There are a whole lot of things going on in the realm of sparkling wines at the moment. This week’s Blog is about some of it, in case you missed it in your busy life.
BRITISH FIZZ: With the growing global popularity of English sparkling wine, the British producers have been debating/struggling to come up with a distinctive name for their product. Just as I have been suggesting that the Australian wine industry should do for our top echelon sparkling wines. A “name” is needed to instantly differentiate ones country’s sparkling wines from all the others. The French have Champagne. The Spanish have Cava. The Italians (in typical style) have Asti and Prosecco. Even the Germans (and Austrians) have Sekt. Each one of these names has specific rules to guarantee the quality and ensure instant recognition around the globe.
The name itself is not that important, it is more the fact that all wines that fit into the category are promoted and sold under that name globally and thereby over a fairly short space of time they become known by that name. So if for example, we were to start calling Australian sparkling wine, “Aussie Bubbles” (not great I know, but you come up with a better name!!), and all our sparkling wine exports were promoted as such, within a few years the wine world would know what somebody meant when they said the phrase, “Aussie Bubbles”.
Well, as it happens, the Americans have started calling English Sparkling wine “British Fizz”. The name has stuck in the USA, so much so that a senior member of the British Wine Trade has suggested, at a recent industry dinner, that they should officially adopt this name and use it in all export promotions.
By the way, America is one of the few countries that still calls its sparkling wine “Champagne”, as do parts of the former Soviet Union –especially the recently annexed (invaded) Crimea, despite the screams of protestation from the much aggrieved French.
THE QUEEN’S BRITISH FIZZ: Queen Elizabeth II has just launched the royal family’s sparkling wine made from grapes grown on seven acres within her Windsor Great Park. The initial release of 3,000 bottles was snapped up in minutes. Production and quality will increase over the next few years as the vines mature.
This wine is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with the vines having been planted in 2011. The second release due out soon will sell for £35 a bottle and it is expected that most of the buyers will purchase it as an investment rather than for drinking. This is a shame as the wine has been described as having “richness and finesse”.
Don’t expect to see it in a bottle shop here any time soon, as the estimated maximum production from Windsor Park is around 20-25,000 bottles a year.
It is interesting to note that at the moment British Fizz is riding a wave of success with sales worth around £100 million per annum and selling into 27 countries.
SPAIN - CAVA: Classic Penedes, from Cataluña in northern Spain has recently become the world’s first appellation to become certified organic. All sparkling wines (Cava) must be 100% organic grown in order to be able to wear the prestigious Classic Penedes tag. The wine must be made by the method tradicional and be aged in bottle for at least 15 months before being disgorged. The wine must be made from the traditional Cava varieties of Xarello, Parellada and Macabeu.
AUSTRALIA: Australia’s real “claim-to-fame” in sparkling wines to date has been in its sparkling reds. Where we are one of the only winemaking countries to make sparkling reds and make some truly amazing wines from quite a few different varieties. However Australia, especially Tasmania is now producing world-class sparkling white wines, as was amply demonstrated to me in November last year when I attended EFFERVESCENCE TASMANIA. Four days of sampling sensational Tassie sparkling wines from such great names as Janz, Clover Hill, Apogee (Dr Andrew Pirie’s awesome new venture), Moore’s Hill, Pirie, and the “Krug” of Tasmania – the House of Arras.
Whilst different in style from Champagne, these Aussie bubbles are every bit as good, and in some cases better than Champagne.
OTHER COUNTRY SPARKLING WINE FACTS -
TURKEY: Turkey has been producing sparkling wines from its native grape varieties, making wines which are more fruit driven and less yeasty or creamy than Champagne, nonetheless premium sparklers such as Yasasin are very drinkable and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the ever more restrictive rules on alcohol being brought in by the religiously leaning Erdogan government is making it hard for many Turkish wineries to survive. They are now not allowed to advertise at all, not even signs pointing to their cellar doors.
JAPAN: Whilst the amount of wine produced in Japan from Japanese grown grapes is very small, thank to rather lax rules, there are a small number of producers – mainly owned by huge alcohol corporations, which produce premium sparkling wines. One such example which I tasted there, was the Chateau Mercian Katsunuma no Awa, a sensational sparkling wine made from the brilliant Japanese native white variety, Koshu.
Incidentally Japan is tipped to become the biggest sparkling wine market is Asia within the next 4-5 years.
INDIA: India’s leading wine producers Grover Zampa and York Wines produce their best Method Tradicional sparkling wines from Chenin Blanc. Both are quality wines with their own distinctive delightful flavour.
NEW ZEALAND: The New Zealand upper commercial sparkling wines such as Lindauer and Deutz are really good sparklers, but I have yet to hear of or taste a super-premium sparkling wine from New Zealand. If you know of any please let me know.
This little snapshot of the world of bubbles was designed to show that it matters less which variety a sparkling wine is made from, than does the skill and TLC that the winemaker puts in to making the wine, as there are plenty of superb sparkling wines made from varieties other than the “Champagne trio”.
The moral to the story is “buy, try and enjoy”. Cheers!
THIS WEEK’S WINE REVIEW:
This week it isn’t a wine, not even a winery per se it is all about a terrific brand concept brilliantly executed. Recently at a varietal tasting I came across an outstanding Saperavi, which reminded me of this outstanding concept.
What I am talking about is CIRAMI ESTATE, which is the brand for wines made for the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee (RVIC).
The RVIC is based on a 80 hectare property at Monash in the Riverland and is a not for profit organisation. It was set up over 40 years ago to supply Vinifera vines, rootstocks and grafted vines. They offer growers a wide range of varieties and clones.
“Big deal, so do a number of other nurseries around the country” you say! The difference being that RVIC grow out enough of some selected varieties/clones in order to have small batches of wine made from the crop. This is done in order to be able to show the local growers what quality and style of wine can be produced from that particular variety, thereby giving the grower more confidence that the variety is viable for them to grow.
Over the last few years, every wine from the RVIC that I have tasted has been a really good warm climate Aussie expression of the variety. Among the innovative varieties that I have had the pleasure to taste and enjoy there has been:
In the whites: ALBARINO, PETIT MANSENG, SAVIGNON, SAVIGNIN, VERDEJO and VERMENTINO.
In the reds: DURIF, GRACIANO, LAGREIN, MONTEPULCIANO, SANGIOVESE (ROSE) and SAPERAVI.
Many if not most of these wines won medals (including some gold medals and trophies) at the respective Australian Alternative Variety Wine Show held in Mildura, in early November each year.
These excellent wines are also available to interested consumers via mail order at www.rvic.org.au
They are well worth checking out!! Cheers!