Home-grown bubbles are worth the pop!

Home-grown bubbles are worth the pop!

Howard Park Wines

With over 8,500,000 bottles imported in 2020 – an annual increase of 11.2%, it seems that Champagne has never been so popular amongst Australian sparkling wine consumers, at least for now. Like so many other industries, pandemic-related supply chain issues and increased demand have left many retailers having to impose sales limits of many favourite French fizz. As a result, bargains are few and far between and even the majors aren’t using discounting of Champagne as a loss leader like they have frequently done in the past. While this sounds like bad news for devotees to the champenoise style, there’s a silver lining to this cloud as these days, Australian producers are increasingly making sparkling whites that rival those from the villages of North-eastern France.

The climate of the Champagne region is much cooler than other grape growing regions in France – averaging only around 10 degrees Celsius – meaning that grapes develop less sweetness and have higher natural acidity when harvested. So it stands to reason that in a country as generally hot as Australia, it’s only the genuinely cool climate regions that can produce a sparkling that rivals the Francophile’s favourites. The Barossa may make a delightful sparkling Shiraz and the Yarra, a palatable sparkling Pinot, but for the lively zip and yeasty zestiness required to emulate a methode champenoise, it’s hard to go past the sparkling whites sourced from Tasmania, or perhaps, the Great Southern Region of Western Australia.

The varietals primarily used to make sparkling wines are Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir – all grapes that tend to cope very well in regions with lower temperatures and higher elevations. Most often, winemakers will use blends to create their wares though in Tassie, the sight of a good sparkling Pinot Noir can make you salivate like Pavlov’s dog!

Having recently spent a week tasting my way around the Apple Isle, I’m confident that the region is home to Australia’s best fizz. While none of them are what I would describe as “cheap”, they’re undoubtedly more affordable than a bottle of Froggie import. The Kreglinger blanc de blanc will set you back as much as $75 a bottle but is one of the most elegant and sophisticated bubbles I found on my journey. If a blush beckons, it would be difficult to go past the Bellbonne Vintage Rose 2017, which is made by Natalie Fryar and hits the shelves at a similar price point. Both are exceptional wines though, with a price point to match.

Amongst the sparkling wines that will satisfy the senses without blowing the budget is the Tamar Ridge Pirie Traditional Method 2012 ($35 – $40) and the Pipers Brook Sparkling ($38) for those who like Nashi pear and Granny Smith characters in their fizz. Both have a delicate fine bead and pack ample toast and yeasty notes with lingering acidity. They outperform their pricetag and will tempt you to pop a second cork!

If a brut style of sparkling white is needed to wash down your Sydney Rock oysters or even just camembert and crackers, I’d highly recommend the Jete Methode Traditionnelle ( $33 – $35 ). It’s made by the Howard Park team from Western Australia, using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit sourced from their cool climate Great Southern vineyards. Perfectly balanced, the wine oozes charm with its creamy toastiness, hints of citrus, Granny Smith, lemon curd on the middle and a racy acidity on the finish. Guaranteed to make you refill your flute!

Australia may be the world’s 6th largest consumer of French fizz, but with the increasing cost of Champagne and the rapidly escalating quality of our home-grown bubbles, I’m guessing that it’s only a matter of time before we slip a place or three on the Champenois Christmas Card list!

– As published on The Courier Mail


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