Sumptuous Sparkling

Written by
Michael Jappy
February 16, 2017
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You simply can’t go past bubbles to toast an occasion. We take you through sparkling from Champagne, the surrounding regions, and our own backyard.

Oscar Wilde famously once quipped that "pleasure without Champagne is purely artificial". Mark Twain got in on the act by claiming that "too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right". From Winston Churchill to Coco Chanel, the rich and famous were renowned for commiserating and celebrating almost every occasion with a glass of France’s finest bubbles. As production increased over the years, Champagne made its way into the consciousness of even us mere mortals, and it became the drink to pop open when gathering with friends and family to help celebrate a special birthday, to toast the arrival of a new child, and for some, to merely get through the working week (Champagne Tuesdays anyone?!).

So Frenchy… so chic!

Champagne can only be produced in the chilly Champagne region in northern France. The famous Champagne houses that are so familiar to us today can all call their sparkling wines Champagne, as they source their grapes and create their wines in this delimited area. They also must make their wines in accordance with strict rules and regulations that are designed to protect the image and the quality of the region as a whole. Famous houses like Pol Roger, based in Épernay, are at the top of the tree when it comes to producing stunningly complex Champagne and their Brut Non-Vintage is as good as fizz gets with a perfect balance of toastiness coupled with fresh, zesty fruit.

For those who are keen on pink fizz there’s no better place to look than Perrier-Jouët, who produce wonderfully elegant wines with their non-vintage Blason Rose, delivering a lively yet delicate wine that never fails to beguile the senses. It is perfect when matched with summery salmon dishes.

As much as I am sure we would all happily indulge in a glass of champers at any given turn, the premium price that is attached to Champagne is due to its limited production and availability, meaning that it’s probably out of the grasp of most of us on a regular drinking basis. Thankfully, French sparkling wine isn’t only limited to Champagne, and most of the famous wine growing regions have their own bubbly variations made from the grape varieties that flourish locally.

The various ‘Cremant’ style sparkling wines are again heavily regulated by local authorities, and although most lack the complexity of their more famous northerly cousin, they can still provide oodles of drinking pleasure! If you’re looking to stick with France to get your fizz fix, there’s no better place to head than to Burgundy and the delicious Cave de Lugny Crémant Blanc de Blancs. This is high quality fizz at bargain basement prices, and it hits hard in the value to quality ratio whilst remaining perfect to help toast any special occasion.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie

Luckily for us all, there is a whole bevvy of other fantastic sparkling wine options available right on our backdoor step in Australia. Thankfully, there isn’t really anywhere in Oz that can get as chilly and grim as the Champagne region can in the middle of winter, but many of our cool climate wine growing areas are capable of producing base wines that are perfect candidates for being turned into top-quality sparkling wines.

Aussie sparkling wine has moved in leaps and bounds over the last 20 years, and there’s been no more of an important person than Ed Carr, head winemaker at the iconic House of Arras in Tasmania. This winemaking superstar can lay claim to being the inspiration behind the rapid evolution of sparkling wine in Australia. The cracking Arras Brut Elite is a great introduction to the house style that Ed and the team strive for. It’s packed full of layers of crunchy fruit, all backed up with spine-tingling acidity but with drinkability always at the fore.

In Victoria, the iconic Chandon winery in the Yarra Valley have been continually dragging the sparkling sector kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The current head winemaker, Dan Buckle, has continued taking the company to new heights, with the current swathe of releases kicking goals on all fronts. For a bubbly that suits all occasions try the Chandon NV Sparkling Brut. It’s a terrific introduction to Aussie sparkling, and continues to be one of the beacons of light on the domestic sparkling scene.

And last but by no means least, for value for money and pure good-time quaffing, look no further than the appley fresh Brown Brothers Prosecco. Prosecco is something of a modern day phenomenon (with worldwide sales recently outstripping those of the more illustrious Champagne) and this example made from fruit sourced high up in Victoria’s King Valley is an all-round party wine that ensures that the good times keep on coming when you pop the cork on the first, second, third and fourth bottle!