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These bottles refresh perceptions of Australian wine

‘After I tasted these wines, I was blown away,’ says importer Tess Bryant

Two examples of artisanal Australian wine.
Two examples of artisanal Australian wine.Ellen Bhang for The Boston Globe

For most people, delving deeper into a category of wine involves a visit or two to a local retailer. Tess Bryant, on the other hand, opted for a 15-hour flight to Australia. That trip forever changed her perception of these bottles.

Before establishing import company Tess Bryant Selections, Bryant worked in wine, including a job managing a wine shop in San Francisco. “Even for me, I hadn’t had a lot of Australian wine I was excited about,” she admits. Bottles of inky shiraz, she recalls, gathered dust on the shelves. Bryant revised her notions about the category in 2017 after visiting the farms of natural wine producers in and around South Australia’s Adelaide Hills. “After I tasted these wines, I was blown away,” she recalls.


James Erskine, who established his own winery, Jauma, in 2010, played an essential role making introductions. “Once he realized I was in it for the right reasons, he was instrumental in getting me in front of other winemakers,” Bryant says. (Erskine is a celebrated former sommelier who vinifies McLaren Vale grapes grown by organic farmer Fiona Wood.) The importer also met Sholto and Louis Broderick, a pair of winemaking brothers at the helm of Basket Range Wine. The siblings grew up among grape vines, having parents who established a vineyard and winery in the 1980s, and later expanded to a neighboring property. “It’s such a small community,” reflects Bryant. “Once they hear you’re interested in their wine, they’re happy to have you.”

These like-minded artisans vinify grapes grown without herbicides or pesticides. They eschew synthetic inputs and rely on yeast present on the grapes to do the work of fermentation. They minimize the use of sulfur dioxide as an antioxidant or don’t use any at all. Just as natural winemakers have gained visibility in the United States — and well before that, in Europe — a growing number of Australian producers are on a similar trajectory. These producers are taking meticulously farmed fruit and crafting alive-tasting pours with heaps of Aussie personality.


The bottles of both Jauma and Basket Range Wine refresh notions of what Australian wine can be, especially for consumers most familiar with the big-brand “critter” wines of the early 2000s. And with Australia’s devastating bushfires in the news, this part of the wine world is front and center. (Bryant reports that the families and vineyards of Jauma and Basket Range Wine are safe for now.)

The importer, whose portfolio also includes wines from California and France, delights in that lightbulb moment when someone tastes her Australian wares.

“Often, people will say, ‘Well, I only drink Old World wine,’” says Bryant. “But then they start tasting, and they quickly change their minds.”

Jauma “Disco Special” Red Wine 2018 Composed of shiraz and grenache, this lithe, winsome red is full of plummy fruit, crushed berries, gamy notes, and a hint of texture. It's mouth-filling with a light touch. 12 percent ABV. Low $30s. At Proof Somerville, Winter Hill, 617-764-0781; American Provisions, South Boston, 617-269-6100.

Basket Range Wine “Pamplemousse” Red Wine 2018 This blend of lightly macerated cabernet sauvignon, plus pinot noir and pinot gris, offers high-toned scents of violets and a whiff of barnyard, leading to a lively palate of subtle tannins, blackberry, and grapefruit pith. 13.2 percent ABV. Low $30s. At Proof Somerville; Violette Wine Imports, Cambridge, 617-876-4126.


Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com

Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com