Discover new sparkling that’s beyond the ordinary
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Discover new sparkling that’s beyond the ordinary

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Vintage Cellars
January 7, 2019
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Make the sparkling switch this summer with hot new styles from interesting regions taking the sparkling world by storm.

A big, wide world of bubbles awaits the wine drinker this summer. But why limit your taste buds or your imagination by reaching for the usual go-to bubbly? 2019 is the time to expand your sparkling wine horizons!

 

A world of less ordinary bubbly awaits, whether it’s a prosecco rosé (yes, it’s definitely going to be a thing this summer!), a quality vintage champagne for that special occasion, one of the new English sparklings taking the wine world by storm, or a savoury Spanish cava made from indigenous grapes.

 

Prosecco, both imported and locally produced, will continue its massive wave of popularity, but expect greater choice with new producers coming on stream.

 

Last year, an all-time record 8.5 million bottles of champagne were enjoyed by Australians, making our country one of the fastest growing markets in the world for champagne. We are now the world’s seventh-largest champagne market. Will we post another record this year?

 

Entry-level non-vintage cuvées or blends dominate sales, but interest in expensive prestige cuvées and rosés is also at its highest level in decades.

 

Imported sparkling wines always offer something different and exciting to adventurous drinkers, whether it’s the distinctive taste of the terroir, winemaking methods, the use of indigenous grapes, or the discovery of a new and exciting wine region.

 

This summer, we encourage you to give the emerging bubblies grown in England’s South Downs region a try. The regions of Kent and Sussex are producing some of the most exciting and talked-about sparklings of the moment, and the region is so hot it’s attracting major investment from many French champagne houses.

 

If you do anything this new year, indulge in a brand-new sparkling wine. You may just find a new favourite.

  

Vintage Sparkling

Meet one of the world’s great taste sensations — vintage champagne perfectly encapsulates the harvest conditions of its given vintage and then some. A big part of vintage champagne’s allure is the ageing process and the special flavour ingredient that it brings to the finished wine: yeast autolysis, which is the ageing of wine on its lees or dead yeast cells.

 

By law, a vintage champagne must remain in the bottle for a minimum of three years, but the better champagne houses keep their top wines in bottle for longer. The more time the wine remains on yeast lees, the more pronounced the autolytic character. And that’s a good thing. As the yeast cells break down in the champagne, they release good things back into the wine, adding complexity and rich nutty, toasty and biscuity flavours. Followers of the more opulent styles of vintage champagne, from big houses such as Bollinger and Krug, also appreciate the time-consuming and expensive use of oak to partially ferment, and then age, base wines. Oak can add softness and weight to these base wines.

 

Did you know?

Champagne producers are moving away from serving champagne in the traditional flute in favour of a white wine glass, as the shape is better for the appreciation of champagne as a serious wine.

 

Blanc de Blancs

Blanc de blancs, meaning "white from white", is one of Australia’s fastest growing wine categories, highlighting the beauty and grace of the chardonnay grape in bubble form. It’s a star turn from the most planted white grape in Australia, but not any old grape is suited to the blanc de blancs style. Australian winemakers take their cue from Champagne, where the best blanc de blancs hail from the Côte des Blancs, which is noted for producing exceptionally well-balanced natural acidity in chardonnay. A winemaker's goal is to achieve purity of flavour and a driving acidity, with the best examples coming from cool climates such as Tasmania, Yarra Valley and the Adelaide Hills.

 

Chardonnay for sparkling wine production is among the first grapes to be picked during vintage when acid levels are high and the fruit flavours — apple, lemon, grapefruit, lime, strawberry — are emerging.

 

Traditionally, the blanc de blancs category has always represented a small percentage of production, but with world-wide interest, particularly from sommeliers, this style is now booming. They love its versatility at the table, pairing it with everything from fish and fried foods to pasta and soft-ripened cheeses.

 

Did you know?

Blanc de blancs was James Bond’s drink of choice in the Bond books by Ian Fleming. The author’s astute product placement helped make the blanc de blancs style cool among English wine drinkers in the post-WWII years.

 

 

Sparkling Rosé

Sparkling rosé is wildly unpredictable. It can be composed of any grape variety, one or more, and can even incorporate white grapes in the rosé blend, especially those with reddish-skins such as pinot gris. Sometimes the colour can come from skin contact. Alternatively, some producers choose to add red wine for colour. Pinot noir can often be the star of a sparkling rosé but not always necessarily, and that’s what is so exciting about this category. There’s no cookie-cutter recipe.

 

Sparkling rosé can be of a single vintage or multi-vintage, and styles can range from moscato and prosecco through to Old World faves from Italy and Champagne, as well as the New World’s best from Australia and New Zealand. Yes, it’s a broad canvas to work with, but the flavours are the thing, everything from rosehip and brioche to raspberry sorbet to spicy and herbal and so much more.

 

The best sparkling rosés do share one thing in common — they are incredibly food friendly, whether it’s matching smoked salmon, shellfish, chicken and pork dishes or sweet fruit-based desserts. Whatever you do, don’t put chocolate on that list.

 

Did you know?

With so many delicate sparkling rosés on the market, don’t make the mistake of over-chilling them this

summer. Too much chill will remove delicacy in aroma and flavour. Try for about 9-12°C.

 

Champagne Rosé

As with a rosé still wine, a good champagne rosé sells on colour: tuber rose, violet, pink, salmon, amber, orange/pink and even copper-coloured. There is no one rosé colour. That’s because there isn’t one way to produce champagne rosé.

 

The standard rosé formula involves maceration. Black-skinned pinot noir grapes are allowed to ferment for a short time before pressing, which produces the free-run juice of the highest quality. It’s a process that’s hard to control, especially when it comes to achieving a consistent colour and variation from year to year. The most popular and easiest method is to add still red wine (10% or less) before the secondary fermentation. This allows for greater consistency of style.

 

The colour may differ, but the champagne rosé style highlights the beauty of the pinot noir grape (not always exclusively, though) with dried flowers and aromatics on the nose and strawberry, cherry, plum or raspberry flavours. Match with duck, anything spicy (but watch the chilli) and rich, creamy cheeses. Some of the most expensive champagnes are rosé, including the Moët & Chandon 1988 P3 (Third Plenitude), aged for nearly 30 years and sold for $3100 by the magnum.

 

Did you know?

It was believed that Madame Clicquot produced the first champagne rosé in 1775, but recent evidence indicates Ruinart was producing the style as early as 1764.

 

Non-Vintage

The typical champagne choice of the Australian wine drinker? It has to be non-vintage, a blend of vintage years, sometimes involving the assembly of anywhere from three years, up to 15 years or more. Grapes tend to be a mix of chardonnay (for finesse and zestiness), pinot noir (for structure and character) and pinot meunier (for softness).

 

Non-vintage represents a producer’s house style; it's the style that sells the most from year to year and carries the producer’s signature. It also best exemplifies the blending artistry of the winemaker.

 

Part of the appeal is freshness. Non-vintage champagne must be aged for a minimum of 15 months, which is less time than for vintage champagne, resulting in a brighter and more lively flavour. The use of reserve wines (up to 20%) in the blends helps with style consistency.

 

In Australia, non-vintage champagne dominates champagne sales, representing 94.8% of our champagne consumption. And we have traditionally shown strong loyalty to the big houses, names such as Bollinger, Moët & Chandon, Laurent-Perrier and Veuve Clicquot.

 

However, well-priced grower labels are creating interest, especially those pursuing organic or biodynamic production.

 

Did you know?

Non-vintage champagne is one of the wine world's friendliest food pairings. It can be served with everything from hot dogs to fish and chips, potato chips, sushi and steak tartare with eggs.

 

Aussie Favourites

The classic Aussie sparkling we recognise today — a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and the occasional pinot meunier — is a relatively new taste experience that took off in the late 1970s. Up until then, grapes such as trebbiano (also known as ugni blanc) or ondenc and sylvaner were in big demand. Quality improved markedly with the decision to employ the same grapes — chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier — and winemaking methods, notably secondary fermentation in the bottle, as producers in Champagne. Today, these are standard quality parameters for Australian sparkling winemakers, together with the sourcing of grapes from super-cool wine regions such as Macedon Ranges, Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills and Tasmania.

 

The Aussie style traditionally has less minimum time on yeast lees (nine months) and shows more flesh and riper fruit characters than its French counterpart. You are often likely to come across nectarine, peach, melon and pithy grapefruit, as well as citrus and apple. While Australian winemakers once labelled their sparklings "champagne”, this ceased with the EEC-AU Wine Trade Agreement in the 1980s.

 

Did you know?

Tasmania is the sparkling wine state of Australia, with 33% of all production geared to making bubbles—68% of all chardonnay grown on the island ends up in sparkling wines together with 31% of pinot noir.

 

Cava

The inspiration behind cava was pretty much the inspiration behind many of the world’s best sparklings: champagne. Following a trip to France, Catalonian winemaker Josep Raventós set out to imitate champagne with his first sparkling in 1872 at his family’s Codorníu winery. Today, Codorníu is the world’s oldest and second-largest producer of cava (behind Freixenet).

 

In cava, as in champagne, the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, however, the principal grapes differ. The big three are all indigenous and all white: macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo. In 1986, laws were changed to allow chardonnay to be included in the blend.

 

Cava relies on the paralleda variety for acidity, while the remaining grapes bring subtle florals and lemons, green apples, quince and a distinctive bitter savouriness that has been likened to green almonds. Cava has a reputation for pairing with difficult foods such as artichoke and asparagus in addition to friendlier foods such as paellas, risottos and white meats.

 

Did you know?

The name cava is derived from the same word for the stone cellars or "cavas", in which the sparkling wine is matured. These are very similar to the underground drives or "caves" of Champagne.

 

Prosecco

Prosecco has a reputation as an all-rounder that is well deserved. The glera grape hails from the Veneto region in north-east Italy and two very distinctive terrains. The hills of the Valdobbiadene are high, cool

and steep. Wines from this area are generally fine and super elegant. The warmth of the area of Conegliano produces a rounder, fruitier expression of prosecco.

 

The majority of prosecco is made in the Charmat style or so-called Italian method, something that sets it apart from traditional méthode champenoise. In Charmat, secondary fermentation takes place in an

enclosed pressure tank.

 

Producers look to primary fruit characters of green apple, citrus, jasmine blossom and freshness. The style isn’t meant to be particularly complex, but now quite a number of makers are pursuing a méthode champenoise style and metodo tradizionale col fondo style, where the yeast sediment remains in the bottle, as a means of taking prosecco into more serious wine-drinking territory. With its mouth-cleansing

properties, prosecco is fabulous to start and close a dinner.

 

Did you know?

About 600million bottles of Italian prosecco are produced annually, nearly double the production of champagne. 500 million bottles are sourced from the Prosecco appellation; the remainder are

from other premium regions.

 

Other Sparklings

Climate change is largely responsible for England’s rapid rise in the sparkling wine world. That, and the fact that the country’s South Downs area, around Kent and Sussex, shares the same chalky soils as the Champagne region in France. It’s a perfect match, producing sparkling wines naturally gifted in brisk acidity, effortless structure and purity of flavour, with chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir grapes starring. Expect some astonishing wines. This is a region that has gone from barely viable viticultural land to a star on the world stage in just a few decades. Sparkling wine now accounts for a huge 66% of English wine production.

 

Languedoc, in the south of France, has the honour of producing the world’s first brut sparkling back in 1531. The maker was a Benedictine monk. Today, the sparklings of Limoux — there are two principal styles — have a world-wide following. Blanquette de Limoux is bottle-aged for nine months, while Crémant sees longer in the cellar, 15 months or more, and is more complex. Both sparklings from England and the Languedoc are perfect with apéritif-style food.

 

Did you know?

Did you know that Taittinger and Pommery were the first major champagne houses to buy land in the

south of England for sparkling wine production, but we doubt they will be the last!