Few of us have the luxury of a personal sommelier accompanying us everywhere we go, and traipsing up and down the aisles of your local bottle shop staring at thousands of labels, praying for divine intervention, can feel taxing at the best of times. Fortunately, there are people like Ella Stening in the world. Possessing a refreshing lack of pretension in an industry heavily steeped in tradition and convention, Stening is one of many new faces offering a bullshit-free perspective in Australia's evolving wine industry. Previously holding court at Sydney institutions such as ACME and Wyno, various stints actually making wine across the world and hosting tastings for RUSSH favourite, DRNKS (Joel Amos), Stening is now working alongside Amos on a monthly subscription service - Loose Ends - delivering sustainably farmed wines with a focus on minimal intervention to your door 12 times a year. In other words, our kind of wine club. Offering a preliminary package of six natural, sustainable, organic and bio-dynamic wines per month (up to "as many as you like") with a box choice of reds, whites or mixed, the service takes the anxiety out of choosing wines, with tasting notes provided to help widen your knowledge and your palate and free shipping to boot.
To celebrate the launch, we asked Stening to give us her list of the six wines we should be drinking this summer. You can thank us later.
Do.t.e Vini, Don’t Pet-Nat Me
"It’s not often that you taste a wine that really makes you take a step back and go, shit, I’ve never tasted anything like that before. This tiny, Tuscan project is facilitated by the gorgeous Francesca and Filippo - a couple whose ethos is taking one step back to move two forward. Everything is grown without pesticides and the grapes are not treated with any chemicals during the winemaking process. This Frizzante, 100% Syrah, is like sitting on the balcony in half-light, coated in sea-spray, chomping on fresh cut watermelon. It’s bone-dry with a delicate fizz, and such a hit at a BBQ."
Gentle Folk, Scary Gully (Chardonnay / Sauvignon Blanc)
"I love all of Gareth’s wines, to me he can do no wrong. Starting out as a specialist in marine biology, specifically seaweed phycology, Gareth fell into winemaking after hanging out with James Erskine (Jauma wines) in the Basket Range. The thing for me with his wines is that they are exceptionally well made - you can taste just how much consideration has gone into the farming and winemaking process equally. This is Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, playing together over a two week carbonic maceration, rewarding us with lemon candies, wheels of lavender and an incredible, warming texture that is reminiscent of tanning by the beachside, covered in sunscreen and sunlight."
Nestarec, Youngster (Zweigelt / Dornfelder)
"Czech this guy out (lol). Milan is one of the Czech Republic’s finest young winemakers, working with a tiny eight hectares his father planted in 2001. His wines are experimental but incredibly well executed - ranging from quaffable to sophisticated. When I tried this release I was absolutely floored - the Pet-Nat is like biting into a peach plucked straight from the orchard - but the Zweitgelt (a hybrid varietal that was bred in Austria in 1922) is unbelievable. Unfined, unfiltered and zero sulfur, it's all happy juicy mulberries and bitumen, so killer. Makes me want to run along the beach in the nude - don’t ask why, just does."
Foradori, Lezer (Teroldego)
"Anything that this woman touches turns to gold. One of Italy’s (and the world’s) winemaking superstars, Elisabetta is mostly recognised for her undying dedication to working with Teroldego, a lesser known native Italian varietal closely related to Syrah. She’s spent the last 30 years restoring her family’s winery based in the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains, slowly converting to organics and avoiding the use of any chemicals in the cellar. The Lezer is a summer fresh delight, Teroldego grown in calcareous soil lends to this glittery, almost pop-rock-like texture, accompanied by red raspberry, cedar and fresh thyme rippling through the palate. Serve chilled with a plate of anchovies on toast and a good attitude."
Manon, Savignin Pure (Savignin)
"Savignin is one of those grapes that you’ve just got to try if you see it. Famed in the Jura, Manon grows a small amount in their Basket Range winery. There’s a reason that Manon is one of Australia’s most prominent natural wineries, and this cuvee does not disappoint. Sunkissed bunches, squashed by foot and fermented in barrel, this wine is electric - jagged lines of acidity, deep, complex fruit and honeycomb sweetness. It’s sophisticated and moreish, so I think this is my pick for enjoying over a long, boozy, plentiful dinner with a mix of old and new people that all like to do trivia. I’d suggest putting it in a decanter too, it’ll open and show off for you over time. No preservatives, no nothing, just dreamy."
Travis Tausend, Agori (Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc)
"Travis makes his wines in a little spot in the Hope Forest, Adelaide Hills, using very little modern machinery, relying on an old basket press for the most part. He likes to reflect the land and the time he’s had over the course of the year, making everything he releases really personal and emotional. When I tried this wine the other day I swear it was like that first bite of fresh pineapple. You know when you get a bit nervous before biting into a piece, bracing for the acidity? But far out, this is peak season pineapple party. Being from QLD, you can imagine how bloody excited that made me. Sem and Sauv often do a dance together, lifting each others' favourable characteristics up and out of the glass, and this is no different. It has racy acidity, incredible texture and just lights me up."