Champagne and sparkling wines in review

Champagne & sparkling wine

1-sparkling-photoIn the past I have kept champagne reviews separate from sparkling wine reviews. I think the time has come to remove the barrier as so many Australian sparkling wines have advanced to the stage where they can challenge classic champagne.

What hasn’t been achieved is reputation. A bottle of champagne has a certain magic that Australian sparkling wine fails to offer.

Part of this is regional. Champagne is Champagne: one wine style from one region. True, there is a multitude of styles and flavours, and I know there are still wines and Bouzy Rouge from the region. But for most of the world champagne is the wine of celebration, luxury and sophistication.

Add to this an ancient history of winemaking, legends and a huge range of characters, from Dom Perignon to the Widow Clicquot to Winston Churchill and beyond.

It’s stiff competition. Australia may challenge on quality but fails on marketing.

Tasmania is slowly gaining recognition and has the possibility of becoming the Champagne equivalent of the Southern Hemisphere. That is from a quality wine perspective. The history and legends will take a couple or three centuries.

Porta Dante Prosecco Superiore NV: Apple fresh nose, and apple carries on to the palate. Not sharp cooking apple, but one with more sweetness to its flavour. 94 points and a bargain at $24.

Gapsted Wines Tobacco Road Prosecco NV: It’s simple but honest. Light fruit up front, with a dry finish. 90 points and a fair price at $16.

Nocton Vineyard Tasmania NV: This is 50-50 chardonnay and pinot noir, the wine components for the final blend, ranging from one to five years of age. It’s a classic champagne NV blend and rivals many NV champagnes on the market. It’s full in flavour profile (I think the pinot is showing its presence), quite chewy on the journey and has a good finish. 93 points and worth $33.

Delamere Tasmania NV: A blend of three vintages – 2010, 2011 and 2012 – gives an array of flavours and textual delights. It continues to entice as it travels, and finishes with power. 94 points and well worth $30.

Delamere Tasmania Rosé NV:  Pure pinot noir, which gives a faint savoury edge to the wine. It’s just a little fuller then its white companion. 95 points and value at $30.

L’Eglise Saint-Martin Blanquette de Limoux NV: Dry, clean, crisp and refreshing. 91 points and value at $18.

Joseph Perrier Brut NV: Joseph Perrier was established in 1825 and has been under the ownership of the same family (Pithois) since 1888. It’s now in the hands of Jean-Claude Fourmon, a direct descendent of Paul Pithois. The blend changes, as it does with champagne brands, but it’s roughly a third each of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. It has a minimum three years ageing before release and is imported by Pinnacle Drinks, available at Dan Murphy’s and BWS. The ageing shows, giving a deeper and richer flavour. It’s drinking very well now. 94 points and worth $65.

Champagne Lanson NV: It’s been some time since I have tasted/drunk Lanson, but it hasn’t changed. It still has a sharper edge to it than other NV champagnes. That is not a criticism; just an observation. It makes it better at the table or with soft cheese. 93 points and value at $42.

Paul Louis Martin Grand Cru NV: A full style but it didn’t gel with me. It seemed out of balance, wobbling across the palate, flavours swishing from side to side. 91 points and there’s plenty of sparkling/champagne around at up to $65 to challenge it.

Champagne Duperrey Brut NV: This is Dan Murphy’s house champagne, and very fine it is. It has depth, length and a very fine finish. 94 points and value at $36.

Hatt et Söner Brut 2010: New to Australia, Hatt et Söner plans to launch early next year. For a wine that is six years old this is a surprise, as it has hardly aged. In fact, I looked at the bottle again to make sure it wasn’t a non-vintage. I found it severe on tasting but when food was introduced it came alive, making a fine accompaniment to salami, olives, cheese and other such foods. The notes say drinking 2017 to 2030. I think past 2020 it will be showing its best. 94 points now, perhaps more to come as it ages. The expected price is put at $99 which I think is Ok but Australia is a strong and fierce market for Champagne and there are several domestic challengers, so it’s a tough road for the importers’ .

Hatt et Söner Brut Nature 2010:  Just 0.5 grams less acidity than the Brut but enough to make it a more approachable solo drink, though it still went well with the foods described above. For its approachability at time of tasting it rates an extra point. So 95 and a price of $105 is OK.

Taltarni ‘Cuvee Rosé’ 2011: Good biscuit/yeast nose, pleasing flavours, well balanced and some length on the finish. 92 points and worth $26.

Blue Pyrenees Vintage Brut 2012: Light on the nose but what is there is fragrant and enticing. Good acid that holds the flavours in check, each one unfurling as it travels. A very smart wine. 93 points and worth $32.

Clover Hill Tasmania 2012: Tense, like a cobra ready to strike, this has a core of steel. Yet it is a slender, elegant beauty that gave pleasure from first sip to final swallow. It is sharp and has a style of its own. I’m sure it will continue to develop in bottle, so putting a few away in a cool cellar would be a good idea. 94 now with more to come. Worth $45. Better value at Dan’s for $38.

Delamere Tasmania Cuvee 2013: A 70-30 chardonnay-pinot noir blend. With the elegant chardonnay on the arm of the suave pinot, they make a handsome couple as they stroll across the palate. Faint biscuits on the nose, which carries on to the palate. Stronger yeast characters come into play in the centre and finish smoothly with a fine aftertaste. 94 points and pricey for Australia at $50, but in global terms it’s cheap and really good value.

Gapsted King Valley Prosecco 2015: Such a vibrant, lively, well made wine. It was a joy to drink. In short, I was impressed. 94 points and well worth $25.

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