes, and a lingering smokiness not often seen outside of peated Scottish whiskies.
$189 for 700 ml
This extremely floral and herbaceous mezcal is a sustainable labour of love from award-winning maestro Mezcalero Don Fortino Ramos and his daughter Xitlali. One of three unique cuvées from this newcomer to the agave-based spirits scene.
$250 for 700ml
After its XPA set the benchmark for sans-alcohol beers, it’s no surprise that its lager is gaining the same traction. Bright, citrus notes you’d expect from the hops, as well as that clean, refreshing taste you want from a lager — perfect with fish and chips. Not much of a lager drinker? The Heaps Normal crew have just released a new brew: the Half Day Hazy.
$15 for 4 x 375ml