Tasmania vs the World: Mega Sparkling Tasting


Australian + International Sparkling Tasting


I was lucky enough to taste a huge range of local, interstate and international sparkling wines in Hobart recently. Buying local sparkling wine is something on the rise in Australia, and particularly here in Tasmania, where our own sparkling is gaining greater and greater notoriety. Sparkling wines are no longer just for popping corks at celebrations. They have become important parts of pre-meals, entrées, and even main courses for the more powerful wines. There is really no excluding sparkling wines from a dinner party these days, or from any other occasion really. Like all wines, it’s important to strike a balance between what you serve and how much of it you serve. Below are my notes for a range of sparkling wines and Champagnes, in no particular order except for Non-vintage, followed by vintage. You can read about my earlier Tasmanian sparkling wine notes here. These latest notes come from as local as Hobart, and from as far as Champagne itself. I hope you find something that takes your fancy! Where available, I have provided RRP and the alcohol content for each wine.

This is The Wine Bottle's biggest tasting of the year, and I hope you find something here that you like, admire or are curious about!

Non-Vintage Cuvées
Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV
RRP around $110
A neat blend of around 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and the rest Pinot Meunier. A nose of peach, pear, nectarine and crushed almonds. It has some obvious complexity and invites a good guzzle. The fruit on the nose can be found on the palate, with minerally rocks and a solid, lengthy finish. I think it’s a bit overpriced at around $105, but for French, it’s better than many counterparts.
93 points

Mitchell ‘Peppertree’ Sparkling Shiraz NV – Clare Valley
RRP $40
Minimal interference in the vineyard, with no irrigation and no herbicides. Extremely peppery nose, black and red fruits abounding obviously due to the Shiraz. A blueish ripeness comes through in the mouth, followed by the trademark pepper. It’s dark and rather brooding for a sparkling, but then you have to expect that with this style. Would be an intriguing match for some Christmas red meats.
90 points

Airlie Bank Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV – Yarra Valley
RRP $22
An eclectic team of winemakers have combined with Head Winemaker Tim Shand to make a very interesting, everyday style sparkling. The nose was a little closed for me, but there was some appealing fruit in the mouth, with some warmth of apricots and a little peach fuzz. Around 90% Chardonnay with the rest Pinot Noir, with some barrel fermentation and extended lees time for some parcels lends the wine some bready notes.
89 points

Veuve Forny et Fils Premier Cru NV
RRP around $60
Located in Vertus, near Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Veuve Forny prides itself on minimal intervention winemaking in its vineyards, which sit on prime deposits of chalk. A highly individual nose among a choc-full sparkling tasting. Although it shares some flavours with other champagnes, it is really very nuanced and delineated in its flavours. Crisp brioche, and brioche and white bread crust on the nose. Almonds, cashews, and sweet earth (if that makes sense) fills the mouth, with buttery components and a pure fruit balance. I really would recommend this, if you can find it around!
94 points

Bay of Fires Tasmanian Cuvée Rosé NV – Pipers River, Tasmania
RRP $31.50, alc 12.5%
A very interesting pale pink colour. Candied and powdery strawberries on the nose, subtle sherbet, but quality, clean fruits. When you drink it, it washes through with strawberry, subtly dry or powdery earth, and some tannin action. Actually a really nice mouthfeel, but not quite at the peak of the style. I would drink it with flavourful canapés or even a light entrée.
90 points

Nautilus Cuvée Marlborough Brut NV – Marlborough, NZ
RRP $39, alc 12%
Crafted in the traditional champagne method, coming in at 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. Three years lees time has created a really interesting feel. It’s almost all raw honey on the nose, with some biscuit under. A bit one-dimensional in the mouth, and also a little out of depth in the company, I felt. Balanced fruit nonetheless, and again a handy wine to have on call, but there’s better at this price.
88 points

Clarence House ‘Vivace’ Brut NV – South-East Tasmania
Not far out of Hobart lies Clarence House, a small grower whose wines are an interesting mix. Mostly from the 2011 vintage, this wine showed lovely flowers on the nose, and smells like a garden floor – an entire garden in fact. Drinking it, you get sweetness somewhere, and great acid poise. Lengthy, enriching and uplifting. A real surprise of the day, and recommended to spring a surprise on dinner guests with this aperitif or entrée wine.
93 points

Craigow Sparkling Merlot NV – Cambridge, Tasmania
RRP $28
A completely new wine to me. It is, I believe, the first of its kind on the market here. What a strange beast it is too. Beetroots, sour fruit, parsnip on the nose – very vegetal. Vegetal, stemmy and green on the palate, purple fruit bouncing around. More of the parsnip. It’s so hard to get a handle on. My brain kept reeling from the unique-ness of it. Worth a try, even if you decide you hate it. It will open your mind to new sparkling possibilities! Has previously won an award at the Tasmanian Wine Show.
90 points

Marc Bredif Sparkling Vouvray Brut NV – Loire Valley, France
RRP around $25, alc 11%
100% Chenin Blanc, the mainstay of the Loire Valley, with about 10% reserve wine. Limes and nectarines on the nose, and green colours in my head. Green pings on the palate too, but quite rich and fulfilling. It’s impressive for what it is, and I hope people give it a try, even if they’re unsure of the area and the wine.
91 points

Pol Roger, Epernay

Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV
RRP $75
Aperitif style, and actually a bit of a let down. Golden, yellow straw colour. I believe it is mostly 2008 base wines. Malic acid is strongly present on the nose, and granny smith making her presence felt. In the mouth there’s comforting butter, mouth-filling fruit presence and subtle minerality. It’s also citric, to an extent (in a good way).
91 points

Vintage and Late-Disgorged Sparkling Wines
Clover Hill Cuvée Exceptionelle Blanc de Blancs 2010 – Pipers River, Tasmania
RRP $60, 12.6% alc
100% Chardonnay (obviously) and aged in French oak foudres, with at least 3 years on lees. Whole-bunch pressed, partial malo-lactic fermentation and aged on lees in bottle. It smells of pure and pristine florals, warm butter and warm fruit. The palate follows the nose through brilliantly, with fruit purity and a strong finish. Exceptional is right, and what a way to open the vintages.
93 points

Clover Hill Vintage Cuvée 2009 – Pipers River, Tasmania
RRP $50, 12.5% alc
2008 and 2009 are very high quality sparkling vintages in Tasmania. This is from the latter, and I like it. Clover Hill does Chardonnay very well, and this is the classic champagne blend with the quality Chardonnay involved. Disgorged in January this year, and still retaining its great presence. Aromas of cream, buttery toast, apple and brioche. This follows through on the palate, with some soft nuttiness weaving its way in. If you can get this on sale, stock up and hold it for Friday/Saturday night indulgences.
92 points

Taltarni Brut Vintage 2011 – Multi-regional, Australia
RRP $26
A pleasant nose of flowers, wet rocks, butter and brioche. Fizzes around the glass in a very peppy way, with a nice bead of bubbles. Kick of fruit in the mouth, especially on the front of the tongue and the mid-palate. For the rest, it follows through on the nose with precision. A fine one to have in the fridge, and would impress all.
92 points

Milton ‘Laura’ Rosé 2010 – Cranbrook, Tasmania
RRP $33, 12.1% alc
Made under contract by Julian Alcorso, famed for his winemaking skills in this state. The colour is attractive and the nose is jammy, with skins and red fruits and some earthy dirt. The palate shows the jammyness, with strawberry jam the sticky number. A very pleasing Rosé and one to grab if your Xmas guests are into this, which they should be.
91 points

Lake Barrington ‘Alexandra’ 2008 Brut – Lake Barrington, Tasmania
RRP $45
Vineyard established in 1984, planted to the classic Champagne grapes and this wine named after the owners’ daughter. The wine is put together by Alain Rousseau of Frogmore Creek. Lots of shortbread on the nose, with buttery biscuits and crumbliness in there too. The nose has a handful of warm fruits, and is really very appetising. It’s morish, and that’s no bad thing!
91 points

 Ed Carr, winemaker at Arras

House of Arras Blanc de Blancs 2001 – Pipers River, Tasmania
RRP $80, 12.5% alc
I have scored some other Arras wines quite highly in the past. It’s no secret that the winemaking and the quality of the grapes is fantastic, and consistently so. This wine has had long lees time and shows a smokey, potent nose, with some crème brulee and caramel notes in there to give the palate superb complexity and body. In the mouth it’s a gobful of butter, brioche (again and again), power and restraint at the same time. Long finish, and beckons more drinking. A true quality wine, and very, very good value at the price.
95 points

House of Arras Grand Vintage 2005 – Pipers River, Tasmania
RRP $70, 12.5% alc
It’s probably fair to say that the Grand Vintage is the mainstay of the Arras wines, coming in between their Blanc de Blancs and Late Disgorged, and their Brut Elite and A by Arras. It’s positioned just right, to grab those not wanting to spend more than $70, but willing to splash out on something special. It’s certainly special. Less powerful smoke than the 2004, with minerality and rocky outcrops making it a wonderfully rugged kind of drink to smell. Strong fruit in the mouth, long, mouth-filling and full of desire. A bit of a tease of a wine, since you will probably finish it before you come to grips with its brilliance.
94 points

Kate Hill Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2010 - Huonville, Tasmania
RRP $36, alc unknown
Soft, pure and clean to smell. Kate Hill is relatively new to Tasmanian winemaking but by the smell of this wine, she doesn’t need any more time to master its ways. Soft, pure and clean in the mouth too, with an impressive length and really a popping, surprising jig on the finish. Give it a go, the value is absolutely a blockbuster.
93 points

The winery at Moorilla wines

Moorilla Praxis Sparkling Riesling 2014 – Berriedale and Tamar Valley, Tasmania
RRP $32.50, no information on alcohol
A zesty nose of limes and lemons. Looks, smells and tastes more like a table Riesling than a Sparkling. It has zesty fruit flavours, some oranges and orange zest. It has quite a bit of flavour power, and tingly acidity. It’s quite an interesting one. Guzzle it over summer, for sure.
90 points

Moorilla Muse Extra Brut Methode Traditionelle 2009 – Berriedale and Tamar Valley, Tasmania
RRP $49
Crafted in the traditional method, it’s had four years on lees gaining complexity. But there’s the thing – the missing sugar seems to particularly impact the nuances of the fruit in this wine. Complexity from lees is one thing – an appropriate dosage is another. A sparkling in the Extra Brut style is not something that appeals to every drinker, but those looking for less sugar would give this a try. It’s dry but gives off brioche on the nose – powerful brioche. The palate is dry, fruit slightly muted but wanting to get out. It’s in there, but needs more dosage to let it out, maybe? Wanted to like it but couldn’t remove it from its straight-jacket. A killer dry aperitif, though.
89 points

Natalie Fryer, winemaker at Jansz

Jansz Vintage Cuvée Late Disgorged 2006 – Pipers River, Tasmania
Saw this for $48.50, no alc information.
Über smokey, powerful explosion on the nose. Fruits lay underneath, either gently wafting along under the smoke, or being contained by it. It’s not undesirable, though. There’s brioche on the nose too, mingling with the smoke. Smack bang of fruit on the palate, with complex yeast and biscuit notes. It’s a dagger through the middle of the tongue, acid binding it in a demonic grip. A true, blue-blooded food wine, if ever there was one. Super, mighty impressive.
95 points

Jansz Single Vineyard Vintage Chardonnay 2008 – Pipers River, Tasmania
RRP $52.50, alc unknown.
Stellar year for Tasmanian sparkling, keep an eye on its releases as they come out. Only 2244 bottles produced. Superb colour and the slow-rising bubbles are mesmeric. Butter, slivered almonds and brioche on the nose. I keep smelling, and smelling, and smelling, it’s transcendentally brilliant. On the nose, there’s smooth rocks, toast, burnt pear, burnt butter and burnt caramel. This is actually pants-wettingly good. Bit embarrassing to melt down in front of a wine of this quality, but I hope it will forgive me and let me have a little more. A steamroller of beauty, precision and power.
96 points

 Fran Austin, winemaker alongside husband Shane Holloway at Delamere

Delamere Cuvée 2011 – Pipers Brook, Tasmania
RRP $30, 12.5% alc
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in this one. Full malolactic fermentation, and about two and a half years lees time. A quality, buttery roundness on the nose. It’s very spherical. Quality fruit on the palate too, strawberries, strawberry leaves, and fresh fruits, including pears and pear stems. Yes, there’s some drier, earth elements there too. For a vintage that has been one to be careful around, this is super good stuff. The cold acidity of the year will carry this wine along for some time. They’re doing some classy things at Delamere. Someone buy me some, that’d be nice.
94 points

GlenAyr Cuvée 2009 – Coal River Valley, Tasmania
RRP $36.50, no alc information.
Hails from the same area as Tolpuddle wines. Classic Pinot Noir/Chardonnay mix, with four years on lees providing notable complexity. Actually surprisingly smoky on the nose, with toasted aromas. There is actually something a little fibrous. Drinking it reveals rocks (both dry and wet, if that’s possible), plentiful fruit and a lovely acid line.
93 points

Pooley Matilda Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2009 – Coal River Valley, Tasmania
RRP $44, alc 12%
Traditional method once again, and long lees time in line with most of the others in this vintage tasting. Smoke, butter and nuts on the nose. It’s a complex little packet, not spreading its tentacles too wide but rather crawling into spaces around the nose and mouth. Brilliance of fruit on the palate is balanced by a springy and peppy texture. I think it’s a quality drink but this price range is competitive.
92 points

Chartley Estate ‘Lavinia’ 2009 – Tamar Valley, Tasmania
RRP $35, 12.4% alc
60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, matured in French oak for one year. Three years on lees then aged on cork. Lifted floral notes on the nose, pear, pear skin and pear stem. In the mouth the gorgeousness rolls on, with toasty and buttery notes, and overall very impressive. Another very good wine from this estate.
92+ points

Spring Vale ‘Salute’ Sparkling – Freycinet Coast, Tasmania
RRP $28, 12% alc
69% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Noir, 7% Pinot Meunier. Not a lot of Pinot Meunier planted in Tasmania, but it does tend to add something subtle to the Champagne mix in Tasmanian sparklings. There are zesty skin notes on the nose, like white flesh fruit skins and citrus skins. Very lengthy and pleasing on the attack, and the mid-palate. It’s got a lot going for it, and for the price I think you’re getting a reasonable sparkling wine.
90 points


I hope your imminent festive season brings lots of joy and fun, and plenty of these sparkling wines to share with friends and family. Comment below if you have any feedback, or just for a chat!

Cheers,
David


Images:
http://www.visitvineyards.com/phpThumb/phpThumb.php?w=300&h=300&src=/Image/TAS/COALVALL/WINERY/121204-TAS-COALVALL-natalie_fryer_jansz_tasmania_winemaker.jpg
http://www.sparklingwinesymposium.com/uploads/Ed%20Carr2%20low%20res%20square%20copy.jpg
http://www.delamerevineyards.com.au/images/team_fran_large.jpg
http://cdn-media.ultimatewineryexperiences.com.au/CACHE/images/pageimages/moorilla_estate/moorilla8_0/1cb481d2050491e71ce16344dfe54c9b.jpg
http://cdt51.media.tourinsoft.eu/upload/Champagne-Pol-Roger---Epernay.jpg?width=880&height=660&crop=1
http://tofurious.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/domaine-carneros-champagne-corks.jpg

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I think I was captured by how essentially natural or organic the whole process of winemaking is. It's farming, it's viticulture, it's weather and soil, and many more things. It's the winemaker. But after all these things, after the cap is unscrewed or the cork popped, I (and you) get to enjoy it. Then we talk about it and learn some more. Which is, I guess, the reason why you're here! Here you'll find stories, links, wine education samples and wine reviews. I am entirely independent and my wine reviews and ratings are based on my own thoughts and opinions. I accept no endorsements for products or good reviews. Enjoy! I can be reached for comments, feedback and questions at dbtaylor01@gmail.com. Good drinking to you! David

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