Arguably, the finest sparkling wines in Australia come from Tasmania. Bay of Fires‘ winemaker Fran Austin argues that what distinguishes the cool climate wines of Tasmania from their high altitude, cool climate counterparts on the mainland is the acid structure in the grapes: “A lot of mainland cool-climate regions are cool because they’re high up, not because they’re down south. In high-altitude wines, the acidity can taste hard. But in cool-latitude wines, you get softer, mouth-watering juicy acidity. And incredible depth of flavour – which means you can work the wines more, let them spend more time on lees before releasing them, producing a more complex end result.” (Epithany – Aussie Sparkling by Max Allen, Langton’s Magazine.)
The potential of Tasmania for producing fine sparkling wines was first recognised in the 1980s when the French Champagne House Louis Roederer established the Jansz vineyard in collaboration with Heemskerk in the Tamar Valley. Jansz was Tasmania’s first sparkling wine to be made according to the traditional méthod champenoise. In 2009 the Jansz Tasmania Premium Vintage Cuvee 2004 beat out some serious French competition to claim the Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine of the Show at the Sydney International Wine Competition.
Last year the House of Arras released the EJ Carr Late Disgorged Sparkling 1998, which at a recommended retail price of $190, made it the most expensive Australian sparkling wine on the market. Wine critic Max Allen described his reaction to a sneak preview over a decade ago of the 1995 Tasmanian vintage made by winemaker Ed Carr: “I still remember tasting these wines and thinking here was Australian sparkling that approached the best Champagne in terms of finesse, complexity and depth of flavour.” Epithany: Aussie Sparkling by Max Allen, Langton’s Magazine.
Taltarni owned Clover Hill in the Pipers River region of northern Tasmania also makes very fine sparkling under the direction of French born Loic Le Calvez. The Clover Hill Blanc de Blancs 2005, for example, was was blended from five separate cuvees sourced from the Clover Hill vineyards and two cuvees from Coal Valley grapes that were included in the blend for added stone fruit characters, weight and complexity. All the parcels were gently whole bunch pressed, fermented and underwent partial malolactic fermentation and batonnage in tank. The wine was aged on lees in bottle for 38 months prior to the first disgorging.
A good selection of vintage sparkling from Jansz, House of Arras and Clover Hill are available on the Cellarit Wine Market.