Category Archives: Australian sparkling

Aug 08 2014

Tasmanian Sparkling: The Art of Creating a Signature Style

Posted on August 08, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Tasmania Unbottled Sparkling Masterclass with Huon Hooke

This week I had the good fortune to attend the Tasmania Unbottled Masterclass on sparkling wine. Moderated by wine critic Huon Hooke, the session provided some wonderful insights into how Tasmania’s leading winemakers create their signature sparkling styles.

Non Vintage is really Multi Vintage

Jansz’s head winemaker Natalie Fryar opened her remarks by stating that the term “non vintage” (NV) is a bit of a misnomer. She believes that “multi vintage” is a better adjective for describing a winery’s house style. Non vintage sparklings are typically the product of the current vintage with the addition of reserve wines from previous vintages to preserve a consistent style from year to year.

Because most sparkling wines are made in cool climates where the weather is often unpredictable, consistency of fruit quality and quantity from one vintage to the next is never guaranteed. Fryar referred to cool climate as a high risk/high return proposition. In other words, when the weather cooperates, the results in the vineyard can be spectacular, but when it doesn’t you need a back up plan!

Cork closure helps the tertiary characters in sparkling to develop

Pirie NVOne of the most interesting aspects of the session was a discussion about the influence of cork on the development of a sparkling wine. Acclaimed veteran winemaker Ed Carr of the House of Arras talked about the wine’s primary, secondary and tertiary characters to illustrate his point about the importance of cork.

As you may expect, primary characters in the wine like purity of flavours, citrus elements and vibrant acidity are created by the fruit, which is why so much emphasis is placed on bringing out the best in the fruit in the vineyard. The development of secondary characters like toasty aromas of brioche and almond … Read the rest

Dec 12 2013

Australia’s Top 5 NV Sparkling ‘Champagne Style’ Wines

Posted on December 12, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

The Sydney Morning Herald’s wine critic Huon Hooke recently remarked that “with champagne prices plunging like an England cricket fan’s morale (yes, Australia is still in the lead!) you might think there is no contest for your festive season bubbly dollars.” (Swap toil, trouble for fizz and bubble, SMH 3 December 2013)

But, as Hooke goes on to say, Australia also produces high quality, great value sparkling wines using the traditional methode champenoise. Indeed, the number of boutique wineries making sparkling wine in Australia has grown dramatically over the past few decades. It’s a trend which has focused attention on identifying the best regions and sites to grow the classic Champagne varieties of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.

Notably, northern Tasmania is proving to be one of the best regions in Australia for producing fine quality sparkling. It benefits from a cool climate and the maritime influence from Bass Strait creates just the right amount of humidity to allow the grapes to ripen slowly and retain the lingering acidity essential for making premium sparkling wine.

On the mainland Victoria’s Macedon Ranges and the Upper Yarra are also producing very good sparkling, and the cool climate regions of Tumbarumba and the Southern Highlands in NSW are showing great potential. The top five NV sparklings listed here are just representative examples of many good wines that are still priced very competitively against their French counterparts.

 

arrasbruteliteHouse of Arras Brut Elite Cuvée No. 401 NV RRP$55

Tasmania’s House of Arras is arguably Australia’s top sparkling house. Under Ed Carr’s exceptional leadership, wines like the House of Arras Ed Carr LD 2000, for example, have consistently won accolades typically reserved for top vintage Champagnes.

The entry level House of Arras Brut Elite Cuvée No. 401 NV is a blend … Read the rest

Sep 09 2011

Jansz Tasmania: The Poor Man’s Krug!

Posted on September 09, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

At the Tasmania Unbottled tasting I bumped into a friend who’s in charge of buying wine for his wine society. I really value his opinion, and he thought the pick of the show was the Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvée 2006. I also thought this sparkling was a standout. It was a deliciously textural wine with a finely beaded mousse and a vibrant complex nose of citrus, biscuits, honeysuckle and toasted almonds.

I’m always excited when my impression of a wine is confirmed by a seasoned critic. British wine critic Matthew Jukes said that the 2006 Jansz Tasmania Vintage Cuvée was the finest offering from this specialist producer to date. Tyson Stelzer, author of the Champagne Guide 2011, referred to the Premium Vintage Rosé 2007, which I also enjoyed, as a poor man’s Krug Rosé. (Matthew Jukes, 100 Best Australian Wines – 2011)

The comparison to one of the greatest names in Champagne seems apt given that Jansz was originally launched in 1986 as a specialist sparkling producer by Graham Wiltshire and Bill Fesq of the Tamar Valley’s Heemskerk Winery and the famous Champagne House of Louis Roederer. The head of Louis Roederer, Jean-Claude Rouzard, was personally involved in establishing the vineyard, planting it with the classic varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir. Today Jansz is owned by Yalumba’s Hill Smith family, and since 2001 Natalie Fryar has served as Winemaker.

Heemskerk and Louis Roederer were the first to recognise that the ultra-cool climate of Northern Tasmania’s Tamar Valley was ideal for growing grapes for sparkling wines. The maritime influence of Bass Strait keeps temperatures low and creates enough humidity for a long and gentle ripening period, enabling the wines to develop intense, delicate and refined flavours and a lingering, mouthwatering juicy acidity that is essential … Read the rest

Aug 08 2011

Sparkling Shiraz: Australia’s unique take on Bubbly!

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Australia has made a few significant contributions to the world of wine: the shiraz cabernet/cabernet shiraz blend, the stelvin screw cap and a new take on bubbly with the sparkling shiraz.

While most people tend to drink sparkling wines as an aperitif, the spicy aromas, fine beading and complex flavours of sparkling shiraz make it a perfect accompaniment with dinner.

Seppelt’s Great Western Winery in Victoria has been making sparkling shiraz almost continuously since the 1890s. The highly rated Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz is made from 60+ year old grapes from the St. Peter’s and Imperial vineyards, using the traditional methodé Champenoise.  After a break in production, the 1982 Seppelt Show Sparkling Burgundy (as it was then known) was relaunched in 1990. Today, renowned wine critic James Halliday rates Seppelt’s as the best producer of Australian sparkling shiraz. (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011)

 

 

Peter Lehmann released its first sparkling shiraz in 1999. It was made from the 1994 vintage and spent five years cellaring in the bottle on tirage. Halliday awarded 94 points to the Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2005. Sourced from small Barossa Valley vineyards, including one owned by Peter and Margaret Lehmann, chief winemaker Andrew Wigan, who created the wine for Peter Lehmann, offered the following tasting notes:

Beautifully deep in colour with a persistent fine bead. The nose is an enticing melange of chocolate, dark cherry, hints of spice, a touch of vanilla. A beautifully integrated and fully harmonious wine offering an explosion of flavour balanced by the complexity resulting from its time in the bottle. (Seppelt website)

Wild Duck Creek makes the dry style, non vintage Sparkling Duck Sparkling Shiraz NV every three vintages. Only 1200 bottles of the wine are produced from a 50% blend of … Read the rest

Jul 07 2011

Wine Gift Ideas: Vintage Sparkling from Tasmania rivals the finest Champagne

Posted on July 07, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

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 … Read the rest

Jun 06 2011

The Macedon Ranges: Small in Quantity but Big in Quality!

Posted on June 06, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Some friends of ours recently gave us a bottle of the superb Bindi Pyrette Heathcote Shiraz 2009. According to James Halliday “only a skilled pinot maker [ie. Michael Dhillon] could induce Heathcote to provide such an elegant shiraz.” (James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion 2011)

Indeed! Along with Curly Flat, Bindi is one of the icons of Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, the coolest wine region on Australia’s mainland. These two wineries have established the Macedon Ranges as one of the best sources in the country for pinot noir and chardonnay. The intensely aromatic yet elegant Bindi Block 5 Pinot Noir is rated as “Outstanding” in Langton’s 2010 Classification of Australian Wine V, and the Curly Flat Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both critically acclaimed, regularly featuring on the wine lists of Sydney’s and Melbourne’s very best restaurants.

The Macedon Ranges, the highest and coolest of the five wine regions surrounding Melbourne, is home to mountains and forests alternating with open, windswept slopes. It’s an unforgiving place where exact site selection is critical. The best sites are north facing to catch the last rays of autumn sunlight and are protected from the worst of the wind and the spring frosts. The well-draining, quartz riddled, grey sandy loam soil that overlays a clay base is ideal for varieties like chardonnay and pinot noir, which perform best when their roots are forced to dig deep to survive.  In most years moderate rainfall typically guarantees a long growing season but also naturally keep yields low. Consequently, most of the 40 or so vineyards in the region are small, family-run businesses.

Granite Hills and Hanging Rock Winery, two of the oldest wineries in the region, have also highlighted the region’s potential for sparkling wines. John Ellis, who founded Hanging Rock in 1982 with his … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Premium Australian Sparklings for the Silly Season!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

As the silly season approaches and your mind turns to what to serve at a party or send as a Christmas gift, you may wish to consider Australian sparkling as an alternative to French Champagne.

Australia is really starting to make its mark as a producer of  fine quality sparkling. The best examples are being made in the cool climate regions of Tasmania, the Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills and Macedon Ranges under the direction of skilled winemakers using either the French traditional method (méthode champenoise) or the ‘transfer method’ (in which second fermation takes place in the bottle like Champagne, but the wine is disgorged after it has completed its ageing on lees).*

As I mentioned in a previous post, Australian Sparkling: Rivals Best in the World?, 3 September 2010, earlier this year the Tasmanian 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. But Arras also makes very good and less expensive vintage and non-vintage sparkling. The Arras Grand Vintage Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2003 (rated 96 points by James Halliday) retails for $75 and the Arras Brut Elite Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay retails for $55.

 

Other top producers include boutique winery Mount William Winery in the Macedon Ranges. Like Arras it recently released a vintage 1998 sparkling, Mount William Winery Macedon Blanc de Blancs 1998 (retail $80), which spent 10 years on lees before being disgorged. James Halliday gave the wine 97 points, and here’s the winemaker’s Murray Cousins description of the wine.

Still maintaining a freshness and colour which belies the age. The fruit character was found to be so elegent on disgorging, that no dosage was required. Very delicate with Read the rest

Sep 09 2010

Australian Sparkling: Rivals Best in the World?

Posted on September 09, 2010 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Only the French can call it Champagne but that doesn’t mean Australian producers aren’t intent on going head to head with their famous French counterparts to produce the world’s best bubbly.

In June the Tasmanian  House of Arras released the EJ Carr Late Disgorged Sparkling 1998, which at a recommended retail price of around $200, makes it the most expensive Australian sparkling wine on the market. House of Arras chief winemaker Ed Carr, for whom the the sparkling is named, believes his Australian sparkling is a true rival to fine French Champagne. About 60 per cent Chardonnay to 40 per cent Pinot Noir, the use of malo fermentation gives the wine a creamy-soft palate that is typically a hallmark of vintage French Champagne, but according to Carr, the complexity, that “special something” is the result of letting the wine age. (Jane Faulkner, Ageing shall not weary him, The Age, 16 February 2010)

Of course, only time will till whether Ed Carr can do for Australian sparkling what Max Schubert achieved for Australian Shiraz with the iconic Penfolds Grange. But before you dismiss Australia’s chances, consider the success of England’s West Sussex winery Nyetimber.

Nyetimber’s Classic Cuvee 2003 scored the highest marks and took the gold medal in the Bollicine Del Mondo competition in Italy ahead of thirteen Champagnes including Louis Roederer (Millesimè 2000), the Bollinger-owned Champagne Ayala, (Dosage Zero), Pommery (Blancs de Blanc and Brut Apanage), Gosset (Grand Reserve), Joseph Perrier (Brut Cuvée Royale) and Devaux. The Nyetimber 2001 Blanc de Blancs, which was also entered, came 12th ahead of seven of the champagnes, making Nyetimber the only producer to have two places in the top seventeen.

Run by Italy’s leading wine magazine, Euposia, the competition attracts sparkling wines from around the world. Only open to traditional-method and … Read the rest