Bright colours, eye-catching labels, interesting flavour combinations, and drinks that are equal parts fun and delicious is what we're aiming for this summer. After a year that was, for many of us, far from fun, it's time to shake things up. Bring back a mid-week cocktail hour with new and exciting Australian-produced bottle cocktails, explore experimental whites and lesser-seen varieties like aligoté and musque, or crunchy, chill-them-down reds like gamay. Even the sans alcohol world is pushing the boundaries with refreshments that are so enticing you won't miss the buzz.
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White and lights
The first release of aligoté under Mac's experimental Batch range from King Valley-sourced fruit shows the appeal for growing this variety in Australia. Known as the "secret sister" to chardonnay, expect a medium-bodied white with loads of texture that will work wonderfully with a giant Boxing Day-leftovers sandwich.
In 2012, Aussie winemaker Erin Frances Pooley (aka "Little Frances") set out to make easy-drinking and approachable wines from Californian grapes — and has been ever since. Exclusively using grapes from Luchsinger Vineyards, this semillon is lush and more fruit weighted than previous vintages, bursting with yellows peaches, Meyer lemons and a hint of makrut lime leaf.
From the challenging vintage that was 2013, causing most of Champagne's yields to be down by 20 per cent, comes an exceptional limited release from Champagne Bollinger. The only vintage wine to be released from the house that year, made in the same way as the premium Grand Année, spending seven years on lees. A genuinely remarkable Champagne from a difficult year and an excellent bottle to ring in the New Year.
Old oak fermented chardonnay meets skin-contact musque to create this exciting new blend from one of Tasmania's most innovative winemakers, Peter Dredge. Unfined, unfiltered and containing countless flavours – from orchard fruits to bay leaves and lemon pith. The Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper of wine, you will discover new flavours and elements with every sip.
Made with fruit from 100-year-old vineyards in the Barossa and Eden Valleys, this chenin blanc predominant blend is all about structure; think of it as a white wine for red wine lovers. Decant and watch the wine open up throughout a long lunch; you won't be disappointed with the results.
Pinks and reds
A charming and layered pinot noir from the eastern foothills of the Mornington Peninsula, sustainably made with minimal intervention winemaking practices. The wine's juicy dark cherry flavour and earthy mid-palate, with just a hint of grilled meats, calls for a lazy Sunday afternoon with good friends and a grazing platter.
A medium-weight gamay that was made with three separate parcels of fruit to build complexity in the wine. Vibrant red fruits give way to an alpine fir needle characteristic, finishing with an elegant line of acidity. From the words of winemaker Chris Catlow, "drink this the day you buy it". Well, you don't have to tell us twice.
Rich and concentrated while remaining bright and elegant, this nebbiolo from Bruno Giacosa is an affordable and approachable way to drink the rustic styles of Italian wine without paying Barolo prices (or having to wait 20 years before they're drinkable). A moreish drop with tension and energy that can't be replicated by wines from outside this region.
Adorable label? Check. A hilarious and pun-filled name? Check. Biodynamic and sulphur free? Check. The 2021 grenache-based pétillant naturel from Dormilona not only ticks all the boxes but it sets the benchmark for these ancestral-style sparkling wines being made in Australia. It's vibrant, tasty and simply sensational.
Flirting with the line between rosé and light red comes a co-fermented pinot gris, graciano and sangiovese blend from South Australia's Limestone Coast. A heady mix of Turkish delight, pink peppercorn, fennel and crunchy red apple mingle in the glass. Dunk in the nearest ice bucket as you watch the sun go down at a weekend barbecue.
Since 2001, Mt. Uncle Distillery has sourced ingredients and fruits from their own estate and other local farms on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland for a whole range of spirits and liqueurs. Aged for five years in red wine barrels to create a complex drop filled with toffee and earthy spices, this rum is an excellent base for a classic Dark and Stormy or served neat with a pineapple tarte Tatin.
Although Belvedere is a well established and respected player in the vodka game, this new range of lightly-flavoured vodka sodas are a new launch for this summer. They come in a variety of refreshing floral-inspired flavours.
A collaboration between Melbourne distillery Starward and Australian coffee experts Mr Black births a caffeinated twist on a classic Old Fashioned. The addition of distillery-made orange bitters gives the cocktail's coffee aroma a zesty lift, making it the perfect morning cure for those with dusty heads during this holiday season.
One of the most exciting (and easily the coolest) releases in the bottled cocktail universe is ex-Acme owner and Solotel drinks specialist Ed Loveday's Big Mood range. With the Passionfruit Margarita being a welcome addition to the socially-distanced walks of lockdown, now it's ready for its big summer.
When South Australian winery Delinquente released their Bizzarro aperitivo late last year. It turned heads with both its flavour and incredible quality (with many preferring it over the well-known, sugar-laden imported aperitivi). Never one to rest on their laurels, this spring they released this pre-made Bizzarro Spritz in can form, which is perfect for any barbecue or beach-side scenario.
This vodka from Indigenous owned and operated Seven Seasons breaks down the assumption that vodka should be neutral and flavourless, with deliciously creamy and earthy results. Focusing consciously on sustainable "lores of the land" to harvest all ingredients, this sensational spirit is made with a base of native yams from Larrakia country (Darwin region). It's one for Martini lovers, stirred with a lemon twist.
The Sidewinder from Brick Lane Brewing is an excellent addition to the low- and no-alcohol beers that have sprung up over the past few years. With super juicy peach, mango and other tropical fruit flavours, this sip has all the classic pale ale characteristics.
Everyone's got a tequila story, but, thanks to Monday Distillery, it no longer has to be a questionable one. The Paloma is a blend of grapefruit soda, yuzu citrus and non-alc tequila for a very zesty and refreshing take on a classic Mexican cocktail. You can drink it straight from the bottle or pour it over ice in a salt-rimmed glass garnished with a wedge of pink grapefruit.
TINA, aka This Is Not Alcohol, is crafted with all-natural ingredients, such as a calamansi, pear and organic botanicals, and high mountain oolong. This modern iced tea is a low sugar alternative to the heavily artificially flavoured styles seen elsewhere and indeed one of the most outstanding sans alcohol drinks of the year.