Bubbly reviews – in time for Christmas!
12 bubbles of Christmas
In the lead-up to Christmas, there are millions of articles recommending to you the best wines for your Christmas lunch, dinner, breakfast, snacks, antipasti, or whatever food-related activity you want. There’s wines for the cranky old granny, wines for the fun-loving uncle, wines and booze for everyone. I’m not going to do that here. What you’ll find are plainly just good wines, some exceptional, and some designed to give you an interesting and satisfying drinking experience. Not all wines are made to blow your socks off – most are made to be consumed with friends or family, over a good chat or a relaxing barbecue. These are those kinds of wines, with the odd sprinkle of brilliance thrown in. Wines were tasted non-blind, and scores are given as a guide to their quality, in my opinion. I’ve tried, as usual, to give food pairing recommendations or tips for when to drink. In this list are wines from France, Australia and elsewhere.
NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier, France, around $85
Incredibly clean and pure, but with a long thrust of flavour. Smells like the business, and drinks like it too. Poised to perfection, it finishes long and intense, equal to the full but luxious flavour and mouthfeel. It drinks beautifully, and certainly represents better quality than many NV Champagnes, but there are perhaps wines just as good for around $20 less.
2011 Milton ‘Laura’ Rosé, Tasmania, around $28
Shimmying and shaking through the nose to the palate to the finish, this wine is bursting with life. Real, grippy, cherry and mineral flavours abound here. A really ‘vinous’ experience, and although it can be consumed on its own, it would appreciate some food to tune the fuller feel of the wine. Maybe some seafood entreés wit this for Christmas?
2009 Milton Brut, Tasmania, around $40
Creamy and sea-salty smell, actually more saline and brine kind of notes than real sea salt. Saltwater? Something around there anyway. The body of the wine is brilliant, the finish also impressive. Creamy notes on the mid-palate, it really expands as you slosh it in your mouth, but slides down gracefully as you swallow. If you fancy chicken with Christmas, try this!
Milton Vineyard, Tasmania
Camille Saves Premier Cru NV, Champagne, around $75
This wine is all you’d ever need to pair champagne and cheese. A toasty walnut flavour completely controls this wine from start to finish, and a kind of slick pastry base flavour underneath it. Could go with soft cheeses that have a bit of maturity and complexity.
Veuve Fourny et Fils Premier Cru NV, Champagne, around $52
Not as impressive as the Blanc de Blancs version, which is also noted below here. Clean, zesty and fresh all round, the wine doesn’t have the complexity you’d expect (I’ve tasted this wine previously) but it does no more than it claims to do. At this price point, you could almost be looking at Veuve Clicquot Brut NV, a much better proposition, albeit from a big house. This Veuve Fourny would be a tasty aperitif for your Christmas.
Veuve Fourny Blanc de Blancs NV, Champagne, around $52
Medium-to-full flavour in the mouth, the fragrance of the wine giving an introduction to the flavours you find when you drink it. More and more, I’m finding those wine houses – whether champenois or Australian – are producing brilliant blanc de blancs. Maybe it’s our palates changing, maybe it’s just more interest in that form. Either way, we’re benefiting. A good expression here, and good as an aperitif or with lighter food like lobster or crab.
Arras Blanc de Blancs 2005, Tasmania, around $60
One of the newer releases from Arras and its brilliant winemaker Ed Carr. Spending a minimum of 8 years on yeast lees to develop complexity, this wine shows the brilliance of the 2005 vintage in Tasmania, which also saw Arras produce an amazing Grand Vintage sparklng for that year. 8.4 grams per litre dosage keeps this wine quite dry, and the super complex body, flavour and acidity of the wine all make the balance work. Yes, there’s the biscuit and brioche characters that you associate with extended lees time, but this wine is veritably brimming with lush flavours that pop with every bead bubble that rises. Quite simply brilliant.
Arras Sparkling Rosé 2005, Tasmania, around $70
Equally as brilliant as the BdeB, showing off the 2005 vintage to full power. The wine is made in a traditional style and interestingly uses some brandy spirit inside the small addition added before final bottle maturation. This wine is like the 2005 Grand Vintage, tuned to a jazz electro music sound track. The slightly dry complexity of a normal brut champagne is well and truly alive here, but the berry notes make this quintessential quality rosé. One of the best rosés I can remember.
Arras Grand Vintage 2006, Tasmania, around $58
Made in an extremely classic vintage style but oddly enough, Arras recommend consumption within 2 years. We’re constantly told that the best champagnes will age for decades. Of course, whether you like aged wines is also a different question. In any case, whether this will age 2 years or longer, I wouldn’t wait long when it’s this good. Creamy and citrus flavours come through but under that, under the waft of smoothness, there’s a layer of subtle pings and pops of flavour. Leaves you dreaming of the greatest champagnes that this might sit alongside.
Moët et Chandon ‘Nectar’ NV, Champagne, around $80
A demi-sec style of wine, or medium dry. In other words, it has a slightly higher residual sugar level which makes the wine taste a little more unctuous and exotic – more like a ‘nectar’ than a champagne. It’s a thick and glorious and completely over the top. Yet, and yet… there’s something unabashedly joyful about it. Over the top indeed.
Moët et Chandon Rosé NV, Champagne, around $80
Quality rosé – not sure where they’ve sourced the fruit from (being Moët, there’s probably 300 different vineyards involved in this! It’s berry aromas, smooth toast and creamy notes on the nose, and same on the palate. Fizzling raspberry compote type of back palate action. A real guzzler, but at this price, you ought to savour your guzzles a little!
Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne NV, Champagne, around $65
You just can’t beat this classic champagne house for style and substance at consistent quality levels. With such a big operation, so many cuvees, and so many mouths to feed, you’d forgive Veuve’s winemakers for struggling with quality control. But in fact, I find it better than ever. Streets ahead of names like Moët, this Veuve provides a standard of complexity, balance and individualism more associated with vintage bubbles than non-vintage. You just can’t go past it, especially for the ‘ahhh’ factor at Christmas lunch.