Bubbling Down Under
When it comes to sparkling alternatives to champagne, Australian producers are on top of the world.
The word “champagne” casts a global shadow and anyone involved in the production of sparkling wine feels its chill. As soon as bubbles rise from a glass, it’s an instinctive comparison, and the inevitable consequence of a couple of hundred years of continuous effort—and considerable resources—deployed by the most effective marketers in the world of wine.
But while champagne might be the first thought when a thirsty mind looks for fizz, it need not be the only one. Australia’s sparkling-wine producers are among the world’s finest, and right now they’re better than ever. A push to cooler climates has been critical to the ever-climbing quality of Australia’s sparkling wines, the retention of crucial natural acidity the key.
Ed Carr is the Yoda of Tasmania’s sparkling-wine scene, a man with a supernatural control of the fizzy Force. It’s appropriate that his name adorns the label of the most ambitious wine released under the House of Arras brand he created and defined, the E.J. Carr Late Disgorged 2006 ($200). Ten years on yeast lees have imparted labyrinthine layers of complexity, a descent into a deep cave that smells of grilling nuts, preserved citrus and small, smoky fires built on oyster middens. This wine has made the world reconsider what’s possible with Australian sparkling.
Up in the Adelaide Hills, Kate and Hamish Laurie produce sparkling wines of uncommon detail and clarity, rippling with complexity and energy and sitting comfortably alongside the best bubbles anywhere on earth. Southcote Blanc de Noirs 2018 ($55) is a wine delivering power with grace, its mid-palate muscle tapering to a fine, mineral-laced finish of rare length.
The wines of the Yarra Valley’s Domaine Chandon all share the informed touch of the highly skilled Dan Buckle, a winemaker of exceptional skill. Late Disgorged Rosé 2009 ($80) presents an intricately woven tapestry of summer berries, delicate blossom and spiced pastry, and finishes with a fine, talcy dryness.
With global shipping networks currently under strain, and diplomatic relations even more so, it’s reassuring to know that supplies of serious sparkling can be maintained from sources a little closer to home