Almost every winemaking country in the world produces their own version of sparkling wine, with Australian sparkling in particular blazing a trail of innovation and high quality. So why are we still so drawn to the big-name Champagne when there are so many other great (and often better value) alternatives?
When we talk about premium Australian sparkling, there’s only one place to start – House of Arras in Tasmania. Established in 1995, it has consistently been compared to the most revered champagne houses. One of their wines in particular, the 2006 Arras Blanc de Blancs ($59.99) has a complex character and expresses the attributes of Tasmanian chardonnay, meticulous winemaking and it has an opulent and creamy mouthfeel. It won a slew of gold medals and trophies from this year’s wine shows around the country.
Want something a little bit crisper and bursting with freshness? Look no further than a dry Australian prosecco from the King Valley in northern Victoria. Considered to be our spiritual home of prosecco, the conditions of King Valley are similar to its original home in the north-eastern regions of Italy. It came to our shores with the many farmers of Italian heritage in the mid 1900s, with some of the original Italian cuttings still in use today.
The Dal Zotto family was the first to plant the variety in the region and has created four different styles of prosecco (and one “moscetto” for those wanting something sweet), the 2014 Col Fondo ($27) is the pick of the bunch. Translating to “on lees” (when wine is left in contact with leftover yeast particles to add texture and weight), this wine is made in the same style of wines in Otto Dal Zotto’s hometown of Valdobbiadene.
Classic styles not your thing? That’s okay, because there’s nothing that defines Australian winemaking like our ability to push the boundaries. Our rise in production of Pétulant Natural (or Pét-Nat) for short is an example. Pét-Nat is a traditional way of making sparkling wine that’s come back into favour, creating a simpler, more rustic style. Cloudy, unfiltered, and often bottled with a crown cap (like a beer) rather than a cork as the production sees no added dosage (the addition of sugar to kick off secondary fermentation).
A great wine to ease you in is the 2016 Astro Bunny ($35) from Riverland in South Australia (SA produces the most Pét-Nat in Australia). Made by master of wine Tim Wildman, this one has a combination of Vermentino, Zibibbo and Nero d’Avola to create the perfect summertime sparkling with peachy flavours and pineapple skin texture and at only 11.5 per cent alcohol per bottle, it’s an option for brunch.
For all the cocktail lovers out there, Domaine Chandon in the Yarra Valley has got you covered. A few years ago Chandon was asked to do something that broke all the sparkling rules. The winemakers pulled apart the original champagne cocktail recipe and then turned that idea into a sparkling wine made with aromatic bitters, and thus Chandon S ($29) was born. “Our bitters exploration began by taking a broad view of aromatics,” explains Chandon senior winemaker Dan Buckle. “I got really excited with the infusing of different fruits and spices because I was really interested in the bitters creation process. We loved the orange flavour idea and we always see a lot of citrus flavours in our sparkling so with the creation of Chandon S we jumped straight down the rabbit hole.” Think of this as your pre-made drink for picnics; just add ice and a slice of orange and you’re good to go.