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By JOHN ROZENTALS

WINE: 18 APRIL 2017

Ultra-premium Australian bubbly has certainly come of age

Back in the 1970s and even 1980s, a tasting of ultra-premium Australian sparkling wines would have been a very limited exercise indeed.

Australians mostly just weren’t making the sorts of bubblies that would stand comfortably on the world stage. They largely lacked the skills and the patience required, but even more importantly they didn’t have access to the correct fruit — chardonnay, pinot noir, perhaps pinot meuniere grown in cool-to-cold climates.

My first inkling that this was about to change came in the late 1970s or early 1980s when I visited Seppelt Great Western, in the Grampians district of Victoria, and tasted some experimental sparkling wines made by Frenchman Dominique Landragin.

He was making wines from the correct varieties, grown in cool areas such as Drumborg, not far from Portland on Victoria’s extreme west coast. These were wines with the necessary finesse and flavour to make his French compatriots stand up and take some notice.

Then came a succession of joint ventures between Australian wineries and French Champagne houses and the establishment of vineyards and wineries by a few in their own right.

Moet and Chandon, Roederer and Deutz all come to mind for having engaged in ventures in Australia and New Zealand and they all changed the lie of the land significantly.

So, what would I nominate as Australia’s best bubbly?

That question is just too broad and difficult to answer in any definitive way, but the Chandon 2005 Prestige Cuvée, made by Dan Buckle and Glenn Thompson from grapes harvested in a range of southern Australian cool-climate areas, must go very close.

Visit http://www.chandon.com.au.

And, on a completely different tack, I really do love the poise and palate strength of D’Arenburg’s Peppermint Paddock, a chambourcin-based sparkling red from one of McLaren Vale’s top producers. Quite simply, it’s dangerously more-ish.

Visit http://www.darenberg.com.au.

Chandon’s chief winemaker Dan Buckle (right) and Glenn Thompson … certainly turning heads with their ultra-premium Australian bubblies.

WINE REVIEWS

CHANDON 2013 VINTAGE BRUT — This isn’t quite in the class of the Prestige Cuvée, but it is the style that represents the core of Chandon’s output — creamy, fresh, toasty and with a strong, firm palate due to a high pinot-noir content. Visit http://www.chandon.com.au.

HEEMSKERK GEORG JENSEN HALLMARK CUVEE —Tasmania’s Heemskerk was one of the founders of the Australian sparkling-wine revolution, and it continues to impress in the hands of Treasury Estate. Smartly packaged with reusable sealer. Visit https://www.heemskerk.com.au.

BLUE PYRENEES 2013 MIDNIGHT CUVEE — made from fruit (mainly chardonnay) harvested by hand at night under lights to bring in fruit that’s cool and crisp. An outstanding sparkling wine with complex nutty, yeasty flavours. Visit http://www.bluepyrenees.com.au.