I nipped into the Wine Australia tasting today to get a refresher on most of the small contingent of quality Australian traditional method sparkling wine being brought in to the UK.
Just the two Premium wines were on show here. No vintage. Grapes for these two wines are sourced widely in Tasmania, not only from Jansz’s home in the Pipers River region but also the Coal River Valley and elsewhere. The wines are normally a blend of five vintages, with a small percentage of oak fermentation and two years on lees. With RRPs of £20 these are highly recommendable wines, made in a crystal-clear, pristine and complete style. Yes, the dosage – around 10 g/l in both – means these are approachable, but they wear it tremendously elegantly. I would jump at them at that ‘in-between’ spot on restaurant sparkling wine lists.
The Premium Rosé is a charmer, with fragrant raspberry shortbread, pear and frangipane wrapped up in a sweet floral freshness. It closes in with lovely clarity and dryness. I was possibly even more impressed with the Premium Cuvée, all lemons, lime, peach and almond with some fresh bread richness and a real deftness on the palate. Delicate, but there’s a proper finish with some ripe, grippy citrus fruit.
Petaluma’s Brian Croser started making a series of sparkling wines in the Adelaide Hills during the 1980s. Currently part of Accolade Wines. The Croser NV is a sweet-natured, sunny Chardonnay-dominant fizz made in a very attractive ripe lemon, peach and butter style. Going a little tropical, perhaps, but not blowsy. Better is the Croser Rosé NV, showing a bit more definition with its very pretty raspberries and redcurrants. Some ground almond richness and peppery spice too. This is well worth a look at £19.99, although it is a bit short of Jansz’s refinement at the same price. The Croser Vintage 2013 was not quite up to the standard of the Rosé, with a slightly confected oak and blossom nose and looser palate of quince, honey and dairy tones. It would perhaps have been good to check another bottle.
House of Arras
Ed Carr’s Tasmanian icon consistently produces some of the most interesting and uniquely-styled sparkling wines outside of Champagne. The top of the portfolio is really quite bold, weaving together extroverted autolytic notes with ripe fruit profiles and confident oak influence. There is often an element of reductive complexity at play too, throwing up flinty, marine and smoky nuances that are noticeable even to a small degree in the excellent entry-level wines.
‘A’ By Arras is the freshest, most direct wine in the portfolio, showing off vivid lime and grapefruit fruit alongside gentle dairy notes. At RRP of £19.99 this is a slightly edgier style than the Jansz entry level, but equally convincing. Brut Elite 1501 is the current iteration of the mid-tier wine, and starts to show some real Arras character. Struck match and lime oil open up, whilst fenugreek spice and some nice wild buttery richness are thrown against a cleansing freshness on the palate. The marine, sea-spray sort of saltiness is here too. There is some real intensity of tropical fruit lurking, but this shows a quieter style than the vintage wine. Some may prefer it. RRP £29.99.
The Grand Vintage 2008 definitely ramps up the intensity, with dried citrus and citrus oil meeting sourdough starter, oyster and quite an exotic richness of yellow fruits. There is baklava and sea salt, and some reductive complexity that almost threatens to become vegetal. Broad, quite saturated and finishing with a flourish of toffee. It’s hard not to break into a smile at this wine! The sweet spot in the portfolio is somewhere between the Brut Elite and here. RRP £45.99
The Vintage Rosé 2007 is, as you would expect, a powerfully-styled interpretation with some meaty red fruits, salted butter and plenty of peppery spice. It feels a little angular compared to the other wines for now, with its grippy, linear palate and dryness. At £49.99 it is bang in the middle of fine Grande Marque Champagne territory.
Perhaps the most unusual wine is the E.J. Carr Late Disgorged 2004. This is the Grand Vintage, kept back for over 10 years on lees. In this case I didn’t find the lees-ageing tones to be much more intense than in the 2008 Grand Vintage. Nor was it massively funky (although my taste was towards the end of the bottle, and some of the more funky tones can disappear over a few hours). There’s an almost crème fraîche-like richness of texture, with sea shells and white butter on sourdough. The fruit is bold and exotic, with charred grapefruit and mango, lime zest and a vein of sweet salted toffee and pith running through the finish. Positively outlandish, but fascinating stuff. £99.99
N.B. One thing I would note about these wines is that they have jumped in price. I have some in my cellar that were purchased within the last 18 months for around 60% of these RRPs. The current RRPs represent solid value though, even if the wines aren’t the complete bargains they were.