Sparkling wine is more popular than ever and not just for celebratory occasions. According to wine connoisseur Peter Nixon, who is the head of the Dan Murphy’s Wine Panel, more Australians are drinking sparkling wine than ever before, and for good reason – there’s loads of brilliant options at every budget.
“We have more than 500 Sparkling Wines and Champagnes available at Dan Murphy’s from all around the world, but you don’t need to buy international for a great drop,” says Peter.
“Australia now arguably produces the finest bottle-fermented sparkling wine outside of Champagne. Indeed, at the more affordable end of the market, some of our local sparklings are equally good, sometimes even better than the comparatively priced Champagnes from France.”
A world of bubbles is beckoning, so without further ado, here’s your essential guide to sparkling wines. Cheers!
Sparkling Wine & Champagne: What’s the difference?
Put simply, Sparkling wine is any wine that has bubbles in it – Champagne is a style of sparkling wine produced only in the Champagne region of France. “Champagne is the most complex and diverse sparkling wine style in the world,” explains Peter. “By law it must be made from grapes sourced from the Champagne region and must always be bottle-fermented, which is where you get the yeastiness and complexity.”
What’s In Sparkling?
Sparkling Wine can be made from a wide range of grape varieties and is either carbonated (yes, like soft drink!) or CO2 bubbles are created via secondary yeast fermentation within (method Champenoise or method traditional) or outside the bottle (called the Tank or Charmat method). Generally speaking, premium Sparkling Wines that are bottle-fermented like Champagne will feature the traditional recipe of Chardonnay (white) and Pinot Noir (red) and (less typically outside Champagne) – Pinot Meunier (red). These styles are typically identified by the term ‘Method Traditional’ or a description on the label which mentions ‘bottle-fermented’ as well as the grapes included.
Most Popular Sparkling Wine?
“Italy’s most famous Sparkling Wine, Prosecco, has recently surpassed Champagne as the most popular Sparkling Wine style in the world,” says Peter. And it’s not just because of the affordability (with many solid examples available well below $20 per bottle). “If Champagne is the most complex and diverse sparkling wine style, Prosecco is the antithesis of that,” explains Peter. “It’s simpler, lighter, fresher, crisper, zestier and generally fruitier than other sparkling. People love Prosecco as an aperitif – it really suits Australia’s modern lifestyle and is perfect for summer. It’s also very consistent – you know what you are going to get with a bottle of Prosecco.” Local examples, mainly emanating from the King Valley in Victoria, can also be excellent.
BEST REGIONS TO BUY FROM
“Experience and established plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in a number of our best cool-climate regions nationally has resulted in Australia becoming the rising-star of the Sparkling Wine world in recent years” explains Peter.
VIC: Macedon Ranges, Mornington Peninsula, King Valley (including both Method Traditional & Prosecco styles) and Yarra Valley.
SA: Adelaide Hills.
“Tasmania looks set to become the epicentre for premium Sparkling Wine in Australia – our Champagne-region equivalent if you like,” explains Peter. “It’s perfect for sparkling wine production – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are cool climate grapes, and they’re the backbone of great sparkling wine. Tasmania also has a marginal climate – you want to get grapes to just ripeness whilst also retaining their natural acidity – that makes great sparkling wine.”
“King Valley in Victoria is closely aligned with Prosecco and is arguably the leading Prosecco producer outside of Italy,”
Limoux, France: “The original home of Sparkling Wine in France is not actually Champagne as many assume – it is the Limoux region, in the South of France,” explains Peter. “They have been making Sparkling Wine in the region for centuries and at below $20 a bottle, they are fantastic value. Again, the best examples are bottle-fermented and more typically these days include a large percentage of Chardonnay along with the region’s traditional all-star, Mauzac. The style is typically dry, crisp, citrusy and yeasty.”
“Cava from Spain. Almost all the famous dry bubbles come from the Penedès region, just near Barcelona,” says Peter. “It has to be made using the traditional method and will consist of local grapes like Macabeo, Parellada, Garnacha (aka Grenache) and Xarel-lo, though these days may also feature the more recent French travellers, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.”
“The big trend is Prosecco, which is made using the Tank or Charmat process,” says Peter. “The wine is made, then secondary fermentation occurs – resulting in bubbles, prior to transfer to the bottle. You don’t get as much yeastiness that you do with Champagne – though it offers much simpler flavours, citrusy and fruit-driven.”
House of Arras Sparkling Wines
“Arguably Australia’s greatest Sparkling Wines are made by acclaimed winemaker Ed Carr at House of Arras,” says Peter. “They continue to win many awards at the Australian wine shows. Produced from the very finest fruit sourced exclusively from Tasmania, these examples continue to set the benchmark for Australian Sparkling Wine.”
Blanc de Blancs
“Blanc de Blancs is a style that was only introduced relatively recently in Champagne (early last century) and is made using 100% Chardonnay. It’s the fastest growing style both within Champagne and those emulating the style internationally (including here in Australia) – people like the clean, crisp, white flower, nectarine and fruit-driven Chardonnay derived flavours.”
Rosé’s pinkish colour is courtesy of the Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier grapes used in the winemaking process. “Rosé Sparkling Wine, especially dry rosé Sparkling Wine styles, continue to grow in popularity.”
Sparkling Wine is generally best served cold in a good quality Champagne flute. The thin body keeps the contents cool, while the narrow opening retains aromas and collects the carbon dioxide bubbles. Whenever you sip from a flute, these bubbles stimulate sensory nerves in your nose – causing the ‘tingle’ that you might have felt in your nose while drinking sparkling.
Because it’s fresh, lively, and fruity with an inherent natural acidity, a Sparkling Wine is not only the perfect pre-meal drink to whet the appetite, but also matches a wide array of full-flavoured and rich foods. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Brut wines: Canapes, pasta and risotto, fish and seafood tend to complement the wine’s dryish flavours.
Prosecco: Appetisers, smoked salmon, prosciutto or other salty meats are a winner.
Rosé: Smoked salmon, game, roasted white meats, seafood or fish will bring out the wine’s flavours.
Sparkling reds: Asian foods like Peking or Chinese roast duck are a classic match.
$ “Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene from Italy is Prosecco brilliance. Light, fresh and fine, it’s simply the perfect aperitivo.” Santa Margherita Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Veneto, ITALY, $17.99 per bottle.
$ “Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Brut Vintage from France is the perfect alternative for those who are looking for French sparkling without the Champagne price-tag.” Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux, FRANCE, $14.99 per bottle.
$$ “A by Arras made by Ed Carr at House of Arras is my go-to for Australian premium wine. It is bottle-fermented, made from 100% Tasmanian Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and truly world-class.”A by Arras Premium Cuvée Tasmania, AUSTRALIA, $24.99 per bottle.
$$$ “For occasions where it has to be Champagne, Lanson Black Label is my pick – it isn’t just one of the finest Non-Vintage house-styles produced, but because we import it directly from France, it also confers outstanding value.” Champagne Lanson Black Label Champagne, FRANCE, $47.99 per bottle.
$$$$ “Made by Möet & Chandon, Dom Pérignon has become synonymous as one of the world’s most luxurious Champagnes. It’s only made during exceptional vintages which means that since its inception in 1921, just over 40 have been released.” Champagne Dom Pérignon Brut Vintage 2005 Champagne, FRANCE $229.99 per bottle.
WINE TALK: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Vintage: 85% of the grapes come from one single year (vintage).
Brut: A dry-style sparkling.
NV: Non-vintage – a blend of wines from different years (vintages).
Blanc de Noir: A wine that’s made entirely from red grapes – Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier grapes.
Blanc de Blancs: A wine that’s made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.
Cuvée: Meaning ‘from the vat’ in French, Cuvée is a complex blend of wine parcels, multiple vintages, and numerous vineyard sites. The Cellar Master has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the final Cuvée represents a consistent house-style.
Dan Murphy’s has 200 stores across Australia and over 550 Champagne and Sparkling Wines. Dan Murphy’s Lowest Liquor Price Guarantee ensures you’ll get the lowest liquor prices on every product, every day. Visit danmurphys.com.au
This is a sponsored post by Dan Murphy’s. All opinions expressed by the author are authentic and written in their own words.