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 traditional-varietal wines, 52 wines were entered into the 2009 competition, where they were tasted blind by a panel of oenologists, winemakers, sommeliers and journalists. To learn more about Neytimber’s phenomenal success, read James Graham’s article in Suite 101: England Beats France in Sparkling Wine!.. [Read More]