Proctor : November 2018
53 PROCTOR | November 2018 The warmer weather heralds the November party season, which is usually characterised by a selection of sparkling wines. The good news this year is that we can expect more and more Australian sparkling wines to find their way onto the guest list, as our continuing experiments with bottled bubbles begin to bear fruit. The most notable trend here is the way our quality sparkling is moving south. But first, a little history Australian sparkling wine started in the 19th Century as a fair copy of the French fizz, but essentially it was killed off by our thirst for port and beer. We then moved through the bad years of over-cooked and overly sweet bubbly business from the hot places of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, before our modern renaissance – sparked by the realisation that Australia’s cooler regions could actually do it well. A sense of this change is evident in the Halliday Wine Companion 2019. The venerable vinous veteran has noted that the seven highest rating sparkling wines (all 97 points), were Tasmanian (five from the House of Arras alone). To explain this ‘southification’, Halliday referenced the potential of pinot noir (the tricky major note in good sparkling), saying “Tasmania is the El Dorado for the variety, and the best is still to come with better clones, older vines and greater exploration of the multitude of mesoclimates...” . He went on to describe Tasmania as the current and future “keeper of the Holy Grail”. The sparkling story in Tasmania started with the Prospect Farm vineyard, just out of Hobart, planted by Bartholomew Broughton in 1823 and producing the first commercial wine in 1827. He found success at exhibitions in England, but the vineyard was lost a mere 30 years later. Skipping forward to the 1970s and the rebirth of sparkling, this came about when enterprising botanist Andrew Pirie decided to do his doctoral thesis on cool climate viticulture and purchased a property on Pipers Brook in northern Tasmania. At that time very little wine was made in Australia’s cool climate regions, but Pirie was certain the conditions suitable for Champagne were replicated somewhere in the New World, and Tasmania appeared the most likely place. After completing his doctorate at the University of Sydney in 1977 on this subject, the Pipers Brook Vineyard1 got into full swing and released its first full-scale sparkling wine in 1995.2 This fulfilled his long-held ambition to best Champagne, and in doing so he also started Tasmania’s sparkling revolution. At about the same time as the first Pipers Brook sparkling was starting to sell, Hardys’ sparkling wine wunderkind Ed Carr began experimenting with Tasmanian grapes. South Australia-based Hardys had no Tasmanian winery, shipping its cold-pressed juice to South Australia for winemaking. In 1999, Carr released the first House of Arras3 wine, starting a new dynasty with the unashamed intention of beating Champagne at its own game. While they are made at the Hardys Tintara cellar in McLaren Vale, the Arras wines are 100% Tasmanian fruit. Hardys is taking Pirie’s original vision to the next level. The Arras story is just beginning, how it plays out will be interesting to watch. As Halliday pointed out, Tasmanian sparkling is only just getting (re)started. The first was the Pirie Tasmania NV Traditional Method which was pale with a light green tinge. The nose was toast lime and yeasty bread. The palate was rich and dry, with soft fruit flavours and well integrated lees characters lingering into the long palate. The second was the A by Arras Premium Cuvee Tasmania NV which was a pale straw colour but a little diminutive on the nose outside of some lime. The palate was dry but had some weightier fruit sweetness balanced out by higher acidity and less obvious exposure to lees. Also a hint of green apple in the entry level House of Arras wine. The last was the Stefano Lubiana Tasmania Brut reserve Method Traditionelle which took the prize for best label – emblazoned with a crown, a scarab beetle and the words ‘Est 1990 Granton Tasmania’. The bead exploded like a firecracker and burned down quickly on crystal clear nectar. The nose was stonefruit and grapefruit on the palate with a background of yeasty toast building into the mid palate. Serious fizz built for smoked salmon. Verdict: The three wines were all very different and the Lubiana was preferred for the mix and honest attack on the tastebuds. The tasting Matthew Dunn is Queensland Law Society policy, public affairs and governance general manager. Wine Cool is hot for sparkling wine with Matthew Dunn Three sparkly examples of Tasmanian fizz withstood some close scrutiny. Notes 1 Now owned by Kreglinger Wine Estates, kreglingerwineestates.com . 2 Prior to Domaine Chandon opening in the Yarra Valley in 1986, the only facilities for making sparkling wine were in South Australia. The cost of trucking grapes there to make sparkling and returning the product to Tasmania made it prohibitive. 3 houseofarras.com.au .