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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
As told to Thomas Carr

Fun, fresh and fairly cheap: sommeliers’ 12 favourite Australian summer wines under $30

Composite showing four bottles of wine: the Sven Joschke, 2022 Chardonnay Pét Nat; Bulman Wines, 2023 Grenache Rosé; Unico Zelo, 2023 Jade & Jasper Fiano; and S.C. Pannell, 2021 Basso Garnacha
‘Anything pulled straight from the fridge is an easy win’: sommeliers recommend 12 Australian summer wines for under $30. Composite: Sven Joschke/Bulman Wines/Unico Zelo/S.C. Pannell

When choosing the ideal summer wine, there are a few things to consider. First up, anything pulled straight from the fridge is an easy win, which is why you can’t go wrong with bubbles of any kind. Prosecco is a no-brainer: it’s typically dry, light, fruity and easy on the wallet; while a blanc de blanc, made using only chardonnay grapes, will hit the summer brief with its typically crisp and clean profile: notes of citrus and green apple, a touch of minerality.

As far as white wines go, opt for styles that are crisp, fruity and unoaked, such as sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot grigio. Wines with high acidity will invigorate the palate, creating that mouthwatering, lip-smacking effect that feels refreshing on a hot summer day.

If you prefer a red, choose lighter-bodied, more aromatic styles with good acidity, lower tannins and not too much oak, such as gamay, pinot noir, pinot meunier and cinsault.

Many households are also being mindful of their spending. So as we head into the entertaining season, three leading sommeliers have recommended – in no particular order – some top Australian summer drops from sparkling to rosé, white and red. And better yet, they’re all $30 or under.

Sparkling wines under $30

1. Sven Joschke, 2022 Chardonnay Pét Nat, Barossa Valley, South Australia, (RRP $30)

A bottle of Sven Joschke 2022 Chardonnay Pét Nat

“For when you want a spritz, but are too lazy to make a cocktail. Think kombucha meets Solo. Bright lemon in colour, yet slightly cloudy due to some lees [spent yeast] still present in the bottle, the early picked chardonnay gives a refreshing, citrusy hit to this fresh, fun frizzante. On the nose, think lemon sherbet with some added complexity and funk from the lees. Best served in a wine glass, rather than a flute, to give the wine room to show itself off. Delicious with fish and chips.” – Rani Parish, group sommelier of Brisbane’s Anyday hospitality group (Agnes, Honto).

2. Nick Spencer, 2022 Grenache Pét Nat, Hilltops, New South Wales, (RRP $25)

A bottle of Nick Spencer 2022 Grenache Pét Nat

“All about the fizz and fruit. This is a vibrant, ruby red sparkling that screams of crunchy plum and candied raspberries. It’s frothy, clean and uncomplicated – everything you want a pét nat to be. A little bit of tannin helps to offset the sweetness of the fruit, making it versatile and food-friendly. Enjoy with friends and charcuterie. In all honesty, you’ll probably finish the bottle before you even make it to the table.” – Bridget Raffal, sommelier of Where’s Nick, Sydney, and president and co-founder of Women and Revolution.

3. Chalmers, 2022 Dott. Prosecco, Murray-Darling, Victoria, (RRP $27)

A bottle of Chalmers 2022 Dott. Prosecco

“The Chalmers family imported their first cuttings of Italian varieties to Australia with the assistance of Dr Rod Bonfiglioli, with their first prosecco arriving on these shores in 1998. Dott. is a tribute to Dr Rod.

“This is a situational kind of fizz: fresh and foamy, with crunchy nashi pear and fresh-cut apple, lemon oil and white grapefruit pith, it’s designed for drinking, not thinking. Best of all, it’s a drier style than you might normally find, so it’s a perfectly sunshiny aperitif that can progress into the lighter courses at the table.” – Leanne Altmann, beverage director at Melbourne’s Trader House (Cumulus Inc, Gimlet)

White wines under $30

4. Frankland Estate, 2023 Rocky Gully Riesling, Frankland River, Western Australia, (RRP $26)

A bottle of Frankland Estate 2023 Rocky Gully Riesling

“Frankland Estate is, in my mind, one of Australia’s best – and certainly most remote – riesling producers, so to be able to get one of their wines at this price is almost criminal. With a cheeky addition of 6% grüner veltliner, this is more than just a simple lemon and lime-style riesling.

“Pale straw in colour, with gentle lime blossom florals and a burst of mandarin on the nose, there’s a surprising intensity on the palate due to the long, cool growing season of 2023. The lime pith and mineral backbone of the palate are softened by melon and stone fruit characters that help round the wine out. Pair with a Thai-style salad with a tonne of herbs, a lick of chilli and a mound of tempura soft-shell crab.” – Rani Parish

5. Unico Zelo, 2023 Jade & Jasper Fiano, Riverland, South Australia, (RRP $25)

A bottle of Unico Zelo 2023 Jade & Jasper Fiano

“Laura and Brendan Carter have been advocating for this ancient Campanian variety for over a decade. Jade & Jasper is an entrée into their world of fiano, and a testament to their firm belief in the suitability of the variety to Australia’s hot, dry regions. This fruit is grown without irrigation in the immensely old sand and limestone soils of South Australia’s Riverland.

“This is a lively expression of the [fiano] variety, all sun-ripe lemon flesh and soft lemon leaf, white peach and a gentle savoury note from wild fermentation and lees stirring. Texturally, it sits somewhere between pinot gris and chardonnay, with the brisk acidity a wonderful pairing for colourful summer salads.” – Leanne Altmann

6. Little Frances, 2022 Eleventh House White, Alpine Valleys, New South Wales, (RRP $30)

A bottle of Little Frances 2022 Eleventh House White

“Little Frances is the moniker of the delightful, up-and-coming winemaker, Erin Pooley. Having cut her teeth making sought-after, esoteric wines in northern California, she’s now back home producing great quality, unstuffy wines from her base in Beechworth – and the Australian wine scene is all the better for it.

“This is a blend of vermentino, pinot gris and friulano sourced from vineyards in Victoria’s King Valley. Dry, refreshing and crisp, with a touch of ripe yellow peach, juicy pear, ginger spice and nice honeysuckle aromas, it’s the perfect summer wine. Think long Italian lunches here: grilled vegetables antipasti-style, spaghetti with chilli and crab, and whole fish with salsa verde.” – Bridget Raffal

Rosé under $30

7. Bulman Wines, 2023 Grenache Rosé, Barossa Valley, South Australia, (RRP $30)

A bottle of Bulman Wines 2023 Grenache Rosé

“Yes. This. Is. Dry. But it is so much more, with vibrant cranberry and wild strawberry, both in colour and on the palate. While this isn’t necessarily going to jump out of the glass aromatically, it has a brilliant textural edge that many commercial rosés lack. The perfect Christmas Day wine to enjoy, straight from [the ice box] with a big bucket of prawns and a bowl of Marie Rose dipping sauce. Who needs Provencal rosé any more when we make this in our own back yard?” – Rani Parish

8. Lightfoot Wines, 2023 Rosé, Gippsland and Pyrenees, Victoria, (RRP $25)

A bottle of Lightfoot Wines 2023 Rosé

“This is season-appropriate rosé made from shiraz grown on the red soils of the Lightfoot’s biologically farmed Myrtle Point vineyard in Gippsland, supplemented by fruit from the continental climes of central Victoria’s Pyrenees.

“Delicately pale in the glass, despite its youth it’s a stylish interpretation with lots to like – loads of grapefruit and mandarin citrus, ripe strawberry and cherry, and a gently creamy texture. The kind of rosé that’s fresh enough to be enjoyed poolside but interesting enough for prawn cocktail or grilled fish with sauce vierge.” – Leanne Altmann

9. Fighting Gully Road, 2022 Rosé, Beechworth, Victoria, (RRP $26)

A bottle of Fighting Gully Road 2022 Rosé

“Fighting Gully Road’s Mark Walpole is one of the country’s great unsung winemakers. A friend and mentor to many, he has an eye for a patch of dirt and a portfolio of contemporary, cool-climate wines full of grace and character.

Pale salmon pink with a tangerine hue, it’s lively and fresh, and overdelivers. Waxy-textured with a touch of spice, this piquant little wine is about morello cherry fruit – lovely and tart, perfect for panzanella, asparagus with sauce gribiche, and trout amandine.” – Bridget Raffal

Red wines under $30

10. Combes, 2022 Off the Hill Syrah, Yarra Valley, Victoria, (RRP $28)

A bottle of Combes 2022 Off the Hill Syrah

“In summer, traditional Australian shiraz can feel a little boozy and heavy. However, cooler climate syrah styles with lower alcohol and a lighter touch can provide refreshing drinking for those who cannot forgo a red. Picked on the early side to retain freshness, some whole bunches kept during fermentation add a delicate floral lift on the nose, while juicy cherries, plums and a smattering of warm spices, thyme and sage on the palate keep it interesting.

“Pop in the fridge 10 minutes before serving for maximum refreshment. With lamb cutlets straight off the grill, a big bowl of Greek salad and a few dollops of tzatziki, this wine will be singing.” – Rani Parish

11. S.C. Pannell, 2021 Basso Garnacha, McLaren Vale, South Australia, (RRP $28)

A bottle of S.C. Pannell 2021 Basso Garnacha

“Of all Steve Pannell’s grenache wines, Basso is a favourite for summer drinking, particularly when served cool, but not cold. It’s medium-bodied and vibrant, focused around freshness and fruit rather than weight and oak. Fragrant with raspberry, red liquorice and rose, there’s some slinky-firm tannin and old-vine intensity to make this more than just a simple, jubey style. An intuitive pairing for nutty jamón iberico, or lamb cooked over coals.” – Leanne Altmann

12. Mallaluka, 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, (RRP $30)

A bottle of Mallaluka 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon

“[Winemaker] Sam Leyshon has brought a wealth of experience back to his family farm after a decade roaming around France and Victoria – and he’s bringing cabernet back.

Supple, long and lovely tannins, medium weighted with beautiful cedar spice, cassis and fresh plummy fruit. No new oak, and a lively purple colour that you might associate more with gamay than you would old school cab. It’s a standout example of how a new generation of winemakers are reinventing the variety in Australia. Great for roast lamb with anchovy, and would handle any red meat done on the barbecue beautifully.” – Bridget Raffal

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