About a year ago Tom Sheer and James Audas, the directors of natural wine importer LoFi Wines, decided that instead of just selling wine to top restaurants around Melbourne and Sydney, they wanted to send bottles straight to punters.
“In the past, people have asked us for a box of wine and we’ve always said, ‘No, we’re wholesalers, that’s not what we do’,” Sheer says. “We don’t usually sell directly to people, but we’re lucky to be in a good position [where] people get excited about our wines after tasting them in restaurants.”
The plans to launch monthly wine subscription service The Borough Box, were coming along gradually – until the pandemic happened.
“Everything changed with Covid-19. We hit the fast forward [button] on the preparations,” Sheer says. “We thought it was a good time to bring good wine to the people.”
The Borough Box is a package of six natural wines delivered to your door every month for $180. Curated by Sheer and Audas – both sommeliers and winemakers who are also responsible for Das Juice wine – the boxes will include one or two white wines, one maceration (skin contact or amber wine), one rosé, a couple of reds and perhaps a sparkling, depending on what the experts have seen that month.
These cloudy, sweet, sharp and unusual wines are picked with the greatest of care –Sheer and Audas wouldn’t include a bottle in there just to tick a varietal box. “If we see a good reason to put two maceration wines in there, we will,” Sheer says.
“There are a lot of wine subscription services out there, but because we’re importers, we can get wines that no-one else can,” Sheer says. “We’re in a really unique position. We literally sell wines that, if they aren’t going to the best restaurants in Australia, will go straight into the box.”
LoFi Wines has been operating for seven years, importing wines that are poured in restaurants and bars like Ester, 10 William St, The Moon and Tipo 00. Sheer has been a sommelier at Love, Tilly Divine and Oscillate Wildly, Audas at Silvereye and Noma in Denmark. With about 18 years of experience between them, they have worked at two-hatted and Michelin-starred restaurants. Both were inspired when natural wine started hitting the Australian market almost a decade ago. “We just thought, ‘Oh this has got to be the only thing that we touch from now on’,” Sheer says.
The Borough Box will exclusively focus on natural wines, including a card for each explaining what the wine is, how it’s made and why the pair chose it. These wines are farmed organically or biodynamically, with minimalist intervention in the cellar (expect for the addition of sulphur). "The farming is what interests me the most because good wines, in our opinion, are made in the vineyard, not the cellar," Sheer says. “That principle is what guides us.”
Their other guiding principal is drinkability, which makes the box appealing to both experts and those looking to start their natty wine-drinking journey. “I taste a lot of things that are kind of funky and oxidated, and that can be really lovely. But I don’t always want to drink a second glass of [it] – it’s a bit too much,” Sheer says. “If it jumps through that hoop, then we start considering it.”
It was impossible not to think about the current climate when curating their first box, Sheer says, and they decided to lean into it rather than ignore it. In this box, you’ll find a Gamay from France specifically designed for drinking on your lunch break. “It’s called La Pause,” Sheer says. “They made it lower-alcohol. I just thought, ‘Far out, if anyone needed a break, now is the time!’
“That human touch – talking about wine and sharing it – you don’t want to lose it. We just want to ty to bring a slice of normality back to everyone’s lives. If we can do that safely, then that’s a good thing.”
First boxes will be delivered in the first week of April (and the first week of each month subsequently).