With the warm weather continuing, our Drinks Director Mike Bennie has an eye on fresh, refreshing drops, whatever shape or size it comes in. Here are his pick to take you through the rest of summer.
As many folks would know I’m all about seasonal drinking seeing a strong currency between the thing in your glass, the stuff on your plate and the general feel of the time of year. Outdoors, consuming by bodies of water, picnics, pre-midday, long afternoons and balmy evenings all scream “refreshing” to me, so I tend to stick with that as my rule in summer.
This typically means I’m looking for squeaky, tart, pleasingly bitter, crisp, thirst-slaking stuff, be it wine of any colour or beer of any creed. Thus, you see rosé, light-fresh whites, textural whites and orange wine with high acidity and dry, palate-resetting tannins as a feature in my fridge, right alongside every delicate, pure-feeling red wine that looks better with a chill (which is pretty much every red wine).
Ipso, I’m looking at younger-gen Swan Valley winemakers working with grenache (with a gentle, deft touch) and their wines made from salty, minerally chenin blanc. I dig pet-nats, sure, and Great Southern has a wealth of experienced producers making bright, fizzy, delicious wines under the banner of that style. Rosé, well, can be from anywhere, but seeking out those made from Italian grape varieties or, again, grenache, is definitely on my agenda. Delicate, minerally whites, on the other hand, Margaret River sémillon, chenin blanc and, on occasion chardonnay, is the deal.
In the beer department, lagers are right up there with things I’m getting stuck into, and I’m a huge fan of how the Western Australia brewing scene has refined this category. No longer bland swill – though that has its place too – WA lager seems to find a great balance of bitterness and gentle malt-hop inflection – perfect for sessions. Likewise, the rise and rise of the sour beer hits my radar; judicious balanced tang matched to thirst-crushing bitterness is my jam.
Following closely to the sour theme are the increasingly interesting and better-made runs of WA fruit beers – those that get a clever and well-judged infusion of all sorts of fruits, occasionally botanicals, and sometimes just darn weird stuff. I love the adventure and creativity here, though I’m leaning into the more summery, zesty styles to keep that refreshment factor up high.
At a pinch, pass me a pilsner, usually a bit more complex in style, usually good for one and one only, but I like the better WA producers approach with the classic style, again, leaning heavily into thirst-slaking stuff that whips the sweat off your brow and takes all the sand out of your throat. Go well through the tail end of this summer.
Mike’s Top Picks:
Chouette Fabric Chenin Blanc 2021, Swan Valley
Fresh, well priced, saline, minerally, thirst crushing.
Ohkela Bebe Grenache 2020, Swan Valley
Lighter shade of grenache, rose-hip tea meets tart cherries, best drunk straight off the ice.
Tripe Iscariot Aspic Grenache Rose 2020, Margaret River
Strawberry, pomegranate juice, minerally and bone-dry, this is a textural feast and wonderful, refreshing drinking.