for people who love champagne and all things sparkling!

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Bubbly Summer Reading

When it comes to reading, I am a bit of a Francophile, especially when it comes to champagne and champagne stories. I love snuggling up with a good book when I can find the time, and during summer in Australia, I like to take some extra days off and have some lazy days in the sun while I immerse myself in a novel. And what better novels to do that with than the ones that are stories about my favourite things!

I’ve recently finished reading Madame Pommery: Creator of Brut Champagne by Rebecca Rosenberg.  I am familiar with Madame Pommery’s story having done quite a bit of research on her for our blog  Celebrating Madame Pommery, and when creating our Champagne 101 Masterclass, I had the pleasure of interviewing the Australian-based ambassador for Champagne Pommery, which is one of the highlights of this Masterclass in our Bubbly Appreciation Course.

As familiar as I am with her story, any interesting historical research relies on our imagination to fill in the details of what the times must have been like. Her contribution in creating the first brut style champagne is epic enough. Add to that becoming a widow with two children, surviving the Champagne region as a war zone, taking a small fledgling champagne business and creating an empire. Rebecca Rosenberg weaves these historical facts into a beautiful romance novel. If you want to drift off into the imaginary world of Champagne, I highly recommend adding this to your summer reading list!

Madame Pommery: Creator of Brut Champagne (Champagne Widows Novels)

1860, Reims, France. Grief hangs heavy, threatening to drown Alexandrine Pommery’s future. Widowed and burdened, she could easily succumb. But a spark ignites within her and she dares to dream of a champagne unlike any other – a dry, crisp masterpiece instead of the traditional sugary sweet champagne. Scoffs meet her vision – ‘Who would drink such a thing?’. But Alexandrine’s spirit is unyielding. In the vineyards, she coaxes grapes to their peak. In the cellars, she experiments. Each trial, each misstep, fuels the fire of her creation – Pommery Brut, a champagne as dry as her resolve, yet bubbling with rebellion.

The Franco-Prussian War shatters the peace in 1870. Son and crew march off, leaving Alexandrine to train women her revolutionary methods. But the Prussian invasion steals all hope, as the army pillages her cellars of precious Brut. Alexandrine refuses to be a victim. She excavates secret caves under the city dump, and hides her champagne from the enemy. Her cellars become a refuge, not just for bottles, but for the French resistance.

To make matters more complicated, two men offer her their love. One, too young, improper, perhaps even scandalous. The other, a Scottish Baron, promises a castle and title, and a life beyond the relentless toil of champagne. Now torn between two men, Alexandrine must find the courage to forge her own path of legacy or love.

Uncork the secrets and taste the audacity of a widow’s dream, and the unwavering spirit of Madame Pommery.

You can order your copy on the Amazon link here.

I’ve just discovered that there is another novel in Rebecca Rosenberg’s ‘Champagne Widows’ series.  Another of the great women of Champagne and the original ‘Veuve’. Clicquot precedes Madame Pommery and is known not only as the first woman of Champagne, but also the first businesswoman of France. I loved discovering all about her when I researched our blog Cheers to the Widow Clicquot!

I’ve just ordered a copy of this earlier novel by Rosenberg, and I am looking forward to creating some reading time to uncover where her imagination takes us when telling the story of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot’s extraordinary life.

Champagne Widows: First Woman of Champagne, Veuve Clicquot by Rebecca Rosenberg

Reims, France, 1800s. Young widow Barbe-Nicole Clicquot possesses an extraordinary gift: Le Nez, an exquisite sense of smell required to craft the world’s finest champagne. Despite crippling grief and laws against women owning businesses, she negotiates a way to take over her late husband’s struggling winery.

Napoleon’s Code shackles her with business restrictions, his wars strangle the economy, and competitors block her every step. Yet, Barbe-Nicole rises like a defiant bubble, confronting prejudice and even clashing with the Emperor himself.

Then, amidst the chaos, love throws a tempting yet perilous curveball: a passionate connection with her sales manager. But marrying him means forfeiting the winery, forcing her to choose between love and her life’s calling.

Will Barbe-Nicole defy the odds and become the first female champagne mogul, or will her dream be crushed by Napoleon himself?

The captivating story of Veuve Clicquot, a woman who dared to rise above treacherous times, personal loss, and an emperor, leaving an indelible mark on the world of champagne.

You can order your copy on the Amazon link here.

The Champagne War is one that I discovered through one of my friends on Facebook. Fiona McIntosh is an international multi-best-selling Australian author, and together with her husband Ian, is also well known throughout the tourism industry as publishers of a successful travel trade magazine. It was from one of Ian’s Facebook posts that I learned that Fiona was in the process of writing this book, adding another to her series of successful novels. The story is about a journey of determination to honour the family business and the traditions of Champagne. There is angst and heartbreak, with a bit of glitz in Paris, but the story is mostly set amongst the vineyards of Champagne.

The Champagne War by Fiona McIntosh

In the summer of 1914, vigneron Jerome Méa heads off to war, certain he’ll be home by Christmas. His new bride Sophie, a fifth generation champenoise, is determined to ensure the forthcoming vintages will be testament to their love and the power of the people of Épernay, especially its strong women. But as the years drag on, authorities advise that Jerome is missing, considered dead.

When poison gas is first used in Belgium by the Germans, British chemist Charles Nash jumps to enlist. After he is injured, he is brought to Reims, where Sophie has helped to set up an underground hospital to care for the wounded. In the dark, ancient champagne cellars, their stirring emotions take them both by surprise.

While Sophie battles to keep her vineyard going through the bombings, a critical sugar shortage forces her to strike a dangerous bargain with an untrustworthy acquaintance – but nothing will test her courage more than the news that filters through to her about the fate of her heroic Jerome.

‘A fresh, fabulous tale, meticulously researched, and perfectly executed.’ Better Reading

You can order your copy on the Amazon link here.

A Letter from Paris … is a memoir written by my friend Louisa Deasey who, when we first met, was already a best-selling author and just beginning the process of writing this, her second book. It’s not a champagne story as such, but there are mentions of drinking champagne with artists and other writers. It’s an extraordinary story of how she received a letter one day that led to her discovering the life that her father had lived during his time in France after the Second World War. It’s compelling reading.

A Letter from Paris: a true story of hidden art, lost romance, and family reclaimed

by Louisa Deasey

When Louisa Deasey receives a message from a French woman called Coralie, who has found a cachet of letters in an attic, written by Louisa’s father, neither woman can imagine the events it will set in motion.

The letters, dated 1949, detail a passionate affair between Louisa’s father, Denison, and Coralie’s grandmother, Michelle, in post-war London. They spark Louisa to find out more about her father, who died when she was six. From the seemingly simple question ‘Who was Denison Deasey?’ follows a trail of discovery that leads Louisa to the libraries of Melbourne and the streets of London, to the cafes and restaurants of Paris and a poet’s villa in the south of France. From her father’s secret service in World War II to his relationships with some of the most famous bohemian artists in post-war Europe, Louisa unearths a portrait of a fascinating man, both at the epicenter and the mercy of the social and political currents of his time.

A Letter from Paris … is about the stories we tell ourselves, and the secrets the past can uncover. A compelling tale of inheritance and creativity, loss and reunion, it shows the power of the written word to cross the bridges of time.

You can order your copy on the Amazon link here.

The Paris Model is one of the books that got me through our COVID lockdowns. It was such a delight to read, immersing myself in these stories of Paris at a time when we couldn’t physically travel there. I loved the contrast of moving from the Australian outback to post-war Paris. I hope you love it as much as I did!

The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

‘Captivating and evocative’ Tania Blanchard, author of The Girl from Munich

After a shocking discovery, Grace Woods leaves her vast Australian sheep station and travels to tumultuous post-war Paris to find her true identity.

While working as a mannequin for Christian Dior, the world’s newly acclaimed emperor of fashion, Grace mixes with counts and princesses, authors and artists, diplomats, and politicians. But when Grace falls for handsome Philippe Boyer she doesn’t know that he is leading a double life, nor that his past might inflict devastating consequences upon her. As she is drawn into Philippe’s dangerous world of international espionage, Grace discovers both the shattering truth of her origins – and that her life is in peril.

Inspired by an astonishing true story, The Paris Model is a tale of glamour, family secrets and heartbreak that takes you from the rolling plains of country Australia to the elegant salons of Paris.

‘A wonderful, immersive historical novel’ New Idea

‘A charming tale rich with family and fashion’ Belinda Alexandra

‘The cracking plot and the general glamourcarry the reader along’ The Sydney Morning Herald

‘This gorgeous historical is the perfect summer escape. Post-World War 2 Paris literally drips from the page. Grace is a wonderful protagonist and surrounded by well-drawn and often fabulous characters, and Joel’s prose is rich and descriptive. Highly enjoyable.’ Better Reading

You can order your copy on the Amazon link here.

This book by Tilar Mazzeo, a US wine writer and cultural historian, is the book that I first read on Veuve Clicquot. At the time it was difficult to find much information on her and I read this book cover to cover and then read it again! I credit Tilar in our blog on Cheers to the Widow Clicquot! It is narrative non-fiction storytelling that has been well researched and creates amazing insight into the life of the Widow Clicquot.

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It

Veuve Clicquot champagne epitomises glamour, style, and luxury. In The Widow Clicquot …, Tilar J. Mazzeo brings to life – for the first time – the fascinating woman behind the iconic yellow label. Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, who, after her husband’s death, defied convention by assuming the reins of the fledgling wine business they had nurtured together. Steering the company through dizzying political and financial reversals, she became one of the world’s first great businesswomen and one of the richest women of her time.

As much a fascinating journey through the process of making this temperamental wine as a biography of a uniquely tempered woman, The Widow Clicquot … is the captivating true story of a legend and a visionary.

You can order your copy on the Amazon link here.

You can probably find these titles at your local bookstore. To make it easier for you to purchase, we’ve provided Amazon links to all these book titles. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases, however this doesn’t affect your pricing.

I’d love to hear what you think of any of these books, and perhaps you have some bubbly story recommendations of your own that you would love to share with us?

Like to keep following us, get first look at events, receive bubbly information and be in our giveaway draws and have a chance to win a bubbly prize? You can join our list, it’s FREE to join here.

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

What to serve for a bubbly Christmas!

I am often asked ‘What is my favourite champagne?’, or at our annual The Bubbles Festivals, ‘What is my favourite sparkling wine on our tasting list?’  I try to avoid answering, and sometimes I joke that I answer like a politician – meaning I don’t answer the question! Or liken it to having to name a favourite child.  I love so many different champagnes and sparkling wines and what I choose depends on a range of factors – the occasion, the budget, the weather, what food I’m serving, what do I feel like, who am I drinking it with …?

Everyone’s palate is different, so choosing favourites is entirely subjective. One of my favourite things to do is find new bubbly discoveries, learn from winemakers, and share my knowledge on champagne and sparkling wine. It’s why I created The Bubbles Review and why I include a brief introduction at The Bubbles Festivals, and why I created the Bubbly Appreciation Course and recently, our popular The Bubbles Reviewers Club, where we get to share how different sparklings are created, and all of the things that influence a tasting experience so you can truly appreciate what you’re drinking and understand why you like some sparkling wines more than others.

Choosing bubbly for Christmas is subjective too, and your choices will depend on what sort of Christmas you’re planning? A full sit-down lunch or dinner with a hot meal? Maybe it’s a BBQ, or cold platters of seafood, charcuterie, and salads.

A lot of people tell me they love sparkling reds, especially for Christmas. You may have seen in our blog ‘Big, bold and Bubbly’, and in recent emails and virtual tastings, that I’m not a fan of sparkling reds, but I do appreciate the history of this in Australian sparkling wine, and appreciate that with the right food match it can be a great experience.

We’ve also recently featured some quite different varietals for our The Bubbles Reviewers Club members and our giveaways.  The sparkling tempranillo from Sutherland Estate has been such a hit. The sparkling Roussanne we shared from George’s Folly is so versatile with food matches, as a charmat method it has some lightness on the palate, but also some depth and complexity from the wine making and grape variety.  You could easily serve this throughout the day.

We’ve had so many lovely Aussie sparklings work with us this year, from Tasmania to the Adelaide Hills, to the Hunter, King, Yarra, Barossa, and Swan Valleys.

We’ve featured Italian sparklings and even a sparkling sake!

For champagne lovers we’ve had some wonderful champagnes this year too, some at The Bubbles Festivals as well as giveaways and The Bubbles Reviewers Club partners.  I highly recommend all of them to you at this special time of year. Champagne is not just for pre-meal – you can easily serve champagne throughout the entire menu. I totally recommend staying with bubbles all day! I love a Blanc de Blancs with seafood and look for blends of the ‘holy trilogy’ of sparkling grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier– for more versatility, and Blanc de Noirs and Rosés to match with more robust flavours.  

A family tradition for me is pancakes and champagne on Christmas morning. We enjoy our family meal in the evening, we often have family stay over on Christmas Night, and a Boxing Day tradition is to ‘back it up’ the following day with a champagne breakfast with platters created from lovely festive leftovers.

You may have noticed on our socials recently that the one thing that I refuse to serve is Mimosas! Fine if you want to use a spritzer style sparkling made in the charmat (or even carbonation) method, which are designed to be a mixer like a Prosecco, but please never add orange juice to a beautiful champagne!  Champagne takes years to make, and as you might imagine, I certainly don’t recommend spoiling it by adding a juice! Orange juice is very sweet, you’re not fooling anyone by trying to pretend you’re not drinking bubbles for breakfast by adding a breakfast juice!

Whatever I’m serving, I love sharing the stories behind the wine and always include an introduction to what I’m pouring for my Christmas Day guests.  This year choose something different to surprise and delight your guests.

The most important thing is not to stress, the festive season should be lots of bubbly fun! 

A big shout out to our The Bubbles Festival, The Bubbles Reviewers Club, and giveaway partners in 2023! There were some reliable bubbly favourites and some delightful new sparkling discoveries.  You can see the links to their websites (some still with promo codes) here:

International

Aussie Sparkling

RIEDEL – The Wine Glass Company

You may also like these other blogs:

Champagne for the holiday season

Christmas in Champagne

Why is champagne so expensive

Drinking champagne on a budget

Why that is not a champagne you’re drinking

How to choose the right glassware for your bubbles

Big bold and bubbly!

Like to keep following us, get first look at events, receive bubbly information and be in our giveaway draws and have a chance to win a bubbly prize? You can join our list, it’s FREE to join here.

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Yarra Valley Sparkling Cellar Doors

Around an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is known as the oldest wine-producing region in Victoria, dating back to 1838. The region offers a diverse range of wines and is best known for its chardonnay and pinot noir varieties, favourites for producing sparkling wine.

As the name suggests, the Yarra Valley is named after Melbourne’s main river that begins its journey on the southern slopes of the Great Dividing Range and twists through the forested valleys of the Yarra Ranges and its quaint regional towns before flowing through Melbourne and concluding its journey in Port Phillip Bay. This pristine natural environment is home to breathtaking landscapes, beautiful native forests, is one of Melbourne’s main water catchment areas and currently hosts around 3,800 total hectares under vine. The Yarra Valley has an abundance of cellar doors and as a cool climate region offers some of the best sparkling wine at cellar door tastings and regional local produce at restaurants.

I grew up near here, on the other side of the ranges in St Andrews, which wasn’t then, but is now considered part of the Yarra Valley region. It always feels a bit like home when visiting, and with so many beautiful cellar doors showcasing the regions cool climate varieties, it is a lot more bubbly fun! 

Although the first vines in Victoria were planted elsewhere, Yering Station in the Yarra Valley was the site of Victoria’s first commercial vineyard. It was planted by the Scottish-born Ryrie brothers in 1838, but it wasn’t until Paul de Castella took ownership that the first Yarra Valley wine was made in 1845. I remember this story from when I was a TAFE lecturer training tour guides. As one of the best day trips outside of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley was one of our training tours.  The history is that after Paul de Castella took ownership, new vines were imported from France and production increased. It really was a ‘heyday’, establishing the area with international renown with wine awards won including the Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889.

By the 1860s several other vineyards had been established in the Yarra Valley. A second de Castella brother, Hubert, planted St Hubert’s in 1863 and Guillaume de Pury established Yeringburg in 1864.  Plantings reached nearly 1,000 acres by the turn of the century.  As with a lot of wine regions the area was affected by the devastating insect pest phylloxera. The last vines from this era were uprooted in the 1920s and the land returned to pasture. 

There was a small resurgence in the 1960s, with new vineyards planted including the re-establishment of Yeringburg and St Hubert’s. When I was growing up here in the 1980s, there were a few wineries, but the area was known more as a food bowl with fruit orchards and other crops. It wasn’t until 1989 that Victoria’s first commercial vineyard, Yering Station, was replanted, and that year was also the exciting release of the first cuvées for Domaine Chandon (now known just as Chandon). As part of an expansion and innovation strategy of the French Champagne House Moët en Chandon after establishing successful ventures in Argentina and California, they conducted an extensive nationwide search of wine growing regions and chose the Yarra Valley for their Australian sparkling operation in 1982.

The Yarra Valley now has more than eighty wineries, and because of its proximity to Melbourne, it is a popular tourist destination and home to some high-profile wineries and many smaller producers. Each winery expresses the diversity of its terroir, the passion of its producers, a mastery of traditional practices and despite its 170-year legacy, it’s far from old. It’s a hub for innovation and home to some of the most progressive, dynamic winemakers in the world.

With plenty of emerging varietal wines gaining popularity and prestige, there’s something for everyone in the Yarra Valley.  It’s a popular day trip, but you could easily spend a few days here.  There’s plenty of food and wine things to do, as well as family activities and nature experiences for a day out.

I suggest that you have a designated driver for your Cellar Door visits. To really relax and have a nice day out, it is much better to book a driver or book a day with a tour company.  There are many to choose from for a day trip, from personalised small groups to larger coaches. You can find details on the Visit Yarra Valley website here.

While this is not a fully inclusive list of the Sparkling Cellar Doors in the region, this list was created from several visits, and it highlights some of the region’s top sparklings that I’ve grouped into sub-regions to help you plan a trip.  It’s a nice mix of large-scale Cellar Doors as well as small boutique offerings. I’ve included links to each of the Cellar Doors, and I suggest that you confirm opening times and make bookings in advance before you travel.

DIXONS CREEK AREA

There is enough sparkling on this little stretch of the Melba Highway for a full day of tasting – starting at Sutherland Estate and tasting your way back to Yarra Glen.

Sutherland Estate

Sutherland Estate is a small, family-owned enterprise located at Dixon’s Creek. The Cellar Door design is cathedral-ceiling with enormous floor to ceiling windows. It is situated high on a hillside and has a large outside deck with impressive views of the vineyards. You can see the expanse of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong and Warburton Ranges. It’s a lovely place to quietly to sip wine, perhaps pair it with a cheese board, while taking in the views and birdsong. You can also stay overnight with two small apartment style rooms with spiral staircases leading up to the bedroom and views, designed like a tower either side of the building.

I met with Cathy who told me that her parents established the vineyard and Cellar Door here, and now she and her family as the next generation have taken over the reins.  

Chardonnay is planted here, as well as Pinot Noir, and their sparklings highlight the red grape varieties with a Blanc de Noirs (white from black). They also have the Spanish-origin Tempranillo planted here and have created a unique sparkling red with this variety.

2016 Blanc de Noir Sparkling

Made from 100% Pinot Noir in the méthode traditionnelle, with secondary fermentation and ageing in the bottle. Using all red fruit that hasn’t spent time on skins, presents as a white sparkling wine. Sometimes you’ll see a hint of blush in the colour like this one. It is late disgorged after 4 ½ years on lees, resulting in a complex and generous sparkling. Aromas of pastry, brioche, honey, pear and almond. On the palate it’s well balanced with mid-palate fruit – berry, cherry and marzipan – and finishes dry at only 3g/L dosage, with a lovely fine and persistent bead.

2021 Sparkling Tempranillo

This was the latest release, and it is something unique as a sparkling red because we don’t often see a Tempranillo here in Australia. They’ve been making it for 10 years, and it’s all grown onsite, and has spent months in seasoned barriques before undergoing secondary fermentation on lees in the bottle made méthode traditionnelle, it’s aged on lees for 12 months. It is almost inky purple in colour. As is often the case with a sparkling red, it is higher on dosage at 25g/L to balance out the tannins, but it finishes dry. It has a powerful burst of mid-palate fruit of berries, dark cherries, a bit of liquorice, with peppery spice and earthy undertones to finish. It would be a great match with cheese and charcuterie or even a dark chocolate pudding.

See website here.

Steels Gate Cellar Door

Steels Gate Home Block Vineyard is situated at 230m above sea level and was planted in the late 1970s on an undulating slope on grey loam soils.

I met with Matthew and Brad who purchased the Home Block vineyard in 2009. They explained that the site was overrun by blackberries and the vines needed some significant nurturing. They knew it had potential, having previously been used in award-winning wines, and their challenge was to return the vines to their former glory. It is at this site that the Steels Gate winery is located.

It wasn’t until 2017 when Matthew and Brad decided they needed to expand their business and get out of the corporate world. After investigating all alternatives, they discovered an amazing vineyard with restaurant and Cellar Door for sale in Dixons Creek, which they acquired in early 2018. This new purchase tripled the size of their estate and in addition to adding more Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it diversified their estate offerings with other varieties. If you follow them on Instagram, you may know that their son Sebastien is following in their footsteps, with some of his own vintages created at 11 years of age!

They follow sustainable agriculture practices and their winemaking techniques are centred around minimal intervention and are vegan friendly.  The restaurant and Cellar Door were upgraded with additional solar panels providing significant green energy back to the grid.

Initially expecting to run a Cellar Door with “café” type food, they suddenly found themselves needing new skills as restaurateurs for the first time. Demand for top quality food was what visitors were asking for, and the restaurant has a head chef and is recognised with 5-star ratings.

Situated in the valley, the Cellar Door has an indoor area and deck with views over the vineyard and surrounding ranges. A kitchen garden provides produce for the restaurant and themed dining nights. The cellar door and restaurant is open a few days a week, for tastings and lunch, Saturday night dinner, and there are platters available to enjoy on the picnic tables at other times.

Their dedication and passion for producing quality sparkling is evident. All hand-picked and methode-traditionelle, aged in bottle for around three years. Since my visit, new vintages of the Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs have been released. I look forward to trying them in the future.

2017 Blanc de Blancs Home Block

The Home Block vineyard is cool and sheltered with more than 40-year-old dry-grown vines. This vintage – 100% handpicked on 28 February 2017 – produced an amazing sparkling that displays a crisp dry, creamy textured, fine-bead and lingering beeswax finish. De-stemmed and pressed, with overnight juice settling. Fermented and matured in stainless tank. Method-Traditionelle, disgorged December 2020 with a dosage of 5g/l.

See website here.

De Bortoli

You probably know this label, but you may not be familiar with the De Bortoli family story, which is one of determination and triumph that started 90 years ago in war-torn Europe and is now told, generations later, across Australia. Their heritage encompasses the universal story of immigrants making good in an adopted land, bringing a new wine culture to Australia, and contributing to the rise of the Australian wine industry. A tale of a hardworking and innovative family who consider good wine, good food and good friends to be among the true pleasures in life.

Today, the third generation of the De Bortoli family, the children of Deen and Emeri De Bortoli, are the custodians of De Bortoli Wines.

Managing Director Darren De Bortoli oversees the winemaking, alongside Leanne De Bortoli’s winemaker husband Steve Webber. Leanne and Steve manage the Yarra Valley Estate winery and vineyard, while Kevin De Bortoli is Company Viticulturist, and youngest son Victor De Bortoli is Executive Director looking after international business.

Every family member has pride in, and a commitment to, the business, alongside a passion for great wine and a sense of responsibility about leaving a legacy for future generations.

Chief winemaker Steve Webber says that to make wines of “detail, texture and minerality, charm and interest” it must be about “site and season”.

Chardonnay comes from their high-altitude vineyard Lusatia Park in Woori Yallock, a premium vineyard where Pinot Noir is also in planting.

The Cellar Door has an Italian-style restaurant offering local produce embracing the family’s European heritage.  Bookings are recommended at the restaurant, which is open four days a week, as well as the Cellar Door, which is open daily.  There are a few tasting options including:

Premium Wine Tasting – Enjoy a guided tasting of eight wines from our Estate and Single Vineyards, showcasing classic varietals from our iconic Yarra Valley sites. Learn about winemaking techniques and the story behind the De Bortoli family from the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Allow 30 minutes for your tasting.

Private Gourmet Tasting – Treat yourself to a truly decadent tasting at the De Bortoli Yarra Valley Cellar Door. This privately hosted experience is set in the Trophy Room or VIP Room, exploring the iconic wine varietals from the region and beyond. Learn about winemaking techniques from vine to table and the story behind the De Bortoli family. All wines are expertly matched with a fine selection of cheese. Allow one hour for your tasting experience, which includes Single Vineyard and Premium wines, and a dedicated wine expert for the full hour.

De Bortoli have a large sparkling list – mainly charmat method showcasing Italian style and flair with great label designs. The list has something for everyone, including the prestige-themed La Boheme sparklings, which are Chardonnay-led blends with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and high percentage of reserve wines, the Rococco range with similar blend of three, a sparkling Shiraz, several different Proseccos (Glera) including a Kylie Minogue Prosecco Rosé, a few Moscatos for sweets, and Fizzero for no alcohol. Having tasted a lot from the range, on this visit I selected just a few starting with one that I hadn’t tried before – the Este – a Methode-Traditionelle that was a recent edition released to the range, as well as La Boheme, which we recently proudly featured as one of The Bubbles Review giveaway prizes.

Este Vintage Cuvée 2008

66% Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, 34% Yarra Valley Chardonnay.

Fine aromatic nose, citrus fruits, herbs, and ripe apples. Chalk, grain, and biscuit notes, textural and balanced. Intense with savouriness, structure and quite gastronomic in its feel. It spent 6 years ageing on lees and is in the Brut Nature range with only 2gms of residual sugar.

La Bohème Cuvée Blanc

93% Chardonnay, 7% Pinot Noir. 56%.

2015 vintage, 10% 2014 vintage and 34% reserve wine (2007 to 2016).

Beautifully styled bottle and label. Charmat method. Pale colour with a green tinge. Citrus, hazelnuts, brioche, complex and lifted aromas. Finesse and complexity on the palate, lively with good weight and balance.  Residual Sugar 8.5g/L. Perfect with antipasto platter of cured meats, salami, paté, or cured salmon.

La Bohème Cuvée Rosé

66% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Meunier, 4% Pinot Blanc.

Charmat method. Very pale rosé colour. Cream and biscuit, hazelnuts, brioche, complex and lifted aromas. Fine and textural on the palate, lively with good weight and balance. Enjoy now with a selection of canapés. Residual Sugar: 7g/L.

See website here.

Mandala Wines

Mandala was a family dream going back generations – a place to grow grapes, make wine and share it with friends and family. The first part of the ‘dream come true’ was when the Smedley family planted their first ten acres of Pinot Noir at a site in Yarra Junction in 1999. Several years later, they were ready to expand. The story goes that it was Nanna who sent images in a dream to Mum one mysterious night – a vision of rolling hills, dams, vines and a place to sit at the end of the day taking in an endless view.  A year later, that dream became a reality when they moved into the site at Dixon’s Creek, and together with the Yarra Junction vineyard, came full circle to create Mandala as it is today.

I first met owner and winemaker, Charles Smedley, at a wine-tasting event. I loved hearing the story about the winery, and Charles took extra time to talk to me about the Mandala logo and name. Mandala is a Sanskrit word for sacred circles, where everyone has their own things that are important to them. The Mandala wine label is about spending time with family and friends enjoying good food and wine.

Their favourite wines lead them to the Yarra Valley region – Charles’ love of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – made it the perfect choice.

Onsite under separate management is the DiVino restaurant serving Northern Italian cuisine by Chef Luca Radaelli. The kitchen team follow the same philosophy as the Mandala winemaking team, focusing on high quality, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. We had a lovely lunch here the ‘glasshouse’ dining room with views across the vineyards.

The Mandala Cellar Door is set in the entrance to the same building in a beautiful Yarra Valley country setting. With outdoor spaces and views to the vineyards, the team can point to the vines that made the wine you are tasting. Charles says they want Mandala to be our legacy for the future generations, and to be indulged by whomever catches the wine bug – “our place is your place”.

All current release wines are available to taste every day, with the Single Site reserve range named with different meanings for different family members. The Cellar Door also offer back-vintages, Museum stock specials, and limited releases available that are exclusive to the Cellar Door.

The NV ‘M by Mandala’

70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir.

The fruit bunches were harvested early to ensure freshness and a balance of acids. This is a cool climate trophy wine, the NV “M by Mandala” blend of premium Chardonnay fruit delivers striking lemon zesty and light sherbet characters, whilst the Pinot Noir contributes to the feel and weight on the palate along with spice essences. Matured stone-fruits and a creamy mid-palate are brilliantly maintained with an extended finish of crisp, natural acidity and a fine bead. Perfect for an arrival drink, pool-side bubbles, spontaneous celebrations, and party starters. Food pairing suggestion – range of antipasti, such as cured meats, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and cheeses.

The 2015 Mandala Yarra Valley Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay.

Methode Traditionelle, it has a creamy, textured palate and a fine bead open up golden apples and ripe nectarines in the mouth. Brioche and honeyed characters are balanced by a long finish of tightly structured lemon-lime acidity and a refreshing minerality. 

The 2010 Mandala Yarra Valley ‘The Gathering’ Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay.

‘The Gathering’ tells the story from the Mandala, in surrounding yourself with good friends and family while enjoying and embracing life. Methode Traditionelle, spending an impressive 78 months in bottle to produce a truly elegant and stunning wine.

Lovely nose with aromas of lemon rind, white flowers, and brioche. A creamy, textured palate and a fine bead open up textural almond meal and finish with honey nectar, ripe nectarines and stone fruit. These characters are balanced by a long finish of generous structured citrus acidity and a refreshing minerality. Food pairing suggestion include a range of shellfish, white fish, vegetable-based pasta, and paté.

Other names in still wines in the Mandala reserve range are ‘The Compass’ – “four points lead to home”. Charles has symbolised the four points in his Mandala to his four children who always centre him and guide him home. The ‘The Matriarch’ is named for his mother – the head of the Smedley family, the link between family and vine, the leading spirit and adoring mother overseeing and caring for all.  ‘The Rock’ for his father, who is the infamous “rock” of the Smedley family, and ‘The Butterfly’ is lovingly dedicated to Charles’ late sister Vanessa, who’s name in Greek means “butterfly”.

See website here.

Balgownie Estate

The original Balgownie vineyards are in Bendigo, where they produce their well-known Balgownie Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, with the first wines vintaged in 1972. The Yarra Valley vineyards are producing elegant cool climate wines from estate-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley is home to 17 acres of vineyards – about 50-50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.   A stylish new building houses resort reception, restaurant, bar, function space and Cellar Door.

The previous restaurant was damaged by fire and the temporary dining facilities were only for guests in their hotel room and suite accommodation. Luckily for me on my recent visit, the brand-new build for restaurant 1309 @ Balgownie was finished and is now open to the public. 1309, named for their street number on the Melba Highway, houses an elegant dining experience with modern Australia cuisine available in the luxurious restaurant building, or on the deck for open-air dining with beautiful vineyard and Yarra Valley views.  An Endota spa has opened here, and there is resort style accommodation, with the restaurant providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The Balgownie tagline is Wine – Dine – Stay – Spa, at Balgownie Yarra Valley.  A recent accolade for their new build at the TAA (Tourism Accommodation Australia) awards was a win for Hotel Bar of the Year.  

The Cellar Door has areas for private and group tastings, as well as up at the bar where I enjoyed my tastings. I was impressed to find there is a specific tasting for the Sparkling range, which covered four different sparkling wines.

Sparkling Premium Cuvée Brut – NV

100% Chardonnay.

A portion of this wine was fermented in old oak barrels with extended lees contact to provide some toasty and bread characteristics. The balance was fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve the fresh fruit aromas and flavours, then carbonation method was used for bubbles.

Palate is bright and lifted aromas of pear, citrus and new season apples with hints of guava and passion fruit. It has creaminess on the palate with a crisp finish. Serve for brunch or as an aperitif.

Sparkling Shiraz – NV

95% Shiraz and 5% Cabernet.

The fruit sourced for this sparkling red is from the Bendigo vineyard. It was hand-harvested and fermented in open vats with daily hand plunging. A brief post-fermentation maceration was carried out to enhance the integration of fine tannins. The wine was aged in a combination of seasoned French oak barrels, and a 10% addition of base wine from the 2013 vintage was added for complexity.

Deep, bright red/purple colour. Fragrant berry aromas, notes of oak and some aniseed spices. The palate is full-bodied, noted tannin and superb balance. Berry richness on the palate of juicy cherries and blackberries. It’s rich with a sense of sweetness the dosage is 19.5g/L. Food pairing suggestions include an array of cuisines from Chinese to Mexican. 

Macedon Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2018

70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay.

Hand-harvested from the Cleveland vineyard in the Macedon Ranges, March 2018, this Methode Traditionelle this is their flagship sparkling wine, having spent 3 years ageing on lees in bottle.

Aromas of white flowers, brioche pastry and citrus alongside grilled peaches. The fine mousse carries the lovely rich palate framed by fine natural acidity.  It is in the Extra Brut range with a dosage of 4g/L. Lovely mid-palate berries from the Pinot Noir and almond. Shows excellent length with layers of complexity. I chose to have a glass of this with my lunch in the restaurant afterwards, and it was a great food match with a range of dishes.

Macedon Sparkling Pinot Noir Rouge 2018

100% Pinot Noir.

Hand-harvested from the Cleveland vineyard in the Macedon Ranges on March 2018, this Methode Traditionelle was disgorged in October 2021 after 3 years on lees.

Made in the style of a classic sparkling red, this wine displays hallmark aromas of wild strawberries and red cherries with notes of spice and subtle earthiness. The medium-bodied palate is carried along by a combination of fine tannin and soft acidity. The fine bead further expresses the elegant light to medium bodied palate with some lovely berry fruit characteristics in the mid-palate. It has a dosage 19g/L, but due to the balance with tannins it tastes as dry.  Food pairing suggestions are home-baked turkey or roast pork with crackling.

See website here.

COLDSTREAM AREA

Situated in the centre of the wine map, this area boasts some of the big sparkling names of the region.

Punt Road Wines

All Punt Road wines are produced from the more than 150 acres of estate-grown vineyards in Coldstream. A family-owned vineyard and winery, creating wines with careful reflection of the heritage of this site, and the independent, creative energy of the Yarra Valley.

Grapes have been grown at this site since 1861. Hubert de Castella, one of the original Swiss vignerons of the Valley along with the De Purys of Yeringberg, pioneered winemaking in Victoria, and won trophies for his wines the world over. The family say they’re proud that this magnificent vineyard is still winning trophies today.

The vine cuttings that were planted in de Castella’s vineyard were sourced from the ‘Airlie Bank’ vineyard, located where punts once carried people and horses across the Yarra River from Jolimont into South Yarra before the Punt Road bridge was built. Now, the winery is in Coldstream, nestled amongst the Napoleone Vineyards (planted in 1987) and apple orchards. The Napoleone family have been growing fruit in the Yarra Valley since 1948, when Giuseppe Napoleone emigrated from Abruzzo and planted an apple orchard in Wandin.

As you come down the driveway of Canadian maple trees, a Pink Lady apple block is on the left, and the Block 12 Pinot Noir on the right (planted in 2009 after the Black Saturday bushfires raced through the property). All the fruit for their wines (and the ciders they produce) come from this property.

The cool climate of the Yarra Valley and the fertile soil of the site allows them to craft elegant, detailed wines that are winning awards. Hubert De Castella would be proud.

Aside from the Cellar Door, they sometimes have ‘pop-ups’ with food trucks. An Orchard Bar for cider, including cocktails and calvados. There’s also a monthly Farmers Market. After your tasting you can order wine by glass and enjoy with cheese platters.

The Cellar Door offers a 30-minute seated tasting experience, with accompanying nibbles, showcasing five of their favourite wines, but you must book in advance. In 2021, they were awarded Gourmet Traveller’s Best Yarra Valley Tasting Experience.  On my visit, I chose to taste their sparklings, of which there were three.

Airlie Bank NV Yarra Cuvée

85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir.

The NV Airlie Bank sparkling blend is sourced from within the Yarra Valley. Small portions were barrel fermented and given extended time on lees to build texture and complexity. Aromas of citrus fruits and subtle apricot, complemented by a doughy, bready complexity. The palate is fresh and vibrant with a focused palate structure of apple blossom and citrus characters with complex brioche notes.

Airlie Bank NV Yarra Rosé

82% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir.

Small portions were barrel fermented and given extended time on lees to build texture and complexity. The wine is fresh and vibrant with a focused nose and palate of orange blossom, delicate strawberry, lemon, and complex brioche notes.

Punt Road Yarra Valley 2015 Sparkling

90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir.

Hand-picked from the Napoleone vineyard. Methode Traditionelle, aged for 3 years on lees. Complexity on the mid-palate with lovely creamy bead, low dosage creating a dry crisp finish.

See website here.

St Hubert’s

Established in 1862 as one of the first wineries in the region, St Hubert’s helped position the area as a premium wine-producing location, before championing the Yarra Valley’s wine renaissance in the 1960s.

As one of the pioneers of premium winemaking in the area, St Hubert’s sought to upgrade their Cellar Door experience and were closed for renovation in recent years to re-open, having created an innovative premium cellar door experience.  The Cellar Door and tasting room is located under a hill created in the lawn overlooking the vines – a unique entrance that gives the impression of a subterranean building. Inside you’ll find sleek and stylish interior design, and the rich-looking tasting room, wine shop and art gallery below. They serve a small selection of local cheeses and charcuterie to accompany your wine experience.

Under the Cellar Door roofline they house a wine shop, showcasing not only their own wines, but also focusing on emerging varieties or new wine making techniques, and stocking up to 70 different wines from other brands from other regions across Australia. These wines are free to taste whilst you browse the range in store.

St Hubert produces three sparklings in their ranges, one from the Stag range and one from the St Hubert’s range. The tasting room offers two tasting flights where you can choose three wines from either the Stag range or the Premium tasting flight from the St Hubert’s range, which includes their two Méthode Traditionelle sparklings.

NV The Stag Blanc de Blanc

100% Chardonnay.

This is a Charmat method, fresh and zesty with primary fruit flavours and good acidity. It’s 8.5g/L dosage, dry and crisp. 

2015 St Hubert’s Blanc de Noir

99% Pinot Noir and 1% Chardonnay.

Méthode Traditionelle from carefully selected parcels of Yarra Valley fruit. Hand-picked, gently whole bunch pressed and fermented in the bottle. The wine has 6 years on lees. A dosage of 6.5 g/L

The colour is pale to medium straw with bronze hues and a fine, persistent bead. The aromas include orange blossom, apple and hints of fresh bread, bees wax and almond meal. On the palate, beautiful fine mousse precedes a creamy and rich and yet tightly structured. Crisp apple crunch, nougat, French pastry, and citrus blossoms are evident. The wine is restrained and vibrant, and the finish is long.

2015 Sparkling Rose

100% Pinot Noir.

Upper Yarra Pinot Noir made Méthode Traditionnelle, 6 years on lees. Lovely pale pink in colour. Aromas and flavours are apple pie, nutty nougat, faint red currant, and blood orange. A supple mousse with balanced acidity and good drive. A dosage of 6–7g/L it is dry on the palate and a lovely salty finish with hints of pepper spice.

See website here.

Yering Station

With vines first planted in 1838, Yering Station is proudly Victoria’s first vineyard. A jewel of the Yarra Valley, they produce world-class cool climate wines from our vineyards, which are famously renowned for their expressive varietal integrity. After changing hands several times throughout the early-to-mid 1900s, Yering Station was purchased by the Rathbone family in 1996.

As lovers of wine with a rich family background in agriculture and engineering, their purchase of Yering Station marked the beginning of their wonderful wine journey. A true family operation, the Rathbones went on to build what is now an icon of the region. A simple and pure vision powered their passion.

“When we first started out in 1996, our ambition was to simply make great wine.” – Darren Rathbone, CEO and Winemaker.

Considered one of the region’s leading wineries, the wines attract attention and admiration from wine lovers across the globe. So too does this estate. It’s a little like a destination with its historic Cellar Door, a converted barn event space, and the stunning signature restaurant with amazing architectural design overlooking the vineyards, making for a truly unforgettable Yarra Valley wine experience.  I first visited here around 18 years ago when I was a judge in the Victorian Tourism Awards. Over three years, I judged many places and this visit stays with me as one of the most memorable experiences. The winery is visually stunning and that alone makes it outstanding, but it was also the passion of Darren Rathbone who showed me around and at each different location at the winery, introduced me to the team member responsible for that area that clearly demonstrated the sense of pride that each everyone had in this place. Victorian Tourism Award winners they became that year and then successfully went on to achieve Hall of Fame status.

Bookings are recommended for the restaurant, and you can also order picnic hampers from the restaurant to picnic in the grounds.

The heritage Cellar Door and wine store is housed in the original winery building circa 1859. The tasting bar experience provides a guided tasting by a team member. The educational nature of the tastings takes visitors on a wine journey through the Yering Station wines.

The Cellar Door is open seven days a week, tastings at the Tasting Bar are on a walk-in basis, and there is no need to book unless your guest numbers are 10 or more. There are three options for a progressive wine journey through their collections either the Village series – Yarrabank and Estate or Single Vineyard and Reserve. Different pricing for each with tasting fees redeemable on purchase. Groups can also book a Private Group Tasting or Wine Tasting and Grazing experience by adding food pair options of cheese plates or shared grazing plates, held either in the Scarlett Room or upstairs in Matt’s Bar.  For the ultimate experience, there a Deluxe Tour and Tasting (min 6 people) which is an indulgent varietal-specific wine journey. Choose your varietal journey from their flagship Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Shiraz Viognier. Experience includes a glass of Yarrabank Sparkling, a guided tour of the underground cellar, 6 tasting wines from the Estate, Reserve and Museum collections along with crackers and breads for tasting accompaniments. 

Yarrabank is the sparkling brand of Yering Station. This is another Yarra Valley sparkling with a French connection as this highly successful sparkling brand was established as a joint venture between Champagne Devaux and Yering Station in 1993.  I tasted two different cuvées on my visit.

2013 Yarrabank Cuvée

56% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir.

A centuries-old tradition from Champagne meets modern Yarra Valley winemaking, made in methode traditionelle. A beautiful palate celebrating the union of Pinot richness and Chardonnay vibrancy. Hints of vanilla slice and citrus fruits are supported by an elegant oyster-shell minerality. The colour is ripe golden straw with a fine, persistent bead.

Complex aromas of toasty Anzac biscuits, ginger spice, and honey, with fresh fruits of ripe summer plums and orange zest.

Lovely delicate on the palate balance of rich biscuit-y flavours and fresh vibrant fruits of red apples, citrus and tart strawberries. A lovely creamy mousse and with 4g/L dosage it has a refreshing aperitif finish that is long and rewarding.

2013 Yarrabank Brut Rosé

56% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir.

Also methode traditionelle, this is a similar blend to the cuvée, but using the assemblage method to create the rosé, it has had 1% of still red Pinot Noir added to create the colour, which is a lovely light salmon pink. On the nose it has interesting earthy aromas and on the palate flavours of citrus, melon, and hints of strawberry, along with freshly baked bread, which adds to the complexity. A long, lively mouth feel with fine bubbles, tight acidity and a sumptuous texture providing a crisp, dry finish and strong persistence. 7g/L dosage.

See website here.

Chandon

Sixty years ago, Robert-Jean de Vogüé of Moët en Chandon and an assortment of his closest friends set out to redefine luxury sparkling wine. They decided the only way to bring it into the modern world was to take it far, far from home. That journey of rediscovery began in Argentina and eventually took them to California, Brazil, China, India and, of course, all the way to Australia.

John Wright, who ran Chandon California at the time, took a risk on our land of opportunity. He visited Victoria in 1982 and was chuffed with the can-do spirit of the Australians. The boss, Phillipe Coulon, visited soon after and gave his tick of approval. They then tasked the legendary oenologist Tony Jordan with the unenviable task of finding the perfect land to begin a vineyard.

As the story goes, if Tony had just thrown a rock in any direction, he probably could have hit a decent piece of land for winemaking. But Tony wanted something truly special – a cool-climate area with enough diversity of terroir to give him all the blending options he could dream of. The Yarra Valley was the natural choice, and Tony loved it so much he couldn’t leave. The first cuvées were released in 1989 under the new Chief Winemaker and head rock thrower, the one and only Tony Jordan.

Creating sparkling wineries outside of Champagne allows the winemakers freedom to explore all sorts of techniques that cannot be used under the strict rules and regulations of Champagne. You can read more about this on our blog – Why that’s not a glass of champagne that you’re drinking – when I interviewed the Chandon winemaker Dan Buckle.

I love the Chandon Cellar Door, and have visited many times over the years, beginning in the mid-1990s this was also a stop on our TAFE tour guide training itinerary, the guided tour and instruction on Methode Traditionelle winemaking here was superb. Some of my more recent visits include celebrating here on the first stop an itinerary with a group of 50 of my closest friends for one of my milestone birthdays.

The full tour through the winery, bottling line, riddling hall, finishing with a breathtaking reveal to the Green Point room, is no longer in the program, but there are still some amazing experiences here.  The name Green Point came from the point in the apex of the valley that was the first point to turn green after summer.

Dining experiences include the restaurant where you can have a three course chef’s menu matched with sparkling wines. The Lounge Bar offers small plates to enjoy with a glass of sparkling or tasting flight, a Sparkling Brunch on weekends or a Chandon Garden Spritz picnic.

Cellar Door tasting experience now include The Foundation Tasting, The Exploration Tasting, or the Chandon Sparkling Masterclass, which allows you to take a leisurely stroll through the grounds and the fabulous Riddling Hall before finishing in the privacy of the Whitlands tasting room.

You may be familiar with Chandon available everywhere in bottle shops, bars and restaurants, but the special feature of the Cellar Door visit is special releases of blends and vintages that you won’t find anywhere else.

Here are a few examples.

Chandon Vintage Brut Rosé 2015

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier.

Methode Traditionelle. Pale pink, with peach skin hues and very fine bubbles. Classic Pinot Noir stone fruit aromas, peach, and background cranberry notes in the foreground, while in the background fresh dough and biscuit characters derived from long yeast ageing. In the mouth, there is a sense of finesse and delicacy. Pinot Noir fruit characters of red berry and ripe peach are on display, with some grapefruit in the background very fine acidity completes the picture, with length of flavour.  Suggested food pairing is perfect with fresh salmon or trout, and terrific with gruyere cheese.

Chandon Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2016

100 % Chardonnay.

Methode Traditionelle. Pale straw with green hues, very fine bubbles, and persistent mousse. Quince, subtle praline, lemon myrtle, seaspray, green pear. A subtle cinnamon spice element derived from oak barrels. Citrus and quince flavours on the palate, with delightful acidity and tension, soft texture with very fine bubbles. Suggested food pairing is sea urchin, Port Phillip Bay mussels with creamy tarragon sauce, and scallops with Thai basil.

Chandon Late Disgorged 2008

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir.

Methode Traditionelle. Pale yellow in the glass, with fine bead and mousse. Complex and delicate lemon verbena, bergamot, lime, baked apple, fresh dough, and meringue aromas. Palate is fine with citrus character and surprising freshness, soft pillowy bubbles, and lovely toast finish. Suggested food pairing with asparagus and goats cheese tart, citrus pavlova and Xiao Long Bao dumplings.

See website here.

Oakridge

Oakridge is a family-owned winery, restaurant, and Cellar Door, originally established in 1978 alongside a ridge of oak trees – hence the name. Oakridge has grown to become an internationally recognised producer of award-winning wines and must-visit Yarra Valley destination.

As a pioneer of the wine growing region of the upper Yarra Valley, Oakridge is known for producing distinctive single-vineyard wines that reflect the unique terroir of the region. Leading the winery team is Chief Winemaker (and Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year for 2017) David Bicknell.

The Oakridge restaurant is a hatted restaurant, and the beautiful food showcasing local produce including their own kitchen garden is wonderfully enhanced by the amazing views. Floor to ceiling windows that provide a vista looking out over the vineyard creates that “Wow!” factor and is the perfect place for a long gourmet lunch. There is also the option for casual dining with local produce plates on the terrace.  The restaurant is open four days a week, so you need to plan ahead if you want to include lunch.

At the Cellar Door there are seated premium tasting experiences to choose from. The Oakridge Experience is the option to taste a curated selection of five Oakridge award-winning wines that epitomise their house style. The 864 Single Block Flight explores their highly acclaimed 864 range, as well as the Chardonnay Masterclass to take a journey through the upper Yarra Valley, renowned for producing world-class chardonnay. Reflecting the unique terroir, contrast back vintages and new releases and discover the subtle nuances of each wine.   You can also ask to taste by the selecting a few items, which is what I did to taste the sparkling wines. They have two beautiful vintage sparklings, and these are the vintages I tasted during my visit:

2015 Sparkling Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay.

Oakridge’s 2015 release of the Local Vineyard Series Blanc de Blancs is Methode Traditionelle, aged on yeast lees for 52 months, which is a long time for an Australian sparkling. With minimal dosage to showcase this beautiful style. Aromas include glazed pastry, sourdough, and green nectarine … so lightly toasty and fresh, and the yeast and a clotted cream character add a sense of depth. The palate is creamy and textural with a delicate with a lacy web of acidity interwoven throughout. Cream, yeast, granny smith apples and buttery pastry flavours flow along before finishing with a preserved lemon-like tang. Flavoursome, complex, and vibrant from start to finish.

2018 Oakridge Sparkling Meunier Rosé

100% Pinot Meunier.

The Yarra Valley has three distinct geographic zones or sub-regions – lower warmer, middle cool and higher cooler sub-regions. Oakridge match particular varieties with the specific sites to give you outstanding examples of single vineyard wines.  100% Pinot Meunier (or also known as Meunier) is rare, it is usually used in a blend with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, known to balance out the other two.  I first tasted one in Champagne, and I’ve only tasted one other in Australia.  It really shines as something different, and I highly recommend trying it.

For this wine, single vineyard grapes were hand-picked and chilled overnight before whole bunch pressing to tank for a natural first fermentation. 20% was fermented in old oak to add complexity. Methode Traditionelle for the second fermentation and aged on lees for 2 years. A dosage of 8.5g/L

The colour is a lovely pale apricot-rose with a bright copper hue. Strong meaty pinot aromas, notes of French pastry and cake over flashes of berries and summer pudding. The palate is initially all creamy, textural, and round and flavoured with summer pudding, biscuits and red berries, then the bright acidity snaps the wine into line adding persistence and refreshment.

See website here.

Dominque Portet

Ninth-generation winemaker Dominique Portet chose the cool climate of aptly named Coldstream in the Yarra Valley as home to the winery he founded in 2000. It was the culmination of a detailed search for grape growing terroir to rival that of his native Bordeaux – but also the start of a new chapter in a winemaking story that has its roots in France in the early 1700s.

Dominque’s first introduction to the world of wine started when he was young when his father André Portet was a vineyard and winery manager of a prestigious winery in France. As an adult, he later spent vintages in the Médoc, Rhône Valley, Provence and with Champagne giant Moët et Chandon, as well as in the Napa Valley at his brother Bernard’s Clos du Val estate.

We should all be very grateful that he chose to come to Australia in 1976, where he has been a pioneer of the renaissance of Australia’s cool-climate wine industry, founding the renowned sparkling wine houses of Taltarni in the Pyrenees in Victoria and Clover Hill in Tasmania.  When I interviewed the Cellar Door Manager of Clover Hill for one of our sparkling masterclasses a few years ago, he shared some of the background with me, and how Clover Hill still attributes the success of launching that brand to Dominque Portet. At the same time working alongside another amazing sparkling maker Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon who spent time helping to create the sparkling wine industry in Tasmania at Jansz and is now the Chef de Cave at Louis Roederer (including Cristal). Both men are legends of the sparkling wine industry, and we’re fortunate to have had their influence in Australia and that Dominque chose to establish his namesake winery here in the Yarra Valley.

He has just been awarded the ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite agricole’ (Knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit) by the French Government in recognition for outstanding contributions to agriculture. The Order, which was established in 1883 by France’s Ministry of Agriculture, is one of the most important recognitions awarded in France. Dedicating his life to winemaking in France and Australia, Dominique’s distinguished career continues to shape the landscape of winemaking in Australia.

“I found fragrance and structure – most of all the structure reminds me of Bordeaux. The Yarra has a charm, a beauty that engulfs you. The wines are worldly.”

Today, his son Ben heads the winemaking team. Along with the incredible lineage and pedigree that comes with being a 10th generation winemaker, Ben has benefited from the wisdom and experiences of many. That began with four vintages at the renowned Adelaide University finishing school of Brian Croser and Con Moshos at Petaluma in the Adelaide Hills. Internationally he has worked in France in Bordeaux and Champagne at Louis Roederer, as well as South Africa and California’s Napa Valley. Since returning to the Dominique Portet Winery in 2008, he has not only continued the pioneering family wine craftsmanship, but also been a leading industry judge, completing the Len Evans Tutorial scholarship.

The Cellar Door and restaurant’s French Provincial design highlights the French heritage. Set against the rolling hills, you can dine and take in views of the vineyard and Yarra Valley. The recently renovated L’Apéro restaurant offers indoor dining set amongst the wine barrels or outdoor dining on the terrace.  L’Apéro dining is based on the French ritual that combines drinks, food, and friends. The menu features a selection of seasonal French-inspired small plates to share, served à la carte. The restaurant is open 5 days a week, so choose your days if you want to dine. The Cellar Door is open 7 days, walk-ins are possible, but bookings are suggested for wine experiences that include the Estate Tour and Tasting – a behind the scenes tour of the estate and private tasting room experience. The Portet’s have been producing rosé in Australia since 1989 and the Le Tour De Rosé experience encompasses three different styles – their sparkling Brut Rosé, their highly-regarded Fontaine Rosé, and a new addition – Single Vineyard Rosé – served with charcuterie and cheese. The André Experience, which is around two and half hours, begins with one of Dominique Portet’s experienced wine educators on a behind-the-scenes tour of the estate, then a tutored wine tasting in the André room, perched above the working winery, where guests will taste through a curated selection of Dominique Portet current Yarra Valley releases including single vineyard wines and the flagship André Cabernet Sauvignon. Lunch is then enjoyed in the bistro, where their head chef draws on Bordeaux roots to create a three-course menu of French family classics, with matched wines.

My tasting experience on this visit is one I will always remember. As you will have gathered, I love everything about sparkling, and the stories and history as well.  Here, due to happenstance, I got to meet a sparkling wine legend Mr Dominque Portet himself. I had booked a private tasting in the André room, and our host was very knowledgeable. I was curious about the history of Dominque’s role in the sparkling industry here in Australia and I was asking a lot of questions.  A few of my questions our host was unsure about but said he could find out and get back to me. When we looked into the winery below, we noticed Dominque walking through.  Our host excused himself, and a few minutes later brought Dominque in to meet me and chat about my questions and talk me through some of the vintages we were tasting.  Some people you just click with, and this was a heart-warming exchange that I will always treasure as Dominque generously shared time talking about the foundations of sparkling wine in Tasmania, his friendship at the time with Jean Baptiste, and then establishing here in the Yarra Valley.

Natalie Pickett gets to meet Dominique Portet himself!

These are the sparklings that I tasted on my visit:

2015 Dominique Portet Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay.

Fruit for this sparkling wine comes from the same vineyard used for their highly-awarded Origine Chardonnay – a mature site in the Upper Yarra Valley with volcanic red soils on a steep, fast-draining slope at a relatively high altitude of 250m. The elevation makes for cooler growing environment, and picked early (mid-February) to seek acidity while the grapes are still green and bright. 2016 was a stunning vintage – mild and dry – and perfect for Chardonnay and sparkling production.

Hand-picked when the fruit showed plenty of acidity in the green apple and lime spectrum. Whole bunches were pressed using a traditional Champagne cycle – very gently to retain optimum freshness. Fermentation took place in tank and left on lees for 6 months prior to tirage in bottle. Made Methode Traditionelle, the wine is aged in bottle for 3 years before being disgorged and then aged a further 12 months to allow the wine to come together. Dosage is a low 4g/L to ensure fruit purity retention and give a crisp, mouth-watering, energetic style of sparkling.

Palest yellow colour with a fine bead. It’s fresh and lithe, lemon rind leads the bouquet, the faintest hint of brioche, vanilla, praline, and grapefruit. Delightful when sipped, piercing, pristine fruit, green apple acidity. A wine of great length and continued promise.

Dominique Portet NV Brut Rosé

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay.

The grapes for this Methode Traditionelle sparkling came from two elevated vineyards (250m) in the Upper Yarra. The grapes were hand-picked, gently pressed, and fermented before going through secondary fermentation in bottle. The wine was then aged for two years in cool, temperature-controlled cellars, then disgorged and given a light dosage prior to release.

2006 Dominique Portet Cuveé Tasmania

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay.

Paying homage to his time in Tasmania, this special release Methode Traditionelle sparkling made in Tasmania is only available at the Cellar Door.

See website here.

Rochford Estate

Rochford Wines begins with owner and CEO Helmut Konecsny, who has always been the driving force behind this dynamic wine business since first purchasing the land in 2002. A family business at heart, Helmut’s passion for Yarra Valley wine, great food, service, and entertainment has seen Rochford expand exponentially over the years.

After many years in the corporate world in Australia and overseas, Helmut purchased a vineyard in Macedon Ranges where the concept for Rochford Wines first began. While still commuting to his corporate obligations and managing the vineyard, the opportunity to purchase ‘Eyton on the Yarra’ came to Helmut’s attention. With its old vine plantings, proximity to Melbourne and highway frontage, the potential to develop the site into something truly special was immediately apparent. And so, Rochford Wines of the Yarra Valley was born.

Now producing award-winning wines, Rochford encompasses three vineyard sites, two restaurants, a wedding and functions venue, and a huge 12,000 capacity outdoor concert amphitheatre that hosts the popular concert series – A Day on the Green – amongst other headlining acts. The dreams Helmut had for Rochford Wines are being realised – to create a place that captivates the senses and provides memorable experiences for all who visit.

Nestled in the hub of Rochford, the Cellar Door is a celebration of vineyard and winery combined. “Explore and learn about the grapes we grow, the wine we craft and the legacy we are building for the future.”

With a range of tasting options designed to explore their extensive collection of wines, and facilities to cater for a range of needs, the Cellar Door is a favourite for local and international groups visiting the area.  The ethos is to produce sparkling wines with personality that are true to the vineyard site and the weather patterns that have shaped it. I tasted four sparklings on my visit.

Rochford Single Vineyard Isabella’s Blanc de Blanc 2017

100% Chardonnay.

Hand-picked on 10th February 2017, gently whole bunch pressed according to time-honoured Methode Traditionelle to retain crisp acidity. The first fermentation is done in temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation vessels and inoculated with specialist yeast for sparkling wine. Secondary fermented in the bottle and aged on lees for at least 18 months. The aromas are jasmine, preserved lemon and sea-spray/saline. Lively on the palate where the mousse flows freely. Flavours are led by lemon and lime yet finish with a pleasing maritime brine.

Rochford Single Vineyard Isabella’s Blanc de Blanc 2018

100% Chardonnay.

This 2018 Blanc de Blanc sparkling was made entirely from their single vineyard estate-grown chardonnay. After tank fermentation and assemblage, the second fermentation is Methode Traditionelle.  Aged on lees for a least 2 years. The colour is medium to pale yellow straw. Mineral aromas of wet slate blossom to lemon sours, citrus burst, and sherbet tones. An evolution on the palate of immediate presence of wholemeal toasted muffins and lemon butter, which broadens to mouth-filling texture on the middle palate. The palate then tightens to fine, crisp but juicy acid on the finish with a delicate dry tannin aftertaste.

Rochford Single Vineyard Swallowfield Sparkling Rosé 2018

100% Pinot Noir.

Swallowfield is in Gembrook, making it the southernmost vineyard in the Yarra Valley, with its rich quartz soil making it ideal for Pinot Noir. This is the second vintage rosé from this vineyard, the 2018 harvest being known for great yields and quality fruit. Lifted nose of strawberry top, spiced clove, and yeasty notes of cinnamon bun. The palate has gentle sweetness of wild berries and stone fruit with a pillowy soft texture, yet also has an incisiveness to its acid line that gives that refreshment factor.

Rochford Prosecco NV

87% Glera 87%, 13% Chardonnay.

Charmat method. Australian Prosecco is a vibrant sparkling wine style, and this wine displays the colour of pale straw with lime hues. The nose is floral and crisp green apple. These aromas lead to a palate brimming with apple, hints of honeydew and pink grapefruit notes with a zesty finish.

See website here.

Levantine Hill

Levantine Hill is the perfect merger of two vineyards in the heart of the Yarra Valley. On one side, a vineyard producing superior grapes since the 1990s. On the other, lovingly planted family blocks alongside a truffiére surrounding the family’s homestead. Together, this combined estate is pure testament to the passion and toil of dedicated human hands, and man’s tenuous relationship with the nurturing love of Mother Nature.

It all began against the odds. The piece of the Yarra Valley they chose for their first vineyard was a hill that the experts told them was far too steep and had too many underlying rocky outcrops, making it impossible to plant viable vines. Not to be deterred, the family saw what was possible. The location was incredible, the soil profile was perfect. So, with unwavering determination, and the use of a diamond-tipped drilling rig to remove the rocks, Levantine Hill began to take shape. Today, that impossible hill is the family vineyard, which has the ethos that they will only ever bottle premium wines in impeccable years.  Rising from the shores of the Yarra River at 75 metres and peaking at 225 meters above sea level, Levantine Hill vines thrive in looking out over steep clay loam slopes, at similar elevations to the Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis, France.

Everything about this vineyard and Cellar Door experience sings quality. The architecture and interiors are opulent, the landscaped grounds are an open-air gallery displaying sculptures and paintings, an expansive lawn area is home to the Chairman’s helipad, you can arrive from the heliport in Melbourne’s CBD in the ‘Levantine Hill’ badged helicopter for the ultimate Cellar Door and restaurant experience.

There is bar-style seating in the Cellar Door for tastings with views and vistas over the vineyards and sculpture gardens. If dining, you can also include a tasting flight as part of your experience, and there is an inner circle room for private tastings for 2–12 people, and some amazing Chairman’s experiences available combining the heliflight.

I arrived by road with my designated driver, which is also an impressive arrival experience.  Each of the Levantine Hill sparklings are premium wines from vintages to showcase impeccable years. On my visit I did the seated Cellar Door sparkling tasting flight of three sparklings. The tasting notes for each wine are on a separate card, with the wine notes on the front and a suggested food pairing and recipe on the back.

2012 Méthode Traditionelle Sparkling

53% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir.

The 2012 vintage is known as one of the finest in the Yarra Valley for that decade. The ideal conditions presented the opportunity for Levantine Hill to follow-up its inaugural 2010 sparkling Méthode Traditionnelle with a similar blend from an almost mirror image vintage. The intention was to allow this cuvee to age for a period of 5 years on lees to further enhance its intensity and breadth of expression – displaying a freshness and vitality of bead and mousse that defy its extended ageing. This traditional method sparkling wine from a multitude of blended components features aromas of cider apples, citrus, rockmelon, white flowers, and frangipani tart. The Pinot Noir elements come to the fore on the palate adding richness and width to the saline and oyster shell line of the Chardonnay. The extended ageing on lees has conferred weight and texture with crème anglais richness. Beautifully balanced acidity, honey suckle, biscuit with lovely length and bead.  There is now a late disgorged version of this sparkling available, and we’re also awaiting the next vintage release. 

2013 Sparkling Blanc de Blanc

100% Chardonnay.

The protracted growing season allowed a drawn-out ripening, resulting in an uncommon richness of flavour tempered by the abundant natural acidity contributed by the season.

A bouquet of nashi pear-glazed brioche, lemon cheesecake, and amaretti biscuit. Flavours of nougat, lemon rind, jasmine and chestnut underpin a palate line of steely acidity with delicate bubble, fruit weight in the mid-palate of peach and earthy ‘on lees’ characters providing textural accompaniment, richness, and creaminess to the finish. Delightfully delicate on the palate, an excellent match for freshly shucked oysters or semi-hard cow’s milk cheeses.  Since my visit, the 2018 vintage has been released.

2015 Sparkling Rosé

100% Pinot Noir.

2015 was even better and is widely hailed as the greatest Yarra Valley vintage of the decade. This presented the opportunity for Levantine Hill to follow-up the inaugural 2014 Sparkling Rosé, following the appointment of winemaker Paul Bridgeman in 2013. This led to the creation of a finite quantity of single vineyard Sparkling Rosé. Displaying a fineness and vitality of bead that defies its extended ageing, this 2015 traditional method Sparkling Rosé is produced using the ‘saignee’ method (meaning to bleed in French), and it has had gentle skin contact to create the rose colour. This bringing with it an earthy nose with a hint of tannins, with aromas of brioche, strawberry danish, saltbush, rose petal, finger lime, and nutmeg undertones. The Pinot Noir announces its presence on the palate as richness and bandwidth. The extended ageing on lees has enhanced body and crème anglaise texture over a saline acid backbone with blood orange, cranberry, tarragon, and Campari-like flavours carrying through and prolonging the finish with lovely long length. The food pairing card suggests Blinis with Caviar, Smoked Salmon, and Finger Lime Crème Fraiche.  Since my visit, the 2016 vintage of this sparkling has been released.

See website here.

Coombe Yarra Valley

Once the home of the world-famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, Coombe Yarra Valley is a unique gourmet and cultural destination. Situated among seven acres of stunning gardens, visitors are treated to a world-class dining experience featuring award-winning Coombe Farm wines, against a historic, picturesque backdrop.

Located on seven acres at Coldstream, the property (established in 1909), really is the gateway to the Yarra Valley situated where the roads split to become the Melba and Maroondah Highways. A beautiful a la carte restaurant in the restored motor house and historic clock tower on the estate are destinations to dine and a popular location to celebrate weddings and private events.

The Cellar Door provides tastings of their estate-grown wines. Food options include platters to enjoy with wine or gin on the garden terrace. You can even take a glimpse into Melba’s extravagant life on a guided tour of Coombe Cottage, or the stunning 100-year-old gardens surrounded by 600m of Cyprus hedges.

The Coombe Farm Vineyards are in the heart of the Yarra Valley. Just 5km north of the Melba Estate, the 120-acre Coombe Farm vineyard is one of the oldest in the valley, and is still owned and operated by Melba’s descendants, the Vestey family. The soils are well-suited to vines growing premium cool climate grapes. Having supplied grapes to some of Australia’s most recognised producers, an increasing portion of fruit is now being grown and selected specifically for Coombe Yarra Valley Wines.

I’ve dined in the restaurant here on several occasions, and it was a lunch stop on this trip.  The food and service were both wonderful.  I tasted three sparklings at the Cellar Door before moving to our reserved table in the restaurant. ‘Dining like a diva’ was my social media caption for the day, and I love a great historical story to accompany good food and wine, and this place ticks all the boxes.

Coombe NV Estate Sparkling

50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir.

Premium estate-grown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir parcels were pressed and fermented separately at cool temperatures to retain their delicate aromatics. For the first fermentation, a portion of each was fermented in one year old French Oak to introduce complexity and weight to the blend, with the balance produced in stainless steel tanks. Secondary fermentation occurred in tank (Charmat method) and the final wine was bottled under pressure. It’s a bright and lively sparkling with aromas of citrus and white acacia and a full balanced palate of golden apples, macadamia, and hints of toasty brioche. A gentle, creamy mousse leads to a long finish. Suggested food pairing with toasted brioche, lobster, watercress and creamy aioli.

2015 Tribute Nellie Melba Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay.

The acclaimed Blanc de Blancs is Methode Traditionelle from estate-grown Chardonnay. The Tribute Series represents our finest, single site expressions. Aged on lees for 4 years before release, dosage in the Extra Brut range of 6g/L, allowing the wine to maintain the fresh, dry style you expect from a quality Blanc de Blancs.  This Nellie Melba Blanc de Blancs is distinctly Yarra Valley, with delicate hints of citrus, chalk, and spice scented flowers. The palate is vibrant, fresh, and lifted, with notes of tangy grapefruit and melon and a seamless, persistent bead. There is a fullness in the mouth, with a hint of creamy brioche and pristine lemon acidity. Suggested food pairing is freshly shucked oysters, with green apple mignonette and cucumber wasabi granita.

NV Estate Sparkling Shiraz

100% Shiraz.

I tasted the 2019 vintage on my visit. The sparkling shiraz is now a non-vintage using the 2019 as a reserve wine and bringing in later vintages.  Subtle aromatics of plum dark cherries, warm toffee, purple plums, sawn oak with a lift of raspberry. A medium-weighted palate being bright rather than brooding.  A pop of cherry and ripe raspberry, Christmas spice with a touch of marzipan, all flowing into a balanced finish of sweet fruit, dosage, and bead. Suggested food pairing is breakfast(!) – Spanish baked eggs, on chorizo, red pepper and beans, tomato, paprika and baby spinach.

See website here.

YARRA GLEN to HEALESVILLE

Vineyards in this area encompasses the sub region surrounding the small country towns of Yarra Glen and Healesville.

Greenstone Vineyards

On the edge of the town of Yarra Glen at the base of the Christmas Hills, this Cellar Door is like a unique local secret that you might only know about it if you know someone who knows, or of course are a follower of The Bubbles Review!  The winery has an interesting history and the winemaking facilities are big for a small Cellar Door. The reason for this is that Greenstone Vineyards was established in Heathcote in 2003 by global industry leaders David Gleave MW (Liberty Wines UK), Alberto Antonini (Poggiotondo) and renowned Australian viticulturist Mark Walpole. With a change of ownership in early 2015 to the Melbourne Jiang family, the success of Greenstone’s Heathcote wines led the team to explore opportunities and expand their repertoire.

The requirement to find the best locations for each varietal led the search to the Yarra Valley and acquisition of the Sticks Winery and vineyards, which was originally established as Yarra Ridge in 1983 by Melbourne Lawyer Louis Bialkower (a close friend and colleague of Australian wine legend James Halliday who assisted in the planting of the vineyard). On 33 hectares, the vineyard quickly gained recognition as a prime site for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, this is the home of the Cellar Door and Winery of Greenstone Vineyards.

“We take a sustainable approach to grape-growing, respecting and protecting these ancient sites”.

I met with John, the Cellar Door Manager, who showed me through the winemaking facilities and provided the tasting at Cellar Door.  The Cellar Door has a simple rustic feel, with large windows looking out over the deck that looks over the vineyard undulating down to the Yarra Valley and Ranges beyond.  A simple blackboard menu of platters, gourmet pies and sausage rolls is available. They also cater for private tastings and events.

Greenstone Estate Series 2011 Méthode Traditionelle

54% Pinot Noir, 46% Chardonnay.

Hand-picked and whole cluster pressed, the pristine juice was cold settled overnight. The Pinot Noir was racked together, while the Chardonnay stood alone. The first fermentation was done separately, with a very small portion (15%) in 5-year-old French hogshead oak vessels to provide complexity.

Aged on lees in tank and oak until tirage (into bottle for second fermentation) in November 2012, it was then aged in bottle on lees for 4 years.

Aromas provide a hint of oak and honeysuckle, the palate gives flavours of crunchy apple, pear, citrus, oyster shell, the fine mousse finishes with a creamy elegance.

NV Gusto Frizzante

Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir and a dash of Sauvignon Blanc.

From their Gusto range, frizzante means fizzy, and usually indicates a gentle fizz with light bubbles.  It’s an easy drinking style, perfect for relaxed summer days.  For this interesting blend, grapes were chosen from vineyard and sites for best for each varietal including King Valley, Mornington Peninsula, and their own Estate Yarra Valley vineyard.

Picked in the early morning to ensure freshness, fruit is pressed into tank upon arrival at the winery. The clean juice then undertook co-fermentation of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio in stainless steel and left on lees to build texture and complexity. An addition of Pinot Noir added for structure and complexity with a dash of Sauvignon Blanc to liven the aromatics. 7g/L of dosage added to balance the natural acidity. A light carbonation creates a textural, light easy drinking sparkle on the palate.

A bit of pear and crisp green apple on the nose. On the palate expect a soft mouthfeel bursting with flavours of quince, pear, and citrus.

Their serving suggestion is best served chilled and with friends! We think fresh oysters, any manner of seafood or, if that’s not your thing, just drink it by itself – you’ll love it!

2016 Port Phillip Sparkling

Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir.

This one is only available at Cellar Door. It’s a bit of a cleanskin style label with a blend of Upper Yarra Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from the Mornington Peninsula. It’s spent 18 months on lees in the first fermentation, and then the carbonation method used for creating the bubbles. It still in the brut range with a dosage of 11g/L. Aromas of sweet citrus blossom and cranberry. On the palate it tastes as medium to dry, with fruit tingle, apple, pears, pink grapefruit, and blood orange characters bursting then leaving the palate with savoury after taste. It’s a popular, fun, easy drinking bubbly and a great one for wine cocktails.

See website here.

TarraWarra Estate

‘Tarrawarra’ is a Woiwurrung word that translates approximately as ‘slow moving water’, and is the name given to the area within the Yarra Valley in which the Cellar Door is located.

Founders Marc and Eva Besen purchased the property at TarraWarra in 1979, initially as a family retreat. Thanks to their love of the wines of Burgundy, and with encouragement from legendary Yarra Valley winemaker Dr John Middleton, they planted the first six hectares of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in 1983. Forty years on, the 400-hectare property now encompasses 28 hectares of vines, an extensive nature reserve, cattle grazing, a kitchen garden and our beautiful Cellar Door and restaurant. The vision to create and share a unique and beautiful place is driven by gratitude to this country that opened its arms and homes when Marc Besen arrived in 1947. The team here say they continue to strive to fulfill his vision for TarraWarra, as custodians, defined by heritage and a deep sense of place.

TarraWarra Estate’s respect for sustainability and provenance make the property an internationally recognised place to visit in the Yarra Valley. The subterranean Cellar Door makes for an unforgettable tasting experience, while the deck – shaded by native peppercorn trees – and with expansive views of our surrounds, is the perfect place to linger over a glass of wine. The restaurant is a special dining experience with a menu inspired by their kitchen garden and local produce.  Outdoor casual dining is sometimes available with food provided by visiting food trucks.

You could easily spend a few hours here as located on the property is the TarraWarra Museum of Art. Since opening its doors to the public in 2003, it has been one of the cultural jewels in the Yarra Valley, providing visitors with a relaxing and enjoyable experience comprising of stunning architecture and a diverse program of exhibitions and events. The Museum of Art captures the vision of its founders, not only wine lovers, but they are also philanthropists and passionate collectors of Australian art from the 1950s to the present day. Not only did they gift the building that houses the Museum, but also a significant portion of their collection of modern and contemporary Australian art for the enjoyment of all visitors.

There was one sparkling on tasting during my visit.

2010 Sparkling Blanc de Blancs

2010 was one of the most ideal vintages, with mild to warm weather throughout the season. This sparkling is made from a single block at TarraWarra, hand-picked, whole bunch pressed, with a long, cool tank ferment. Made Methode Traditionelle the wine has spent 8 years on lees in bottle before disgorging in December 2018. Toasty bread aroma, the palate is very fine with a lovely creaminess. The line of acid gives way to a wonderful persistence of flavour.

See website here.

Boat O’Craigo

50 acres of vines, spanning across two stunning sites, enables Boat O’Craigo to produce estate grown wines across a range of noble varieties. The interesting name comes from Scottish heritage and the same name given to an ancestral family farm located in the town of Craigo near the docking point for the ferry (boat) that crossed the North Esk River.

Years later, the Graham family, with a successful road construction, pursued their love of wine by establishing themselves in the wine business in the late 1990s with the purchase of a unique property at Kangaroo Ground on an extinct volcano. They purchased a second equally unique vineyard in Healesville in 2003, which was the original Graceburn Estate site, with a view to growing and developing the Boat O’Craigo name and offerings. They extended their range and established the Cellar Door here at the foothills of the Black Spur Ranges and bound by the Graceburn Creek. This stunning site was ideal for producing the cooler climate varietals of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.

The Cellar Door has enormous floor to ceiling windows and an outside deck that takes in the vineyard and rolling hills beyond.

The friendly and knowledgeable staff provide guided wine tastings and there is a wide range of premium estate-grown boutique wines available by glass and bottle. They produce two Méthode Traditionelle sparklings, one of which is a sparkling shiraz.  Food is antipasto, pizzas, and salads. Good quality ingredients and works well to share with a table of friends or family. I visited during the summer holidays and enjoyed a lovely lunch sitting up on high tables on the deck with a great view of the vineyard and ranges. There is abundant birdlife, and the occasional kangaroo hopping by, and the staff told me that you might even be lucky enough to see wild deer or an echidna.

2020 Sparkling – Méthode Traditionelle

55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir.

This single vineyard Sparkling Méthode Traditionelle was hand-crafted from selected clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Healesville vineyard. The wine displays elegance and finesse typical of cool climate sparkling. An alluring bouquet of brioche, fresh dough and citrus blossom give way to peach and fresh nectarine on the palate, amplified by an extended period on lees.

2021 Sparkling Shiraz

100% Shiraz.

The original family vineyard at Kangaroo Ground is one of the highest sites in the Yarra Valley and is home to their renowned Black Cameron Shiraz. Taking inspiration from the success and reputation of the Black Cameron Shiraz, the release of the 2021 maiden vintage of Sparkling Shiraz is one they anticipated for many years.

It’s Methode Traditionelle, producing a rich and elegant Sparkling Shiraz. Deep red in colour, with a fine bead that dances in the mouth, and alluring aromas of blackberry, cherry, and spice. It’s only 6g/L of dosage, but gave a bit of sweet berry fruit in the mid-palate and finished dry with a bit of peppery spice.

See website here.

Upper Yarra Valley

A sub region above the Yarra Valley where the climate is known to be cooler.

Seville Estate

Dr Peter McMahon planted the first vines at Seville Estate in Victoria’s Yarra Valley in 1972. At the time others planted in more proven grounds, he chose to call the Upper Yarra home, where he said the climate is cooler and the soil holds the potential to craft wines that inspire us to explore, experiment and excite.

Today, Dr McMahon’s legacy lives on at Seville Estate. His Grandson, Dylan McMahon, is the winemaker. Dylan was on track to become an electronic engineer until he decided to follow his destiny and make wine.  “Our philosophy at Seville Estate is to capture the fruit expression of this unique vineyard, in wine styles that show cool climate complexity and finesse”.

They won the Halliday Winery of the Year Award in 2019. The Cellar Door is set amongst a native garden, high on the ridge of the Upper Yarra Valley with stunning views overlooking the vineyard and beyond.  There are lovely outdoor seating areas perfect for enjoying the wines and surrounds. If you’re planning on a mid-week visit, you’ll need to make a booking as the Cellar Door is open by appointment from Monday–Friday. Saturdays you can arrive without needing to book.

I stayed overnight here and there are a couple of accommodation options.

There is the lovingly restored Seville Homestead, built by Dr Peter McMahon and his wife Margret in 1975. The homestead offers a place to unwind and celebrate family and friends in a stunning contemporary space overlooking the pool area, native gardens, and the distant hills to the west. The homestead features four bedrooms and can accommodate up to eight people.

I stayed in the Vineyard Apartments. Three newly renovated and uniquely styled self-contained apartments that are perfect for couples. Each room features a king bed, ensuite bathroom, a kitchen, and a private balcony. There’s also a wine fridge with Seville Estate wines by the bottle to purchase. Our room looked out over the vineyard and dam.  The morning sunrise over the vineyard and watching the ducks waddle around the dam was a lovely way to wake up.

They make a vintage sparkling, and we enjoyed this in our apartment. 

Seville Estate 2018 Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay.

Fruit is hand-picked and whole bunch pressed.  First fermentation aged on lees for 12 months before Methode Traditionelle for second fermentation in bottle aged for another 32 months.  It is a ‘brut nature’ with zero dosage. The closure for this wine is a crown seal and it will age gracefully. Aromas of bright lifted fruits of melon and grapefruit. Toasted nutty aromas are well integrated with the creaminess from the lees contact. The palate shows fresh melon fruits that evolve into a complex palate with toasty notes of spice, nuts, and citrus. The mouthfeel is a lovely fine bead that finishes dry with great acidity and length.

See website here.

Meletos

If you’re overnighting midweek in the Yarra Valley it can be tricky to find restaurants open. A quick mention for Meletos – not a Cellar Door but restaurant in Coldstream. They open for dinner 7 nights a week and lunch a few days a week. They usually have some nice Yarra Valley sparkling on their wine list. I’ve dined here many times. The menu highlights local produce, they have professional friendly staff, and the cafe style restaurant is a lovely rustic style. See website here.


My Bubbly Journal is the perfect companion for your Sparkling Cellar Door visits! It has tips on tasting techniques and our favourite TBR bubbly quotes. It’s a journal for notes, for planning events and tours, keeping notes on your tastings, cellar door visits, bubbly food matches and there is a bubbly wish list as well!  See our shop page to purchase.


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Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Sparkling Women of Influence

To celebrate International Women’s Day this week, we are so excited to share this series of interviews with the Sparkling Women of Influence!

I’m the Founder of The Bubbles Review and Creator of The Bubbles Festivals. I’m a serial entrepreneur from Melbourne, Australia. My career starting in banking, but after taking some time out for travel, I realised that it was a better industry for me. Travel is a big part of my life and my career. I’ve travelled a lot and lived in different countries around the world. After learning the ropes as a tour manager in Europe, I returned to Australia at age 28, and established my first business — an inbound travel company bringing visitors from around the world to see Australia. It didn’t occur to me at the time, this was long before the ‘start-up’ trend but it was unusual for women, especially at my young age to be starting a business.

Since then, I have founded multiple businesses, with both 6 and 7 figure success stories and I have had my share of triumphs and so called ‘failures’. After closing my travel company during the GFC, I established a successful consulting, mentoring and speaking business. I like to operate from my core values, one of which is ‘fun’, which we can forget to make a priority in business. I love being able to share this knowledge with others, to help them to take their business and daily life from surviving to thriving.

I have had a love of bubbles for all my adult life. For my 18th birthday I had a champagne luncheon, and not long after that I did the tour of the historic ‘drives’ in the Great Western region in Victoria – arguably the birthplace of Australian sparkling wine, and that created an interest and love of the understanding of the methods used to create this bubbly drink.

Since then, my love of bubbles and travel has taken me to many sparkling wine regions including Champagne (several times!), and I have had the joy of meeting and interviewing many champagne and sparkling winemakers. I love everything about drinking it, as well as the stories, the romance, the glamour of bubbles, and I particularly love meeting the people.

It was around seven years ago, that I had the idea to turn my love of champagne and sparkling wine into a business and I created The Bubbles Review, which allows me the great joy of sharing stories through our blog and incorporating my 30 years of travel industry experience to run events and tours. Creating a business that means you get paid to drink champagne is awesome, and we have been listed in the top champagne blogs in different countries around the world, which is also pretty amazing! We’ve amassed a very engaged following of more than 12,000, and we receive such wonderful feedback on the sparkling wine discoveries and information that we share in our blogs, giveaways, emails to our subscriber lists and at our events.

In the last few years, I’ve ventured into writing and publishing and achieved International Best-Seller status in a series of co-author books. As an author and entrepreneur, I’m often interviewed in the media and recently I was featured in a US publication in an article on Wisdom from the Women Leading the Wine & Spirits Industries.

With almost 30 years as a serial entrepreneur, I do have examples of being treated differently as a woman in business, and have heard similar stories from the women I’ve interviewed. When women do well, so does everyone else. Businesses thrive, and families and relationships are mutually supportive. Today we are very fortunate to have had strong women come before us, but there is still more that can be done.

In this interview series for International Women’s Day, we discover the women working as communicators in sparkling wine and ask “Is it different for women in the industry?”.

In Champagne, we know of historical names of great women of Champagne, and I’ve written articles about the widows (veuves) Clicquot, Pommery and Bollinger, but little is known about the women in Champagne and sparkling wine today. Around 70% of champagne is purchased by women, but women are still under-represented on the industry side with less than 20% of winemakers who are women. It is changing, and I am excited to share these stories of these remarkable women from around the globe who each in their own way are influencing the world of sparkling.

Essi Avellan MW

Essi Avellan MW, Champagne Specialist

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about you, where are you located and what your role is as someone who has influence in the Sparkling Wine industry?

I am a champagne specialist and bubbles aficionado residing in Finland but working internationally, and of course spending as much time as possible in Champagne.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, is your main work in the wine industry or is what you do for sparkling wine a passion project? What was the impetus to start doing what you do and do you have a favourite way (online platforms) to connect with your audience?

I write for Club Oenologique magazine and The World of Fine Wine in the UK and have written several books about Champagne and sparkling wines. Right now, I am working on a grower champagne report for the Club Oenologique magazine. Champagne education is a passion of mine. Furthermore, I organise a great, 3-day champagne event – Grand Champagne Helsinki – every year. 

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

When I started to study for the Master of Wine in 2004, I felt a need to specialise to eventually get to know one region intimately. For me the choice was easy – Champagne – as I had long been an admirer of the finesse and energy of its wines. I also thought that the region not well-known at all, its wine was misunderstood and totally underrated as a gastronomic companion. A lot for me to do!

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine communicator/influencer industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

Regrettably, the world is not equal, but we have come a long way in the last decades, at least in the Western world. Lots of glass ceilings have been smashed and women have more and more opportunities. I am loving the development, especially in Champagne, where we have started to have lots of female enologists, even cellar masters – a job traditionally reserved for men.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

I gain so much inspiration from discussing and tasting with the world’s best sparkling winemakers. For the last two weeks I have been touring Champagne growers and getting to known so a many different philosophies as well as taste profiles. Its versatility is such a richness, and what is exciting is that the sparkling wine world is ever-expanding.

Do you only share information about champagne or do you feature other sparkling wines? How do you think that ‘New World Sparklings’ compare to ‘Old world’ European sparklings including champagne?

Great sparkling wines are already made at different terroirs around the world. Very often it has been the Champenois who have ventured to the New World and shown how it is done – and the culture of sparkling wine has spread all over. There are fine sparkling wines made in many cool or moderate climates of the New World. South of England is an exciting, relatively new terrain for sparkling wine. Italy is the most dynamic sparkling wine country right now, and the climate, especially in the mountain vineyards of Trentino, is superbly favourable. The development in Eastern Europe, like Hungary and Romania, is rapid and the results are most encouraging.

I believe that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared.  Can you share a fun story or one of your most joyous moments that happened in the bubbly work that you do?

I loved doing a scientific experiment in the countryside of England, where I and two other Masters of Wine rose to different heights with a hot air balloon to experiment how altitude affects the taste sensation of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. It felt like more fun than work , but we were able to come to the conclusion that champagne tastes best at ground level!

If you were to describe how you feel about what it means to you to be sharing your love of sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Pleasure, passion, profession

You can find Essi at her website here.

Lucy Edwards

Lucy Edwards,

Founder and Jewellery Designer, Champagne Every Day

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about you, where are you located and what your role is as someone who has influence in the Sparkling Wine industry?

Having worked in the wine industry for 13 years, I am a self-confessed champagne nerd. I am passionate about bringing more interesting cuvées to wine lovers and collectors of the Asia Pacific region through my export consultancy, and I enjoy sharing everything champagne through my jewellery designs, blog and contributions to various online publications including Richard Juhlin’s champagneclub.com and glassofbubbly.com.

I’m flattered to be included here on The Bubbles Review.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, is your main work in the wine industry or is what you do for sparkling wine a passion project? What was the impetus to start doing what you do and do you have a favourite way (online platforms) to connect with your audience?

My career in wine started in 2009, when I worked with the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce on the organisation of the Concours des Vins du Victoria, a wine show where Victorian wine meets the French palate, with over 600 wines judged and tasted by a group of French-Australian critics.

I then went on to work for the second largest producer in Champagne – Vranken-Pommery Monopole. Since 2020, I have been consulting to independent wineries looking to expand their presence in the Asia Pacific region. I also share my musings on champagne through my blog and Instagram.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine

started?

I come from a family of restaurateurs and hoteliers who have an appreciation for fine food and wine, and having grown up in France, champagne was a regular on our festive tables. However, it was only when I returned to Melbourne in 2009 that I was veritably seduced by champagne. At the time, I was working at the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce, and my job was to strengthen trade between France and Australia. I was conducting a trade mission with a smaller champagne house from the Marne Valley, and was expecting a very formal and ostentatious winemaker, which was the image I had of the industry at the time. The third and fourth generation owners couldn’t have been more affable, authentic, and charming, contrasting the less-than-hospitable welcome we received from some of the tough players of the market. We managed to secure two distribution agreements, which made a significant difference to their bottom line, and helped them have their organic conversion certified. From that moment on, I knew I would always have a soft spot for champagne, and decided to commit my career to the world’s most revered wine.

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine communicator/influencer industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

I think there is severe under-representation across the entire industry!

In 2020, only 27% of wineries in France are run by women. This certainly has increased since my birth year (the horrible vintage of 1987) when there were less than 14%, but it highlights the fact that it’s an industry that with not achieve parity any time soon.

As a woman working in the champagne business for the last 14 years, I have seen my fair share of sexism. Men offering to buy my wine in exchange for sexual favours, men with less experience being promoted before me, or male buyers telling me that my female palate was irrelevant (even though women are twice as likely to be super-tasters than men. FACT.)

Unfortunately, this is the same issue in every industry – unconscious and conscious bias is pervasive. And if young women don’t see people who look like them in all ranks of the industry, they can’t imagine themselves in those roles. This is particularly true in for communicators, who become the face of the industry.

Therefore, it is our role, as “influencers” or “communicators” to create the new face of the wine industry.

One in which women are present and represented in equal proportion. One in which young women can see themselves building career.

One in which female students can recognise a true career path that will enable them to reach new heights.

For too long, and for generation after generation, we have seen men take over, leaving little room for women to make their mark on the industry. And although I have the occasional bout of imposter syndrome, this is something that drives me to put myself and my ideas out there, and help other women to do so as well.

For centuries, champagne has been known as the Wine of Kings, and King of Wines. With 70% of champagne is bought by women, I think it now needs to be baptised The Queen of Wines and Wine of Queens!

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

I have always been inspired by the story of Madame Pommery, who took up the reins of their newly purchased wine business after the untimely death of her husband in 1858, just months after the birth of their daughter. Not only did she create the first commercialised brut champagne and build up the business to over one million bottles per annum, but she was also the first person in France to create retirement and health funds and a workplace creche for her employees. She founded an orphanage and became a war hero when she scared off Prussian soldiers with a revolver hidden under her crinoline, and saved French doctors on death row during the Franco-Prussian war.

Do you only share information about champagne or do you feature other sparkling wines? How do you think that ‘New World Sparklings’ compare to ‘Old world’ European sparklings including champagne?

Although I do love the occasional English sparkling, and have a soft spot for Ed Carr’s late disgorged vintage Arras, my specialty is champagne, and why I named my website Champagne Everyday! And as they say: Il n’est champagne, que de Champagne – champagne only comes from Champagne.

I do, however, work with wineries from all regions of France and Australia through my export development business CED Agency.

I believe that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared. Can you share a fun story or one of your most joyous moments that happened in the bubbly work that you do?

When I started working in champagne, I fell head over heels in love with the wine. I wanted a way to share my love for the wine, so I started making sterling silver corks to be worn as necklaces, earrings, and charms. Fast forward four years, and I have expanded the range to create small quantities of handmade jewellery including a collection of 18ct vermeil muselets.

During my visit to Champagne in September last year, I was lucky enough to have private tours of some of the iconic houses. Whilst in the reception area of Billecart-Salmon, I met a wonderful American champagne educator who exclaimed “We are wearing the same necklace!” It just so

happened that she was the first person to buy one of my rose gold muselets! It made me feel like we were part of this secret champagne lovers club and spurred me on to create more exceptional pieces. I am now expanding the collection to include matching sets as well as limited edition pieces with gemstones.

If you were to describe how you feel about what it means to you to be sharing your love of sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Joyfulness, conviviality, and the eternal thirst for knowledge

You can find Lucy at her website here

Cynthia Coutu

Cynthia Coutu, Chief Bubbly Officer, Delectabulles

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about you, where are you located and what your role is as someone who has influence in the Sparkling Wine industry?

I am Canadian and have been living in Paris for over 30 years. I founded Delectabulles five years ago. “Delect” means to savor, and “bulles” means bubbles. It started as a champagne networking club for expat women living in Paris. At the beginning I only hosted champagne workshops specifically geared towards women. The goal was to give women the tools and confidence to understand what style of champagne they preferred and why, for them to experience pairing different kinds of food with different styles of champagne, try the same champagne in different styles of glasses to see how the shape affects the bubbles and aromas, to give them tips about how and where to shop for champagne, and all that while getting to know other like-minded women living in the City of Light.

Delectabulles has since expanded. Non-members from around the world can attend the champagne workshops (but men need to be accompanied by a woman). Once a month I also partner with a female entrepreneur and we co-host a bubbly event to showcase her business (e.g. artist who paints champagne, chef, writer, inventor of shoes with interchangeable heels, makeup artist, etc.). I also host fun workshops about other sparkling wines (e.g. Boules et Bulles – guests learn how to play pétanque and about fizz). I also organise and lead bespoke tours to Champagne to learn even more about le champagne (the wine) and la Champagne (the region). The excursions now occupy most of my time. I also occasionally judge champagne at international wine competitions.

What makes me different from other champagne educators or guides is that I only use champagnes made by women during my workshops in Paris, and I only take guests to visit champagne houses where women play an important role. It is my small way of supporting women in the male-dominated wine industry. I am also currently researching the role of women in the history of Champagne for a book project. I think I will call the book ‘Bubbly Badasses’.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, is your main work in the wine industry or is what you do for sparkling wine a passion project? What was the impetus to start doing what you do and do you have a favourite way (online platforms) to connect with your audience?

I obtained a BA in Fine Arts (Photography) in Canada, then came to France to do a Masters in Art History at the Sorbonne. My love of wine and cheese kept me in France. After 20 years working at the Canadian Embassy in France and the OECD, I hung up my international civil servant hat and pursued my passion. I studied wine at L’Académie du Vin and L’École du Vin, and am certified Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 3 with Merit.

At wine school I realised two things: 1) the more you learn about wine, the more you realise there is to learn about wine because it touches on everything – history, geography, chemistry, agriculture, etc. That is why I decided to specialise in champagne – the king of wines and the wines of kings! 2) I also realised that the wine industry in France was male dominated. That is why I decided to only use champagnes made by women, and to teach women about it. They buy 70% of champagne, so it is important for them to understand the different styles, champagne, and food pairings, and how to get the best bang for their buck.

My favorite way of connecting with champagne-lovers is definitely in person, especially during harvest. I love bringing guests to witness the beehive in the vineyards, tasting the juice fresh off the press, and introducing them to the women behind the bottles.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

I vaguely remember splurging on a bottle to bring to a champagne party when I was a starving university student in Canada. That was about 35 years ago! I don’t remember what any of the bottles tasted like. I only remember the festive side of it, and feeling like a queen drinking champagne all night! It wasn’t until I left wine school six years ago that I developed a passion for champagne. That is when I really started discovering just how complex its production was compared to other wines. A still wine made from just one grape variety from just one year seemed boring compared to a champagne, which can be a blend of eight different grape varieties, single or multiple plots, single or multiple villages, vintage or multi-vintage, stainless steel or oak winemaking vessels, etc. The diversity of styles of champagnes fascinates me!

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine communicator/influencer industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

This might be a generalisation, but when I look at Instagram accounts, I find that accounts managed by men tend to be a series of photos of bottles. The more expensive the bottle the better. Captions usually include lots of very detailed technical notes. It feels like they are showing off and saying: “Look how big mine is!”. When I look at accounts managed by women, I see mostly selfies of young women all glammed up, often revealing lots of cleavage, holding a bottle. Captions hardly say anything. I call that: “Bottles and Boobs”. And it drives me NUTS! It goes against everything I am trying to do with Delectabulles. I joke that I try to empower women one bottle of champagne at a time.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

It isn’t one person in particular. It is an association of nine women in Champagne called “La Transmission, Femmes en Champagne”. They are from different sub-regions in Champagne, different ages, and play different roles is their champagne houses. They formed this association to support each other and transmit their knowledge. You can find out more information about them here.

Do you only share information about champagne or do you feature other sparkling wines? How do you think that ‘New World Sparklings’ compare to ‘Old world’ European sparklings including champagne?

I host workshops about other styles of sparkling wines. In April, for example, I will be co-hosting one with a fellow Canadian wine professional. She will be bringing over some sparkling wines from Nova Scotia and British Columbia, made using the traditional method, and by women of course. We will explore the differences between these wines and Pet Nat, Prosecco, Franciacorta, Cava, Sekt, Crémant and Champagne – so different styles from both sides of the pond. One is not better than the other. They are different, and understanding the differences is the fun part.

I believe that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared.  Can you share a fun story or one of your most joyous moments that happened in the bubbly work that you do?

Champagne has the magic power of transforming an ordinary moment into an extraordinary moment. My Instagram account is chock-a-block full of stories of precious champagne moments that I have created and shared with fellow champagne-lovers. Perhaps one of the moments I am most proud of was taking a deaf person to Champagne for the day and witnessing his joy learning about the wine with Charlotte de Sousa, a producer who knew sign-language. That said, champagne doesn’t always have to be shared. I have been known to pop a cork when I finally get around to vacuuming my apartment. Definitely a cause for celebration!

If you were to describe how you feel about what it means to you to be sharing your love of sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Onwards and upwards, like a champagne bubble!

You can find Cynthia at the Delectabulles website here

Blaine Ashley

Blaine Ashley, Founder, New York Champagne Week

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about you, where are you located and what your role is as someone who has influence in the Sparkling Wine industry?

I’m based in New York City and I’m the founder of both New York Champagne Week (NYCW) and The FIZZ is Female, the latter of which promotes and celebrates empowerment of women around the world in the bubbly wine business be they winemakers, boardroom execs, or sparkling wine lovin’ side hustlers. 

Can you tell us a bit about your background, is your main work in the wine industry or is what you do for sparkling wine a passion project? What was the impetus to start doing what you do and do you have a favourite way (online platforms) to connect with your audience?

I’ve been in the hospitality business for 22 years, and the wine and spirits event/marketing focused business for the past 13 years having launched NYCW 10 years ago. YAY! This year, we’re celebrating our 10-year anniversary!

I’ve fully dedicated my work to this business since launching NYCW in 2013 and in 2018, I debuted The FIZZ is Female making this year our 5th anniversary. The impetus for me to launch NYCW was to market the champagne lifestyle in an accessible, approachable, affordable fashion to remove the stodginess from traditional champagne marketing and make it an everyday wine sipping beverage consideration. The goal was to make champagne FUN! and to demonstrate that champagne isn’t just for traditional celebrations – weddings, birthdays, bridal showers. Rather, every day is cause for celebration and a great day to open a bottle of champagne.

The FIZZ is Female was born out of my own trials and tribulations of launching a wine-centric business in an extremely male dominated industry. I wanted to create a forum and a safe space to encourage conversations, direction, and programming for women in wine with aspirations to have the courage and confidence level up and evolve. The FIZZ is Female is a support system and connecting tool for all women in sparkling wine around the world – not just champagne.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

Yes! I was 19 and was working as the head hostess at famed beachfront restaurant in O’ahu, Hawai’I – Michele’s. Michele’s is an authentic, French restaurant in my home state of Hawai’I, boasting the most stunning sunset views over the ocean and is well known for countless proposals. I always got to see champagne bottles being opened at proposals and often got to taste the champagnes that were being poured at the celebrations. My passion for the art of champagne was born and bred during my time at Michele’s. Shout out to my GM-Philip Shaw who really groomed me for the champagne lifestyle 🙂

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine communicator/influencer industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

Of course! We’re totally outnumbered. This said, I’m blown away by the progress we’ve made in the past ten years since I started NYCW. There are many more women in C-suite positions and an influx of women winemakers. When I started, family-run wineries almost always put the women in marketing positions. That was a female’s place.

This said, I can’t say how many times I’ve told someone I work in champagne, and they say “For which brand?” or I mention NYCW and they say “So what’s your role?”, or “Who’s your boss?”.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

Women in this industry have been the most inspiring to me. Two standouts are Rita Jammet and Michelle DeFeo. Rita is a force in NYC’s food and beverage industry, having co-owned former restaurant La Caravelle in mid-town Manhattan. La Caravelle was a stomping ground for NYC aristocrats and glitterati alike, as well as a hub where several of the city’s best chefs cut their teeth, or knives in some cases. During her time at the restaurant, Rita launched La Caravelle champagne as an amenity for VIP guests and after its closure following 9.11, Rita continued with the champagne as Chief Bubble Officer (aka owner, ambassador) and today, it continues to be one of the top-poured brands at some of the best restaurants in NYC. Rita continues to expand La Caravelle’s footprint nationally having launched in California a few years ago. Being a pioneer in the private label champagne space is incredibly inspiring, as are Rita’s close relationships in the business. Everyone loves Rita and her reputation precedes her, proving that relationships are everything in the business.

Michelle is the President of Champagne Laurent-Perrier. Michelle has over two decades of experience in the wine industry and has spent over 15 years with Champagne Laurent-Perrier US. Michelle is responsible for growing the brand presence and awareness throughout the country as she leads a pre-dominantly female sales and marketing team. Michelle’s role is quite entrepreneurial, filled with calculated risks, and twists and turns. Let’s just say as an avid entrepreneur, I can relate!

I also admire Michelle’s determination to expand her knowledge and skillsets while climbing the corporate ladder. During her ascension at Laurent Perrier US, she invested in attending business school, attained the WSET Level 3 certification and is a Certified Sommelier. Michelle is an exemplary example of doing it all!

Do you only share information about champagne or do you feature other sparkling wines? How do you think that ‘New World Sparklings’ compare to ‘Old world’ European sparklings including champagne?

New York Champagne Week strictly promotes and markets champagne made in the Champagne region of France.

I do appreciate other sparkling wines however, and that’s where the Fizz is Female comes in. With this platform I get to shine a spotlight on other regions that produce stellar, premium sparkling wines. I’ve been thrilled to get to work with the Cava DO the past few years to get Cava Discovery Week off the ground and pay homage to top notch Spanish sparklings.

Franciacorta and Trentodoc continue to impress me with their méthode traditionnelle styles.

And, surprisingly, I was recently introduced to Armenian sparkling, and it totally blew me away, in particularly – Keush – the first traditional method sparkling wine crafted from only Armenian Indigenous varieties. Keush’s grapes are sourced from vineyards 1,750 metres (nearly 6,000 feet) above sea level and grown in volcanic soil. They are some of the highest vineyards in Armenia and the world. They also practice méthode traditionnelle.

Other than this, being a beach and bubbly lover, I’d love to get to know Baja sparkling a bit more – many of which, I understand, are female made. Vinos espumosos boast a wide spectrum from traditional-method wines styled after champagne to minimal-intervention natural sparklers such as pét-nat. The region has minimal appellation-based rules and is thus more flexible and creative when playing with grapes and styles.

I believe that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared.  Can you share a fun story or one of your most joyous moments that happened in the bubbly work that you do?

I’ve been fortunate to have many memorable and joyous moments throughout my 10 years of NYCW. At the core, I believe that good food and drink is best experienced with friends and family. My 40th birthday was pretty special and absolutely joyous. I spent it at my best friend’s family beach condo in San Diego with some of my nearest and dearest.

Many brands I’ve worked with through the years sent me a magnum or special bottle to celebrate with. I was overjoyed, as I didn’t expect so many beautiful bottles to be sent my way for my milestone birthday. I was thrilled to get to enjoy them with some of my best friends and family over a beachside sunset, reggae music, build your own taco bar and an epic Flour Shop confetti cake that Rita Jammet shipped over to me from NYC. It was the PERFECT day!

If you were to describe how you feel about what it means to you to be sharing your love of sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Bubbly (quite literally), Happy, FUN!

Anything else you would like to add to your comments?

I hope to clink glasses with you all this year at one or ALL our 10th Anniversary festivities for New York Champagne Week!

You can find Blaine at the NYCW website here

The Champagne Chick

Linn aka The Champagne Chick

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about you, where are you located and what your role is as someone who has influence in the Sparkling Wine industry?

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, I grew up on a wine farm, although I don’t drink wine at all, I only drink champagne, a whisky every now and again and I love cocktails – even better if they’re champagne cocktails.  Having a son who is a mixologist who crafts bespoke cocktails is definitely a perk as well.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, is your main work in the wine industry or is what you do for sparkling wine a passion project? What was the impetus to start doing what you do and do you have a favourite way (online platforms) to connect with your audience?

The Champagne Chick is my Passion Project. It came to life a few years ago purely out of my love for Champagne, initially sharing fun quotes and info on my Facebook and Instagram to a small following. Fast forward about two years, one specific champagne quote later, and the pages went viral.  My aim is to share everything and anything champagne-related – from industry news, to where to get the best deals on champagne, locally as well as abroad, champagne-inspired merchandise, and everything a girl would need to live the champagne life.  My favourite platform currently is Instagram.  What gives me most joy is introducing people to new, unknown champagne houses and growers, and to get people to broaden their tastes to experiment with new champagnes that they would not normally try.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

Growing up in a wine producing country where local sparkling wine has risen to enviable heights, I have been drinking “bubbles” since my late teens/early twenties, but my very first encounter with champagne was on my 21st birthday and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine communicator/influencer industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

Yes, I do feel that as women in this industry we are not taken quite as seriously as our male counterparts.  However, today there are many, many highly successful female influencers and educators that are making great strides to carve out their place, and there are more and more people willing to listen to what they have to say.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

The tenacity, innovation, and the sheer determination of the founding mothers of Champagne such as the widow Clicquot, Lily Bollinger and Louise Pommery to name just a few, is truly inspiring.  What these women managed to achieve in the 1800 and early 1900s is nothing short of greatness.

Do you only share information about champagne or do you feature other sparkling wines? How do you think that ‘New World Sparklings’ compare to ‘Old world’ European sparklings including champagne?

I only share information about champagne.  Although there are many sparkling wines produced in many countries across the globe, the intrigue and romance surrounding champagne and the history of the region is really something quite special.

I believe that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared.  Can you share a fun story or one of your most joyous moments that happened in the bubbly work that you do?

The most joyous moments of what I do in and around champagne and the industry is undoubtedly when I get to travel to Champagne.  Ideally, I try to visit the region every 18–24 months, and with the COVID lockdowns, I really had Champagne withdrawal, so the moment the borders re-opened I booked the first of a few trips to Champagne during 2022.

If you were to describe how you feel about what it means to you to be sharing your love of sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Passion, Inspiration, Joy.

Anything else you would like to add to your comments?

I like to not take myself too seriously and love a good champagne quote.  My most favourite is actually one of my own – “You don’t eat the same meal every evening, why would you drink the same champagne every day?”

You can find The Champagne Chick on her website here.

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Here’s cheers to the fabulous women of Champagne

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Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Tips for staying bubbly with sparkling

When it comes to waking up feeling fresh after a night out, bubbles often get a bad wrap, and I see it as one of my missions in life to help people understand what the issue might really be and develop the art of indulging without the headache.

When I tell people about The Bubbles Review, mostly I get an excited response, but sometimes people tell me that “I tried champagne when I was younger and it made me sick, so I haven’t drunk it since.”

My next question is to ask when that was. If it was as a teenager, I then ask if they know what they drank? My response is usually that is more likely the quality of the fizz they were drinking, than it was champagne. And it is probably more than likely that they were not actually drinking champagne!

“Bubbles gives me a headache.” Once I again, I tend to ask a few more questions. I would suggest that it was the quality (and perhaps the quantity) of the drink, not the bubbles.

If I am handed a glass of bubbles at a function and I don’t know what it is, and at first sip I get a hint of a headache in the making, I’ll sit out and drink a glass of something else, even sparkling water. I’d rather feel good the next day than drink bad wine, and life is too short to drink bad sparkling!

I also ask what they drank after the champagne? The story then leads onto the other drinks they had. I find mixing the drinks is often the issue. If I stick to good champagne or sparkling and drink water in between, I wake up fresh the next day.

Tasting sparklings in tasting pours and having little food tastes in between is one of my favourite ways to try sparkling wine. It’s a great way to test to see the different wine styles that you like, and it is why we chose this format for one of our main events – The Bubbles Festival. Even with tasting pours though, the amount you taste can be surprising. We do indicate that to our guests before they come, and a 2-hour tasting session is the perfect amount of time to taste a responsible amount and still leave bubbly. If you then go and drink more afterwards, that’s not the result from our event!

I sat in on an interview with Clovis Taittinger from Champagne Taittinger a few years ago, and I loved one of his quotes – “Taittinger will look after you.” You’ll still wake up fresh the next day.  

But let’s add a bit of scientific research into the mix.

Bubbles go straight to my head!

There have been a few scientific studies conducted at different universities around the world that indicate that with bubbles, you get a faster rate of absorption. It is thought that the carbon dioxide (bubbles) move the alcohol through your system more quickly. This can produce higher blood alcohol levels (and brain levels), if you drink sparkling wine as opposed to something non-carbonated. It’s also been mentioned that this effect may also occur with carbonate mixers in other alcoholic drinks and drinking carbonated water along with wine. I’ve then read interpretations that some scientists go on to say that it is this that makes the hangover worse and to avoid champagne. I would argue that there could still be a range of factors to consider. My personal interpretation is that if it moves the alcohol through your system more quickly, and you pace yourself accordingly, and have a gap between glasses and stay hydrated in between, then you’ll be more likely to have it out of your system earlier.

We want to keep those beautiful bubbles! Not only do they add to the mouth feel and experience of them bursting onto your palate, but they also contribute to the flavour and aroma of champagne, because they oxygenate the wine after it’s poured and this diffuses compounds in the wine with them as they rise.

And you’re consuming less alcohol than with a lot of still wines (or spirits), as most sparkling wines are lower in alcohol. Proseccos are usually around 11%, and champagne and other sparklings around 12–12.5%. Other wines are usually around 13–15%.

This article includes my interpretation of information and personal opinion. I’m not a scientist, or a medical expert, so if you are having reactions from drinking bubbles then please seek further advice. We do not suggest that anything in this article represents medical advice or a replacement for medical advice.

A small sip gives me a headache – let’s explore some possible causes.

It’s the sulfites

There is a heap of research about this, and at The Bubbles Review we try to keep things simple, rather than quoting all the scientific data. I’ll break it down to a few points that might be of interest, and if it piques your interest or concern, I suggest you investigate further.

At our Sparkling Masterclasses and The Bubbles Festivals, I often get asked about sulfites. It’s like a ‘buzz word’ that people have decided they are bad without really knowing anything about them.

Sulfites are found naturally on grapes, and sulfur is also commonly added in small amounts at the beginning of fermentation and prior to bottling. Typically, red wines have about 50–350 ppm (parts per million), and white wines have more because of the sensitivity to light, heat, and discoloration with about 250–450 ppm. The general litmus test for sulfites sensitivity is dried fruit. Dried mangos and apricots contain about 4–10 times as many sulfites as wine (1,000–3,000 ppm).

Preservative (INS 220) (popularly known as sulphur dioxide), is a food additive that is used as a food and wine preservative. Its main role is to prevent enzymatic and bacterial spoilage of food products. The use of sulphur dioxide goes back to Roman times, where they would use it to help preserve wine. It is commonly added in foods and beverages like dried fruits, pickled vegetables, sausages, fruit and vegetable juices, cider vinegar and wine.

Preservative (E 224) is a food additive that is a well-established and proven preservative used in the wine and food industries. It is a white crystalline powder that is a potassium salt of sulphurous acid. Preservative (E 224) is commonly added to wine or must (crushed grape juice – that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit) in which it forms sulfur dioxide gas (SO2). This helps prevent micro-organisms from growing, and it acts as an antioxidant, protecting the colour and delicate flavours of wine. It is also used to preserve the taste of dehydrated foods and makes these foods more palatable. It is also used to preserve frozen vegetables, frozen shellfish, fruit juice, and pickles and increases their shelf-life.

About 1% of the population is allergic to sulphites and some people have a reaction to certain preservatives – namely 220 and 224 – that are often found in wine. These allergic reactions can be severe, and if you think it is a concern, it is a good idea to get tested. It is because of the health concern for the sensitive population, depending on the country you’re in, wines with sulfites (the limit amount may vary in different countries), anything above 10 ppm must be labeled with ‘contains sulfites’.

From the research that I have read, for most of us it is probably more likely the tannins or a reaction to another compound. Here is a breakdown of a few:

Sulfites – Naturally occurring substances in wine that are created as part of the fermentation process. Additional sulfites are often added to wine prevent oxidation and maintain freshness. Sulfites also naturally exist in eggs, teas, and other fermented foods, plus sulfites are added to other foods (like baked goods) to help maintain freshness.

Tannins – Naturally-existing compounds in plants with extremely astringent properties, contributing to bitterness and the dry mouth feeling present in bold wines (such as cabernet). Tannins are heavily present in all parts of the grape plant (seeds, skins, and stems), therefore red wines (that are typically fermented with these parts), tend to have more tannins than white wines. They are less present in most sparklings, as they don’t typically spend time on skins after pressing. This is certainly something to keep in mind, as some people are sensitive to tannins.

Tyramine – Another natural food-based phenomenon, this compound is created from the breakdown of a specific amino acid and is also often found in aged or fermented foods like cheese and wine. High amounts of tyramine in the blood can affect blood pressure.

Histamine – Yet another compound created through the fermentation process, histamine is also produced by the body’s immune system. A specific enzyme is needed to process histamine and those with lower levels of this enzyme may experience adverse effects.

There are some producers making sulfite-free wines, and this could be something for you to explore. If you’re have a reaction with sulfite-free wines, some recent research suggests that the culprit is more likely to be a group of compounds called biogenic amines (BA). Present in all fermented food and drink, BAs increase with food spoilage. They’re produced from amino acids via enzymic activity in living organisms like microbes, most often a subset of bacteria. The best-known biogenic amine – histamine – is produced when microbes remove carbon dioxide from the amino acid histidine. Histamine is also produced by the body and is involved in immune and allergic responses.

Cheap Fizz

There are many methods and tools that winemakers use to make wine, and with sparkling this includes the first fermentation process to create the still wine, and then the second fermentation process to create the bubbles. 

For the second fermentation, it takes years to create a traditional method sparkling, which is why this wine will usually have a higher price tag. Quicker methods are the Charmat or Tank Method, which can be done in weeks. It has spent time on lees (yeast), which creates complexity, but not a great length of time or concentrated as it is not in bottle but in a large tank. It creates a wine displaying more fruitier characteristics. Another method that is used that is the cheapest method is pure carbonation. This is adding Co2 to a still wine – yes just like a soda stream!

Spumante just means Sparkling Wine in Italian. But if you were drinking sparkling wine in Australia in the 70s and 80s, you may remember colloquially the ‘spu’ part of this word was used to describe some wines. The trend was for very sweet and cheap wines on the market. Don’t let the name fool you, we have some lovely sparkling wines from Italy available in Australia today. If you see the name Spumante on the bottle, it just means sparkling, no need to think back to your teenage years.

Cheaper wines can often mean cheaper processes, or additives to try to emulate qualities of more complex wines. This can include higher alcohol and added sugar. Price is not always an indicator, but it often is.

Sugar in wines

We are noticing a trend for low or no sugar wines on the market. Looking after your health by seeking drinks that are low in sugar is a good idea. The good news is most sparklings are already low in sugar! If it says Brut on the label, which most champagnes are, it is somewhere between zero to less than 12 gms of residual sugar. If it says Extra Brut, it is the drier scale of Brut at below 6 gms, and Brut Nature or Brut Zero is 0–2 gms. Confusingly, higher than Brut on the sweetness scale is Extra Dry – you’ll often see Italian sparklings like Prosecco in this range, which is 12–17gms. Then it goes Dry, Half Dry then Doux, which is sweet at 50gms or more. I have noticed some companies promoting champagnes in the Brut Nature or Extra Brut as Keto wines. Yes, they are ‘Keto’, but they are designed for the wine style not a diet, just look for Brut Nature on the label. In the Extra-Brut range, it calculates at up to around 0.9 carbs per serving. Brut is up to 1.8 carbs per serving. Compare that to a potato at around 37 carbs. And your glass of bubbly is low calorie too, with the Brut range at less than 100 calories. You don’t need to buy bubbly sold as low sugar, just learn to read the labels. If you are interested to discover more about sweetness levels and labels, we cover this in our Tasting Techniques Masterclass in our online Bubbly Appreciation Course.

Now that we’ve finished the research bit, here are a few tips for staying bubbly!

Moderation – of course, consumption of alcohol in moderation is recommended.

Keep hydrated – it’s often easy to forget but keep hydrated and drink a glass of water for each glass of bubbles.

Eat something when you drink – food helps absorb alcohol. Champagne and sparkling wine is often served as a ‘pre’, an aperitif, the drink that you have before a meal. I do argue that champagne can definitely be paired with a full course menu, and I opt for this and tend to stick to champagne all evening. It’s also why we include food at our events including The Bubbles Festival. A good food match can also enhance the food and wine experience, as well as providing some absorption for the alcohol.

Invest in quality sparkling – if you’re drinking in moderation and staying hydrated, and still waking feeling ‘dusty’, it may be the quality of wine that you’re drinking. As I’ve matured in age (just like a fine wine), I’ve changed my preference to quality over quantity. I’d much rather have one glass of something of quality than more than that of cheap fizz. If you’re getting a headache from bubbles, it could from methods of cheap winemaking, which are often high in residual sugar and other additives.

Investigate the reaction

There are a lot of factors that can be causing a reaction. You could try some alcohol-free days in your week to see if it changes how you wake in the morning. I know when I had some gut health issues, I was still waking with low energy, even if I hadn’t had bubbles, and I understood there were other lifestyle aspects that needed to be addressed. If it is of concern, then seeking medical assistance and getting tested for allergies may be of benefit.

If you think it is a histamine reaction, tannins do cause reactions in some people and headaches are a possibility. If you are sensitive to tannins, then you may also have that reaction when drinking red wine or tea. Tyramine may also be to blame, as it can affect blood pressure and has also been suggested to cause headaches. If you also get a headache after eating aged cheeses, smoked fish or cured meat independently of wine, this may be a sign you have a tyramine sensitivity. You could investigate these and if it is the case with these, it is probably the same with all wines, not just bubbles. Antihistamines might be a relief if you find yourself suffering from this.  

While sulfites can trigger reactions, and it seems that this is not typically headaches. There isn’t much science supporting the link with sulfites and headaches. Wine contains about 10 times fewer sulfites than dried fruits and several other foods, and if you’re not having a reaction to these, the sulfites in wine are probably not affecting you either.

On the other hand, for those of you who know or think you might be part of the 1% of the population who is allergic to sulphites or have a reaction to certain preservatives, avoiding products containing these are one solution. There are also a few products making their way onto the market that are aimed at helping you lower tannin and sulfite levels in wine, as well as rehydrate after a couple of glasses. While they are not TGA (or FDA in USA) approved treatments, they offer some interesting options. I recently tested Glow After, a product that you add a drop into your glass to negate the presence of sulphites. I tried it at home with a few different glasses of sparkling, and I detected a slight difference in aroma, bead, and flavour after adding (but I do have a sensitive nose and palate). If you think you’re having a reaction to preservatives, this could be something to try. This brand is Australian-owned by two female entrepreneurs based in Newcastle, NSW. The purpose of the preservatives to keep the wine pristine before you open it, but they are not necessary once the wine is poured. This product claims that by adding a drop, the level of sulphites left in your glass is so little that it is considered preservative free.

Bubbles with low or no alcohol

If you wanted to lower your alcohol consumption, there are new no or low alcohol wines coming onto the market that include sparklings. This can be a good way to still be out enjoying being social drinks with friends. I haven’t tested them but let me know if you do and if you have any feedback. Here are a few things to consider when choosing no or low alcohol alternatives.  

Fermentation to create wine is what creates the alcohol. Winemakers work with this fermentation to get the desired end result of alcohol for their drink. It is also part of what creates the body in wine.

Some non-alcoholic wines are created using wine grape varieties that haven’t gone through the vinification process. They are really a varietal grape juice – pressed to get juice, but never fermented. More likely to be fresh and fruity like a juice.

What is becoming more prevalent is dealcoholized wine, going a step further than bottled varietal juice by taking fully vinified wine and then removing the alcohol. This process is more likely to produce something that tastes more like a ‘normal wine’. Some people tell me they can’t tell the difference.

Then there are Proxies. As the name suggests – a proxy is someone with the authority to represent someone else – they are not really a wine but are designed to emulate wine. Unlike dealcoholized wine, which is a wine first and then has the alcohol removed, proxies are made by layering ingredients like varietal wine grapes, fruits, teas, spices, bitters, and more, to produce the complexity, tannin, texture, acid, and body intrinsic in wine. Many proxies are designed specifically with a food pairing in mind. It does make me think it would be more like an iced tea that tastes like wine, or maybe a wine mixed with spice.

Don’t drink late at night

My favourite time for bubbles is lunch, afternoon, or early evening. Start early, home early. Time to recover before bed. You’ll see the timing for our events reflects this trend as well. Alcohol is known to cause dehydration, drops blood sugar levels, depletes minerals, and can disrupt your sleep. A good tip is to finish early (after dinner at latest), and drink a few glasses of water after your bubbles. Make sure you have a few alcohol-free hours before bed. It will help take out that 4am wakeup call you sometimes get after drinking alcohol (which alternative medicine practitioners have told me is the time your liver wakes you up processing the days events).

Have a bubbly morning

Ok, we like it for breakfast too! It’s the breakfast of celebrities, according to the quote from Marilyn Monroe “I go to bed with a few drops of Chanel No. 5, and I wake up each morning to a glass of Piper-Heidsieck; it warms me up.” As much as I love a champagne breakfast (and I do this on special occasions a couple of times a year), I’m not suggesting we take wellness advice from celebrities or that you drink champagne for breakfast daily. I find a glass of good quality sparkling mineral water will give you a lift in the morning – not just soda water, as it is the mineral replacement that makes the difference.

At The Bubbles Review we like to debunk the myths and make the art of drinking champagne and sparkling wine accessible. We do that with our blog, our courses, and events and tours. If you found this article interesting you may also like our:

Bubbly Appreciation Course

Events and Tours

The Bubbles Festival

Why that is not a glass of champagne that you are drinking

Stay bubbly – cheers!

Like to keep following us, get first look at events, receive bubbly information and be in our giveaway draws and have a chance to win a bubbly prize? You can join our list, it’s FREE to join here.

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Champagne for the holiday season

What champagne to serve during the holiday season!

I often get asked – what is my favourite champagne? I try to avoid answering, sometimes I joke that I answer that like a politician – meaning, I don’t answer the question. Or liken it to having to name a favourite child.  I love so many different champagnes and sparkling wines and what I choose depends on a range of factors – what’s the occasion, what is the budget, what is the weather, what food are you serving, what do I feel like, who are you drinking it with …?

But I am feeling the Christmas spirit, so here are a few answers to your questions on champagne for the holiday season!

Which lower price range champagne(s) do you recommend for Christmas and NYE and Why?

Piper-Heidsieck’s Brut Non-Vintage (NV)

If you want to drink champagne like a celebrity for an affordable price, Piper Heidsieck is the go-to. One of the oldest champagne houses, with history dating back to 1777.  The label boasts Queen Marie Antoinette, a lover of bubbles, as their first ‘brand ambassador’. From Chinese Emperors to European royalty, Heidsieck and Co (as it was first known), was given the privilege of a Royal Warrant from 14 royal and imperial courts.

In Hollywood, fans include classic celebrity names like Bogart, Gable, Astaire, and Marilyn Monroe famously declared in 1953: “I go to bed with a few drops of Chanel No. 5 and I wake up each morning to a glass of Piper-Heidsieck; it warms me up.” It’s still celebrated in style in modern day Hollywood, in recent years as the official champagne for the Oscars.

In Australia, we see brand recognition for Piper-Heidsieck NV as an entry level non-vintage cuvée. You’ll often see it on special with a price-based promotion, especially at Christmas time. I managed to find it at a real bargain price this year! The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is usually true, you may think that the entry level pricing, indicates less quality. Not so in this case.  The Chef de Cave’s (Chief Winemakers) at Piper have been awarded best winemaker nine times since 2002.

There’s freshness, fruitiness, acidity, and nice maturity. A blend of the main three Champagne grape varieties, with around Pinot Noir (50%), Meunier (30%), Chardonnay (20%), the blend has more than 100 different crus from vineyards across Champagne and has been aged for four years on lees. Which is much longer than most NVs. As a good Non-Vintage should provide, you get consistency, and quality, you know you’re drinking champagne with that toasty complexity, but it is still light and bright. Perfect for New Year’s Eve party drinking!

What would you pair with this champagne?

This can easily be served on its own, for a food match it is very versatile. It can work with fresh seafood, like oysters or lobster, or fish like salmon cooked in a creamy sauce. Because of the amount of red fruit in the blend, it can also pair with a range of dishes, like roast chicken, or duck and lighter red meats. Appetisers like, charcuterie, smoked salmon blinis, and hard cheeses like shaved parmesan, or cheesy dishes or cheese tarts, will also work well.   

If you have cash to splurge, which champagne(s) do you recommend for Christmas and NYE and Why?

A few tips on choices here.  For me, it depends on the party. If I’ve selected a top champagne or vintage, I would serve this in an intimate gathering.  A few select people, select good glassware (no skinny flutes), take time to introduce the wine, so that people appreciate the wine and the tasting experience. 

You could choose to try a vintage from a Champagne house of your favourite NV.  A Vintage, reflects the year of the harvest, so it is a different expression in the glass.  Or choose a grower or small maison champagne for a terroir or single vineyard experience.  You could probably find something around $120-$150. 

If you want to splash with a prestige name that you know of and buy the best that you can for your budget for that label.  Here’s a quick check on Christmas specials, I see that Krug, is around $365, Dom Perignon at around $350.  Krug at this price is a NV, known for highlighting a prestige multi vintage (MV) style, and Dom for producing vintage only. The Dom vintage available at most retail stores at the moment is probably 2012, but you might find earlier vintages at some places.  If you love Louis Roederer Cristal like me, you’ll need a bit more budget at around $450.

If you are having lots of people over, I would suggest that ‘bigger is better’!  Instead of a vintage, go for a magnum of a NV champagne.  Magnums are known to be the better size for producing quality champagne and we are now getting more and more brands selling champagne in magnums in Australia.  They look impressive and will be a hit at your party.

What would you pair with this champagne?

A vintage champagne can work well as food pairing with richer meals.  The longer ageing, means more complexity in the glass. In saying that, I sometimes prefer to serve it on its own, or with small tastes, so that you can really appreciate the richness of the wine. Things like, truffles, mushrooms, chestnuts, can work with a richer wine. It does depend on the wine and the blend, sometimes they are still very bright and fresh. Depending on the vintage, the Dom Perignon sometimes displays a salty brininess that will work well with fresh oysters. Check the tasting notes with the bottle to help you decide. 

Of course there are many lovely Aussie sparklings and other old and new world sparklings to enjoy at Christmas. We’d like to give a big shout out to our giveaway partners in 2022, some bubbly favourites and some new sparkling discoveries.  You can see the links to their websites below:

Lost Farm Tasmaniahttps://lostfarmwines.com.au/

They have also provided a discount offer exclusively for The Bubbles Review Subscribers. If you would like to make a purchase you can use the promo code: BUBFEST23 to get 15% off all orders over $150. (Excludes shipping fees)

Wicks Estate

Mordrelle Wines

Champagne Philippe Fourrier from Unwined Liquor

Mezza, Rotari and Champagne Jacquart from Single Vineyard Sellers

Golding Wines

Levrier by Jo Irvine

RIEDEL – The Wine Glass Company

Cheers to a bubbly holiday season!

You may also like these other blogs:

Christmas in champagne

Why is champagne so expensive

Tips for drinking champagne on a budget

Why that is not a champagne you’re drinking

How to choose the right glassware for your bubbles

Like to keep following us, get first look at events, receive bubbly information and be in our giveaway draws and have a chance to win a bubbly prize? You can join our list, it’s FREE to join here.

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Sparkling Women of Australia

To celebrate International Women’s Day this week, we are so excited to share this series of interviews with the Sparkling Women of Australia!


I have had a love of bubbles for all my adult life. For my 18th birthday I had a champagne luncheon, and not long after that I did the tour of the historic ‘drives’ in the Great Western region in Victoria – arguably the birthplace of Australian sparkling wine. Since then, my love of bubbles and travel has taken me to many sparkling wine regions including Champagne (several times!), and I have had the joy of meeting and interviewing many champagne and sparkling winemakers. I love everything about drinking it, as well as the stories, the romance, the glamour of bubbles, and I particularly love meeting the people.


Around six years ago, I had the idea to turn my love of champagne and sparkling wine into a business and I created The Bubbles Review, which allows me the great joy of sharing stories through our blog and incorporating my 30 years of travel industry experience to run events and tours. Creating a business that means you get paid to drink champagne is awesome, and we have been listed in the top champagne blogs in different countries around the world, which is also pretty amazing!


I think that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared, and it has been an honour to interview these remarkable women working in the Sparkling Wine industry in Australia and share their stories with you.

Natalie Fryar

Natalie Fryar, Proprietor/Winemaker, Bellebonne Wine Company

BELLEBONNE

Our Sparklings: Bellebonne Vintage Rose, Bellebonne Vintage Cuvee, Bellebonne Vintage Blanc de Blancs, Bellebonne ‘bis’ NV Rose

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about what your role is in the Sparkling Wine industry?

I have been fortunate enough to have been making sparkling wines in Australia since 1996. It was when I took a role at Seppelts Great Western winery with the specific goal of learning everything I could about sparkling wine growing and making and I simply fell in love with all things sparkling.

From then I made sparkling wines from most regions across the nation including Tasmania, whose fruit completely seduced me and now I have my own sparkling wine company in Tasmania, Bellebonne.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, have you always worked in the wine industry? What is it about Sparkling wine that is particularly exciting?

I did my high school work experience at Hardys Reynella winery, way way back when I was in year 10, and never looked back, I love the wine industry and have enjoyed every year since. It is a wonderful way to connect with the world, from growers to sommeliers, wine lovers and everyone in between.

For me wine can capture a moment in time and speak directly of a place, and each time you taste that wine it can transport you to then and there. Nothing more so than sparkling wine, its beauty, elegance and longevity, and it natural connection to the celebrations we most treasure in our lives means that it is always my most loved wine style.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

Whilst I can’t remember the first time I sipped bubbles, I distinctly recall the moment that my life changed forever, and I made the decision to dedicate myself to making great sparkling wine. It was in the mid 90’s at Great Western and I had the pleasure of tasting a decades old sparkling from the beautiful underground cellars, or ‘Drives’ with some winemakers of infinitely more knowledge and experience than me. Being able to taste a wine that maintained its freshness, beauty, and sense of place after so so long in bottle and to see its greatness through the eyes of such skilled winemakers sent a jolt through me and that was that!

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

It is different for women in the wine industry, as it is for women in almost every industry, especially those that are traditionally male dominated. Across our society I believe, and hope, that change is happening. I have great faith in the new generations of women and men coming through, they give me hope that old ways of people from all minorities and marginalized groups being excluded and worse from our industry are disappearing. There is much more work to be done, but the rewards are so great. We have a wonderful industry, and most importantly beautiful wines, and to share that equally with ALL people who want be part of the creation and support of that is a beautiful thing.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

I’m inspired by so many people, those that first saw Tasmania as an incredible sparkling wine opportunity who are still making it on their own terms today (Andrew Pirie ), those that have held the torch high around the globe for the great Sparkling wines of Australia (Ed Carr, Tyson Stelzer),  those that dedicate their entire lives to crafting the most beautiful wines imaginable, wonderful friends and winemakers across Champagne. But importantly I’m also inspired by the next generation of winemakers and communicators that see the greatness of what we have here and want to make their own mark on the landscape of sparkling wine.

How do you think that Aussie Sparklings compare to international sparklings including champagne?

All great wine, sparkling wines included of course, is the same in this way; it is a reflection of the winemakers passion and belief about the place, history and climate of their particular patch.

The greatest sparkling wines from around the world have this in common and are therefore entirely individual.

My excitement about an incredible champagne is matched by my excitement about an incredible Tasmanian (or other) wine. The Champenoise do have the advantage of hundreds of years of winemaking practice, honing skills and understanding the unique characters of their vineyards, and the sheer scale of their industry, but I believe that the wines made here truly great also.

What is the wine making philosophy that drives the sparkling wine production at your winery?

For me it is all about trying to capture the pristine fruit power and elegance of Tasmanian fruit. In turn hoping to capture something magical about this place. I try to frame my wines around the fruit first, and then build the longevity and complexity around that. 

If you were to describe how you feel about working with sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Inspiring, Challenging, Delicious!

Emily Swift

Emily Swift, Owner and Marketing Manager, Printhie Wines (producers of Swift Sparkling)

Printhie Wines

Our sparklings: Swift Sparkling – Cuvée, Rosé, 2014 Vintage, 2017 Blanc de Noirs, 2011 Blanc de Blancs

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about what your role is in the Sparkling Wine industry?

As a family owned business we tend to do everything across the business but officially I do look after the marketing for Printhie Wines and our traditional method Swift Sparkling range.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, have you always worked in the wine industry? What is it about Sparkling wine that is particularly exciting?

I haven’t always been involved in the wine industry, but have always had a deep connection with the land and agriculture which is, I believe, fundamental to understanding wine. I grew up on a cropping and stock property 60kms north west of Dubbo in New South Wales. From there I studied communications and after several years overseas I came back to focus on my corporate marketing career in the utilities and agriculture industries. My first appreciation for wine came from an unlikely source. Whilst working on private yachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean I was fortunate to learn about the great wine houses of France. Serving Cristal, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Yquem to name a few. These wines were often served during the one dinner. My interest was piqued and I began to learn about wine. It was by pure chance that I ended up marrying Ed Swift, whose family had just started Printhie Wines and I moved to Orange, NSW. Whilst being involved in the family wine business for the last 17 years it has only been in the last three years that I have joined the family business full time. After several trips to Champagne the business decided to commit to making traditional method sparkling. We knew this was a labour of love – why else would you make a sparkling wine and then put it away for 10 years before seeing a return! We started Swift Sparkling in 2010 and we now have 5 sparkling wines in our portfolio. Twelve years down the track and our Swift Cuvée was awarded Best Australian NV Cuvée at the Champagne and Sparkling World Wine Championships in London at the end of 2021 and Swift has been awarded Best Sparkling in NSW for the last four years.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

It would have to be when I first experienced Cristal. I was at St Barts in the Caribbean working on a private super yacht which was chartered by Puff Daddy (Sean Combes). The only alcohol he ordered for his 7 day charter was Cristal. When he found out it was my birthday he took me (and a couple of deck hands) to a restaurant on the island for dinner. He grabbed some bottles of Cristal before we left the yacht and continued to spray them out of the window of the taxi all the way to dinner – what a waste! I was completely hooked from there and the rest, as they say, is history.

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

Having worked in male dominated industries for my whole working life I’m used to dealing with predetermined opinions of what your role and capabilities must be, purely based on your gender. Even when I was a senior manager in my last role I would often get asked by men to do some photocopying for them simply because I was the only female in sight. The wine industry has a long way to go like many others but I do feel there is a better awareness and heightened appreciation of the skills females in the wine industry can and do contribute. There are also some great mentoring programs in the industry that can provide career support for women so I think we should be positive about the career prospects for women in this industry.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you?

Can you share a bit about how or why? We admire Pierre Peters, based in Mesnil sur Oger (Champagne region), France. They are a family-owned champagne house that has continued to adapt and modernise their brand. We often chat to them about sparklings so it’s great to have a connection with a forward thinking Champagne house like theirs.

How do you think that Aussie Sparklings compare to international sparklings including champagne?

Our sparklings are totally on par with champagne and its incredibly frustrating that if you put down a bottle of Australian traditional method sparkling and a champagne, people will automatically grab the champagne. We need to educate Australians that we make stunning traditional method sparklings. Whilst relying on age old knowledge of crafting champagne, we have the freedom to produce new age sparklings that challenge the staus quo. Based in the cool climate region of Orange NSW, we have the perfect growing conditions for sparkling wine. The grapes for our sparklings come from the vineyards located 1000 metres above sea level – we call this the snow line. If it snows in Orange it snows down to 1000 metres every time and provide the perfect acidity for sparkling wine bases.

What is the wine making philosophy that drives the sparkling wine production at your winery?

Our philosophy is to make wine that shows our connection to the land. Our sparklings are truly representational of cool climate craftsmanship from the fertile slopes of the extinct volcano Mt Canobolas from vineyards around 1000 metres above sea level. Basically we focus on fruit purity and time. It starts with the vineyard being in top condition and then giving the wines time to develop their true characters.

If you were to describe how you feel about working with sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Passionate, fortunate, excited

Dianne Gardiner

Dianne Gardiner, Owner (and chief marketer, taster, and consumer) Rahona Valley and the Australian Cuvée Centre

www.rahonavalley.com.au

www.australiancuveecentre.com.au

Our Sparklings: Rahona Valley Cuvée Blanc, Rahona Valley Sparkling Rosé NV, Rahona Valley 2017 Vintage Rosé, Rahona Valley 2015 Blanc De Noirs – Late disgorged

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about what your role is in the Sparkling Wine industry?

In 2014, my husband and I purchased a small vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula, and from there our love of sparkling grew. The previous owner had made sparkling wine, and so we started to learn more and more about the process and fell in love with it. We were then introduced to Natalie Fryar, Australia’s ‘Queen of Rosé’ who started working with us in 2018, and she elevated our sparkling products immediately and showed us what more we could do. It was only then that we realised how technical sparkling winemaking is, how easy it is for things to go wrong, but also how rewarding it is when you get to taste the magic three years on.

We then had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase some fantastic sparkling wine equipment, and that lead us to establish the Australian Cuvée Centre, which is a dedicated facility on the Mornington Peninsula to assist other winemakers make great sparkling wine. With Natalie and Alisdai Park (our sparkling winemakers), we now have a facility that combines world class expertise with world class equipment to elevate sparkling winemaking.

We have more recently embarked on producing sparkling wines from Tasmania, as well as from the Mornington Peninsula, and this is now part of our journey. Helping educate consumers on the magic in the bottle that is sparkling wine, and helping them appreciate the differences, expertise, time and patience that goes into making a great bottle of sparkling. 

What is it about Sparkling wine that is particularly exciting?

It really is a case of science meets art – and it is truly magical what can happen inside the bottle, given the right amounts of love, care, attention and time. 

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

When we disgorged our first bottle of sparkling, and then later sat down to drink some of it.

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

Women are underrepresented in wine industry for sure, but we are slowly seeing that changing. What is great to see at the forefront of our sparkling wine industry are some fabulous Australian women including Natalie Fryar, Louisa Rose, Jennifer Doyle, Kate Laurie and Cate Looney. I think women add something special to sparkling winemaking.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

Working with Natalie Fryar has been amazing. She is awe-inspiring. Not only is she an amazing winemaker, whether you’re a consumer just starting out, or an experienced winemaker, Natalie has a knack of pitching the conversation at exactly right level.

How do you think that Aussie Sparklings compare to international sparklings including champagne?

Champagne have done a phenomenal job of marketing Champagne, and the rest of the world has done little. As Australian’s, we love Champagne, but most who drink it fail to appreciate the subtle differences, and fail to understand that other countries, including Australia, make fantastic sparkling wine too. We just can’t call in Champagne. And then there’s Prosecco, which is a different wine altogether, but again, few Australians understand the difference.

I think some of the best traditional method sparkling wine in Australia can absolutely stand up proud alongside Champagne and other international sparklings. Ed Carr has proven that, and the rest of us just need a little more time to get there. 

What is the winemaking philosophy that drives the sparkling wine production at your winery?

Our philosophy is there is no point doing things by half measures. Sparkling winemaking takes dedication and commitment well beyond most other wines. That means we need three things: premium fruit, knowledge and expertise in sparkling winemaking, and quality facilities to maintain the integrity of the product throughout its life.

We need to start with great fruit (grown for sparkling wine), and then it is our job to turn those grapes into the best sparkling wine we can produce and care for it as it develops and matures – maximising the return from the premium quality fruit in every way we can.  Only then have we done our job.

If you were to describe how you feel about working with sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Brave, excited, challenged.

Jane Bromley

Jane Bromley, Winemaker, grapegrower and owner. Honey Moon Vineyard

Honey Moon Vineyard – Adelaide Hills

Our Sparklings: Honey Moon Vineyard Blanc de Blancs 2017 and Honey Moon Vineyard Rosé Brut 2018

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about what your role is in the Sparkling Wine industry?

Honey Moon Vineyard grows grapes and makes wine in the Adelaide Hills, to produce fine sparkling wine via the traditional method (aka Méthode Traditionnelle). We also make table wines and fortified wines. Our presence in the wine sector is tiny, but we are hugely passionate about what we are doing.

I also conduct sparkling wine and champagne classes, mainly for university students as part of their sensory/wine tasting training. This is such an honour, as these students are the future viticulturalists, winemakers, wine biz professionals and wine influencers in Australia and around the world.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, have you always worked in the wine industry? What is it about Sparkling wine that is particularly exciting?

The history, science, alchemy, and art of wine have long held my interest. It has been many years since my first experience of an Adelaide Hills grape harvest (in 2001), and since planting our vineyard in 2004, and I remain fascinated and energised by working in wine.

The old-world wines and vineyards of Europe are a source of inspiration and underpin my many years of work as a wine educator on Champagne.

I have also had the privilege of two interesting and rewarding careers in the university sector –firstly in plant science research and later in enterprise-wide professional roles concerning policy development and implementation, legislative compliance, and enterprise bargaining.

Sparkling wine is particularly fascinating for me as it demands a lot of attention to detail, so it is interesting to make, and it also brings lots of joy to consumers.

I have a long-held interest in the historical, cultural, social and technical aspects of Champagne and was fortunate to be awarded the Vin de Champagne Award in 2002 and the Diploma d’Honneur Corporation des Vignerons de Champagne in 2009.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

I don’t recall my first taste of sparkling wine but a chance glass of a vintage champagne at a special art event astounded me … how can a wine be so fresh, so delicate, so powerful, so light, so detailed, so textural and so elegant!  After that, I kept finding great examples of sparkling wine and was hooked.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

Two women pop up brightly in my thinking – Adelaide Hills winemaker Kate Laurie and SA-based wine writer Katie Spain. 

Kate makes excellent sparkling wine. She is involved in fine detail of every aspect from the grape to the final glass, she is a very knowledgeable and down-to-earth speaker and an inclusive advocate for Adelaide Hills sparkling wine.

For me, the story behind a wine is really important – where it comes from, why, how it plays a part in the social and cultural fabric of people’s lives, etc. Katie Spain has a huge passion for the stories and people behind wine. She tracks them down and writes about them beautifully.

These women inspire me and make me feel extra pleased to be a fellow woman working in wine.

How do you think that Aussie Sparklings compare to international sparklings including champagne?

I think that we are very well served by the quality and variety of sparkling wine available to us in Australia, from our own wineries and also from imported offerings. 

Champagne holds a unique position as the international benchmark for the very best sparkling wine. The champenois grow grapes in a very cool climate, and make their wine using insights and methods honed over many centuries. Champagne thus provides inspiration for those who aspire to make cool-climate, traditional-method, sparkling wines here and abroad. 

Australian traditional-method sparkling winemaking has been evolving over many decades, and these days has carved out its own identity in the premium wine sector.  To quote Ed Carr, ‘Australian sparkling wine began moving in two directions from the mid-80s onwards … There’s the volume stuff that’s made to a price point, and the premium sector, which took off as people started pushing to make cool-climate, traditional-method sparkling wines.

And then there’s the Proseccos, Moscatos, Pet Nats, fresh/appertif sparkling wines fermented in tank, sparkling reds, and so on, that are also available to delight our taste buds and grace our tables.’  

What is the wine making philosophy that drives the sparkling wine production at your winery?

Our philosophy is simple: pay attention to what is happening in the vineyard; take what nature gives us each vintage with gratitude; be gentle with the grapes; make the best base wine we can in our mature French oak barriques, to set the wine up for eventual graceful maturation on yeast lees; be creative at the blending stage; disgorge in small batches to maximise time spent on lees, gaining complexity and texture while retaining freshness. Our intention is to make sparkling wines that have interesting flavours and textures, and that are always refreshing to drink.

If you were to describe how you feel about working with sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

I think that it is a privilege.

Vanessa Bagot

With written permission from Smudge Publishing

Vanessa Bagot, Owner, Barringwood, Tasmania

Barringwood

Our Sparklings: Classic Cuvée, Blanc de Blanc, Tasmanian Cuvée, Schonburgersekt

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about what your role is in the Sparkling Wine industry?

As the owner, I have oversight across all aspects of the operations of the business and making sure each of our team members are happy and productive in the roles they play. From an execution point of view, my focus is on strategy, marketing sales and finance. I set the direction for our wine styles.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, have you always worked in the wine industry? What is it about Sparkling wine that is particularly exciting?

I have a psychology degree and a Master of Commerce in marketing, and I spent most of my pre-wine career in Market Research working with business across a wide range of industries from Fast Moving Consumer Goods to niche industrial products and government. We bought Barringwood in 2012 because we thought it would be a nice hobby/distraction … it turned into more of an obsession. I love the fact that sparkling wine is associated with joy. I love the complexity in the process of making it so there can be so much variety from the same starting point.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

It wasn’t the first time, but I have a very strong recollection of buying a particular bottle of Champagne when I was 19 in 1989.  I spent the year waiting tables in Cambridge UK being paid £1.50 an hour, and shortly before I left, I went into a bottle shop and splashed out on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and decadently sipped it in a park on the banks of the Cam! 

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

It feels to me that women in the industry are very visible, very successful and respected … but I could be wrong!

How do you think that Aussie Sparklings compare to international sparklings including champagne?

Tasmanian sparkling is amazing and compares very favorably with regards to quality and value with international sparkling, including Champagne.

What is the wine making philosophy that drives the sparkling wine production at your winery?

We get to work with an amazing base product because our vineyard is climatically perfect, and our long, cool growing season allows sugars to accumulate while maintaining natural acidity. Our winemaking philosophy is to do as little as possible and work with the wonderful fruit nature delivers.

If you were to describe how you feel about working with sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Fortunate, challenged and fascinated.

Kate Laurie

Kate Laurie, Owner/Winemaker, Deviation Road

www.deviationroad.com

Name of sparklings produced: Altair Brut Rosé, Loftia Vintage Brut, Southcote Blanc de Noirs, Beltana Blanc de Blancs

We’re so excited to include you in this interview series. Tell us a bit about what your role is in the Sparkling Wine industry? 

Primarily my role is that of a sparkling winemaker for our own small family winery, however I would have to add I am fairly good at tasting them as well! I love to share what I know and often give masterclasses on tasting champagne and sparkling wines. I am always surprised at how interested people are in focusing on the technical side of the wines as much as the flavours in the glass. 

Can you tell us a bit about your background, have you always worked in the wine industry? What is it about Sparkling wine that is particularly exciting?
Having lived and studied in Champagne in my late teens, my winemaking passion has always been to master the art of creating quality sparkling wines with their own regional context. Together with my husband Hamish, those early aspirations have been realised through the wines we produce under our Deviation Road brand. Even after about 20 years making sparkling, I am always so excited when it comes to releasing each wine after its time on lees to see the magic that has happened during the second fermentation and subsequent ageing process. There is always a level of mystery involved that no science or numbers can predict will show up in the end product.

Can you remember when you first sipped ‘bubbles’ or when your passion for sparkling wine started?

I discovered sparkling when I went to live in Champagne. To be completely honest, I didn’t drink much wine when I moved there, and was frantically reading my dad’s copy of Bryce Rankin “How to make good wine” before I started school! 

I do remember being mesmerised as much by the bubbly deliciousness in the glass as the descriptors my host family used to describe the aromas and flavours to look for. I left Australia after a run of 18th birthday parties, where I can safely say the attention paid to the celebratory toast sparkling was lacking compared to this new world I found myself in. My eyes were opened to the creative beauty that could come with a career that fundamentally allowed me to indulge my passion for science – which I loved, but didn’t want to spend every hour in a lab, so discovering wine and viticulture was the perfect occupation for me.

Considering International Women’s Day. Do you think it is different for women working in the wine industry? Can you share some thoughts on this?

When I started out as a winemaker it was very much a male dominated industry. I was lucky to have supportive male role models who believed there were no barriers – physical or emotional – to me fulfilling my dreams. At Deviation Road we try to empower our entire team that they can do it all. Hard work, a good attitude (and sense of humour) go far. It is my nature to be very hands on with all facets of the business – from driving the forklift and digging out fermenters to meeting with the creative team, so they have no choice really but to follow my example!

I am aware, however, that my situation is quite unique, and that for many women in the industry they have had to overcome more hurdles than I have. You still hear about women that have left good jobs after finding out that a male doing the equivalent was being paid more. That is inexcusable.

Is there someone in the sparkling wine industry who inspires you? Can you share a bit about how or why?

I am massively impressed by Jane Bromley and Hylton McLean from Honey Moon Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills.  They are passionate about their craft as well as have an incredible knowledge of champagne and sparkling styles. They are also extremely humble and dedicated to making a very small amount of exceptional sparkling wine … all by hand and disgorged to order.

How do you think that Aussie Sparklings compare to international sparklings including champagne?

Without a doubt there are world class Australian sparklings coming from pockets all around the country. The highest quality examples I’ve tasted haven’t necessarily come from the traditionally ‘famous’ regions, but from people of incredible grape growing and winemaking talent. It takes serious commitment in every step of the process to have all the aspects align in a harmonious bottle of sparkling. Traditional Method is labour intensive, takes patience and is expensive to make.  Georgia from Georgia Dale Wines in Victoria is so gutsy and passionate about perfecting sparkling and her first release Blanc de Blancs was very exciting. You get a sense of her strength and dedication in the wine, mirrored in the power of the aroma and structure on the palate. Heading up to Orange in NSW, Printhie wines, are creating excellent age-worthy sparklings under their Swift Sparkling label. Then, of course, in Tasmania you have Arras that leads the way in complex aged sparkling under the meticulous eye of Ed Carr and his team. Delamere also in Tassie is one that also impresses repeatedly … to name a few! Back here in the Adelaide Hills, DAOSA is leading the way in oak aged base wine adding layers of complexity. Anyone interested in increasing their knowledge of Australian Sparkling has a fun journey ahead – shop at a small independent retailer, as they will have specific knowledge of the styles and be able to guide you through a whole year or two’s tasting journey!

What is the wine making philosophy that drives the sparkling wine production at your winery?

We value the elements that make the wine, not the hand of the winemaker. The dream is to produce a glass of sparkling that showcases a hint of that season, gives a nod to the region it came from, and a wink to the gods of time who nurture it through the years before it is ready to be released.

If you were to describe how you feel about working with sparkling wine in three words, what would they be?

Thrilling. Crazy. Fortunate.

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Here’s cheers to the fabulous women of Champagne

Adelaide Hills Sparkling Cellar Doors

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Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Adelaide Hills Sparkling Cellar Doors

Located in the Mount Lofty Ranges east of Adelaide, the ‘hills’ are known for their cool climate grape varieties and wines. The highest vineyards are sited between 600-650 metres altitude in areas such as Crafers, Summertown, Piccadilly and Carey Gully. With over 90 wine labels, and 50 cellar doors, they are acknowledged internationally for their distinctive premium wines, viticulture and stunning scenery. 

I had been to the Adelaide Hills before, but it was many years ago. I knew there were some lovely sparklings being produced there, but I hadn’t realised the extent. Diverse in terms of climate, soil and topography, I hadn’t expected to find a sparkling wine paradise. 

An easy day trip from Adelaide, you can be tasting at a Cellar Door in around half an hour. There are two registered sub-regions, Lenswood and Piccadilly Valley, and a lot of sparkling producers are grouped together within easy travelling distance between each other. 

To really relax and have a nice day out, it is much better to book a driver for the day. I spent a few days in the region and travelled with two different companies. Touring Adelaide South Australia, have luxury eight-seat vehicles, and the owner Darryl and his team are Adelaide Hills locals and provide small charters, tours and transfers. This option worked well for me travelling on my own for a day, and I also had a few friends join me for one day of touring, and I booked my transfer to the airport direct from the Adelaide Hills for my flight home with them. Darryl’s motto is “less fuss, with us”, and it was. 

Taste South Australia specialise in wine tours and is owned and run by Mary Anne Kennedy. I’ve known Mary Anne for years through my different roles in the tourism industry, and she has built a strong reputation curating specialist wine tours for international visitors. It was lovely catching up as we toured in her 8-seat Mercedes van, listening to her insights of the local area.

It is great being able to tap into this local knowledge from tour operators, as well as the input of the Adelaide Hills Wine Region association through their team and their website, which has some great search and planning tools, as does the Visit Adelaide Hills website  

I mentioned an easy day trip, but you could easily spend several days here exploring the Sparkling Wines alone.  We were very blessed to have many of these on tasting at The Bubbles Festival Adelaide, and I’ve enjoyed creating some special Bubbly Weekend tour itineraries of the Adelaide Hills for our subscribers, which we hope to be able to offer next year.

I stayed for a few nights in Hahndorf (an ideal spot to be based for local touring), and there are also a few Cellar Doors located in town.

I discovered that there is also amazing sparkling wine heritage in the ‘hills’. I love hearing the stories of the people and meeting these mainly family-owned wineries and winemakers is always one of the highlights of visiting Cellar Doors. Everyone is so passionate about the area, their wines and so friendly that I feel like I made many new friends on my visit.

While this is not a fully inclusive list of the Sparkling Cellar Doors in the region, it highlights some of the region’s top sparklings to help you plan a trip. I’ve included links to each of the Cellar Doors, and I suggest that you check opening times and make bookings in advance. During the COVID pandemic, opening times may change and availability might be limited if there are restrictions.

Penfolds Magill Estate

Magill Estate is a short drive from the Adelaide CBD, with views over the vines, the city, and extending out to the sea. There are two restaurants, with Magill Estate Kitchen offering casual dining, and the Magill Estate Restaurant offering a fine dining experience. You may wonder why I was visiting the ‘home of Grange’ on a sparkling Cellar Doors tour, but this was to experience an Aussie Champagne!

I loved taking the tour of the Cellar Door, with so much Australian wine making history. It all began with Christopher Rawson Penfold, a doctor with an eye for medicinal winemaking, who set about inventing tonics, brandies and fortified wines made from grapes and Australian sunshine. Yes, I am sure many of us can attest to drinking wine for medicinal purposes! Arriving from England with his wife Mary, they brought with them vine cuttings they had carried on their voyage. In 1844, the fledging vineyard was officially established as the Penfolds wine company at Magill Estate.

As with many of the great women of Champagne, once again it seems the business growth was under the helm of Mary Penfold. Although success was attributed to Dr Penfold, Mary, it seems, is the unsung chief of Penfolds with many of the experimentations, growth and winemaking philosophies originating from her direction. As the company grew, so too did Dr Penfold’s medical reputation, leaving much of the running of the winery to Mary Penfold, and on Christopher’s death in 1870, Mary assumed total responsibility for the winery.

Everything she knew about wine, she taught herself – insisting on having the grapes blended to her own taste. A woman standing confidently at the helm of a thriving business in the 1800s was unheard of. She’d command from a white mare, watching over the vineyard with her treasured spyglass close at hand.

When Mary retired, she ceded management to her daughter, Georgina. At the time, Penfolds was producing one third of all South Australia’s wine. By 1907, Penfolds had become South Australia’s largest winery.

The next big moment in the Penfolds history was in 1948 with the arrival of Max Schubert as the company’s first Chief Winemaker. Known for creating Penfolds Grange in the 1950s (with techniques and varieties he learnt in France), I was surprised to discover the first releases were not popular. The Australian tastes of the time were more suited to a sweeter wine than a dry red table wine. Max was ordered to cease production, but continued to do so in secret, which turned into a blessing – with bottles of Grange now commanding huge prices at auction.

But I wasn’t there for the Grange, I was there for the champagne, and I was very fortunate to have Zöe Warrington, the Penfolds Australian Ambassador, escort me on a private tour. The champagnes are not usually on tasting at the Cellar Door but are available by the glass in the restaurants.

Of course, there are no longer any Australian produced sparkling wines that can be labelled champagne. This co-branded label is a collaboration with family-owned Champagne House Thiénot, which has created the first Penfolds limited release champagne. Thiénot is a respected player in the world of Champagne, but this was also hands-on involvement from Penfolds.  The wines represent the joint efforts of Thiénot, Chef de Cave, Nicolas Uriel who, together with Peter Gago, Penfolds Chief Winemaker, shared agreed style and quality ambitions, and Peter was hands on throughout the blending and tirage stage to create these champagnes – made from grapes sourced from prestigious and highly regarded Grand Cru vineyards in Champagne from the spectacular 2012 vintage.

The launch was held to symbolically celebrate the Penfold 175th anniversary, and a wonderful French and Australian wine alliance that produces these limited release champagnes.

Chardonnay Pinot Noir Cuvèe 2012

An inviting pale straw hue, not quite yet revealing or reflecting expectant tints of yellow/gold.

Nose: Rich and complex. Freshly cut hay, honeysuckle, scents of crème brulee and toffee apple. Classic champagne chalk.

Linear and defined. All engulfed by an ethereal, softened and almost fairy floss caress.

Palate: Pecan, Brazil nut, apple and spice. Lovely fruit fullness on the mid-palate finished with seductive tension from the acidity.  Complete and expressive.

Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2012

The ideal was to create an extraordinary 2012 Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru. A champagne worthy of celebrating Penfolds past, present and future.

Lovely pale yellow/straw colour it is 100% Chardonnay from Avize.

Nose: A harmonious ascent of citrus (primarily lemon zest) intermingled with wafts of subtle florals (white lily). From the patisserie – just-baked madeleine, a hint of nuttiness (fresh almond) and scents of light honey. Hints of barley sugar/confectionary mingle with delicate white and yellow stone fruits

Palate: Linear and defined. All engulfed by an ethereal, softened and almost fairy floss caress. Notes of lemon sorbet and vanilla pannacotta, with a whisked light cream. A measured generosity of flavour with a suggestion of varietal savouriness and regional chalk. The complete Blanc de Blancs package.

Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru 2012

100% Pinot Noir from the 2012 vintage all Grand Cru parcels from Aÿ.

The colour is pale yellow/straw. The nose has aromas of nuttiness – more pistachio than almond.

Wafts of dried fruits aromatically verge towards that of a freshly assembled potpourri of dried flowers. Puzzlingly marmalade and cumquat high notes bely variety.

Ripe yet delicate. Upon pouring – the faintest suggestion of coffee bean. Upon sitting – crème anglaise lightly laced with dried apricot, wild raspberry. Upon waiting – ‘softened’/desirable phenolics prevail – inducing a defined finish with grip and panache.  Refreshingly long-lasting in mouth.

See website here.

Lambrooks

There is not a Cellar Door, but you may be able to organise tasting activities for groups of friends. Lambrooks have a funky warehouse in the Adelaide suburb of Norwood at which they host some pop-up wine events, as well as being available for hire.

Lambrooks is the husband and wife team of Adam and Brooke Lampit. I met with Adam, who is the winemaker at their warehouse. He told me that they were both working in the industry and knew their way around a bottle of wine. Adam (formerly working as a winemaker at Bird in Hand), is passionate about wine, they wanted to be involved in every part of the process to create their own wine.

Adam explained that Lambrook wine is about craftsmanship, friendship, family, love, passion and bringing out the best of the Adelaide Hills. Each grape variety (mostly hand-picked) comes from a small parcel of fruit, specifically selected for optimum growing potential. Lambrooks use traditional methods like hand plunging and open fermentation, and there is no compromise. If the fruit is not up to scratch, they won’t make the wine. The results are bearing fruit with Lambrook wines now included on lists in top restaurants. There are two sparklings available:

Sparks

Hand-picked then whole-bunch cold pressed for up to 48 hours. I describe this as fun and fruity.  It is a stunning salmon pink colour that parties on the palate.  A fresh and young Charmat method sparkling pinot noir of ultra-pale salmon hue, accented with tangy strawberry and elegant red-apple fruit. Lively acidity and well-integrated dosage. For those that love a Charmat method sparkling, it is perfect – light and easy drinking, refreshing and vibrant.

Emerson

This one is named after one of their daughters (pictured). Adam told me that it took until 2017 for the vintage to be considered Emerson worthy, and as a traditional method it had only just recently been released. It is whole-bunch cold pressed then bottle fermented for 4.5 years on lees. Showcasing Adelaide Hills pinot noir with depth and presence in red apple and subtle strawberry fruit, layered with the toasty, roast-nut complexity you would expect from extended ageing on lees. A noble effort for a first release, upholding the focus of cool-climate acidity, carrying the finish long and restrained, well-matched to a low dosage.

See website here.

Deviation Road

Deviation Road produces exciting cool climate wines from mature vineyard resources, where owners, Hamish and Kate Laurie, continue a five-generation winemaking tradition. Devoted to the high-altitude sites, and with Kate’s French oenology training, the wines they produce are both traditional and contemporary.

Hamish has winemaking in his blood. His great-great-grandmother was South Australia’s first female winemaker and his vineyard is one of the oldest in the region. Together with his father, he created Hillstowe wines in 1991, which became a successful international brand. When Hillstowe was sold in 2001, the opportunity arose for Hamish to build his own winery. Joined by Kate later that year, the path forward was set. Hamish occupies several roles at Deviation Road, including overseeing the business operations, chief tractor driver (and fixer), disgorger, handy man and blending partner.

Kate was 19 when she realised that becoming a winemaker was actually a ticket to her other passion, all things French. This is how she ended up in France, studying at the Lycée Viticole d’Avize in Champagne. Nearly three years later, she returned home to her family winery Stone Bridge in WA, where she worked as Winemaker for four years before joining Hamish in 2001. Was it fate or destiny that Hamish was a vigneron in the Adelaide Hills? Judging by the results, the region has proved an ideal setting for Kate to hone her sparkling style and produce the artisanal and refined wines Deviation Road have become known for.

With a fiery passion to create premium bottle fermented and aged Australian sparkling wines together with textural, aromatic wines that can genuinely cellar, their signature style is restrained, elegant and balanced. All of their wines are hand-crafted using traditional wine making techniques and are vegan friendly.

Deviation Road’s winery and cellar door are a short drive from Stirling. The Deviation Road experience combines a spectacular garden setting surrounded by vineyard and heritage listed bushland together with a sophisticated wine and all-day grazing food menu that heroes local seasonal product.

Seasonal wine flights are available, and by appointment only they also have a Disgorging Experience that includes a hosted winery tour and disgorging, where you get to create a custom dosage of a bottle of Altair, which you can take home, followed by a Noble Cuvee wine flight featuring their four current release sparkling wines. I was fortunate to be there at a time that they were disgorging, which they do onsite. I also had the pleasure of meeting Kate, she generously took the time to sit with me to talk through the wines.

Deviation Road 2017 Loftia Vintage Brut

Chardonnay 55%, Pinot Noir 45%

The aim when blending Loftia is to create a sparkling that will gain complexity with age, as well as show the perfect balance between the line and precision from the chardonnay and the power from the pinot.

The wine is tiraged (bottled) by hand and stored for second fermentation. After a minimum of three years, the first batch is riddled and hand disgorged on site at their Longwood winery. Small batches are disgorged at a time to allow the remaining bottles to continue ageing on lees as long as possible.

Loftia is famously crisp and zesty, the perfect aperitif style sparkling wine. Aromas of lemon zest on the nose precede the creamy mousse and citrus finish. Flavours of crisp apple, fresh citrus zest, oyster shell minerality with a citrus finish on the palate. Enjoy withBBQ scallops.

Deviation Road Altair MV Brut Rose

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay

Kate explained that the Pinot Noir gives the Altair power and riper red fruit aromas and Chardonnay produces citrus lift and gives the wine finesse. This is a Multi Vintage (aka Non Vintage) in the assemblage (blended) method, which means that some still red wine is added to the blend to create the rose colour. The benefit of the MV wine is that reserve wines from previous years is added to enhance depth and complexity.

Sweet strawberry, cherry and spice aromas follow through to the palate, experienced as delicate mid palate fruit, with crisp finish and wonderful length.

95 Points – 2021 Halliday Wine Companion

94 Points – 2020 Tyson Stelzer’s Australian Sparkling Wine report

Top Gold (95 Points), Adelaide Hills Wine Show 2018

Sparkling Rosè of the Year, Tyson Stelzer 2017

Southcote Blanc de Noirs 2017

The Southcote is a vintage wine created to showcase the best parcel of Pinot, and it is only produced in exceptional years, from 100% Pinot Noir. I tasted the 2017, the 2018 has since been released. The fruit is chilled at harvest and immediately whole bunch pressed into stainless steel tanks. Minimal skin contact, produces this lovely Blanc de Noir (White from Black).

Fresh red apple and raspberry aromas with toasted biscuit notes adding complexity. The palate has a lovely creamy mousse finished with crisp citrus acidity, balanced by a low dosage. Quince, red apple, raspberries, rhubarb crumble and sweet spice.

Beltana Blanc de Blancs 2013

Kate explained to me that precision freshness is the Deviation Road DNA. It is certainly highlighted in the Beltana, their flagship prestige cuvee. I tasted the 2013, the 2014 is now also released and has been awarded the Halliday Wine Companion Best Sparkling Award 2022.  The Beltana is produced using 100% Chardonnay grapes selected from the cool south-facing slopes high in the Adelaide Hills. A persistent fine bead, creamy mousse, clean minerality and is delicate on the palate. The nose had lovely nut and toasty hints, flavours of green apple, baked lemon curd tart, and a lovely crisp mouth-watering finish. The Beltana is aged for minimum 5 years, as is disgorged on demand, which means that some will be even later than that. The one I tasted had been aged for 7 years. Accolades include 96 Points – Huon Hooke and 96 Points – Tyson Stelzer.

See website here.

DAOSA at Tapanappa

DAOSA stands for Dedicated Artisans of South Australia and is owned and managed by husband-and-wife team Xavier Bizot (great nephew of Lily Bollinger) and Lucy Croser (daughter of Brian Croser) Brian started Croser sparkling and was one of the first to plant vineyards in what is now known as the Adelaide Hills wine region. The Cellar Door is located at the Tapanappa Winery, where some of the original vineyards where Croser was grown are retained. DAOSA is the sparkling wine brand, they have recently added a tasting experience at Cellar Door featuring the DAOSA sparkling wine range, as well as a selection of their TERRE à TERRE still wines.

I met with Xavier at the Cellar Door, and he explained to me that they grow all their fruit from their vineyards in the Piccadilly Valley. Obviously passionate about the area as a sparkling region, he explained to me that this location is the highest, coolest, wettest part of the Adelaide Hills, which makes it the perfect climate for quality sparkling wine production. Although we know the term ‘terroir’ as a feature of the soil, it also includes climate and growing conditions. Xavier mentioned there are around five different soils contributing to the impact of the terroir on the fruit. These ancient soils include clay, sandstone and shale, reflecting 1.5 billion years of evolution in the wine.

Advocates of the Australian Sparkling Wine industry, DAOSA have created the labelling term ‘Method Classic’ – which they have trademarked to describe the traditional sparkling wine process (‘traditional method’ or ‘méthode traditionelle), which can be used outside the Champagne region. Since 2010, due to trade agreements, in Australia (and most of the world) we cannot call a sparkling wine ‘Champagne’, or use the words, ‘méthode champenoise’ or ‘champagne method’ to promote the method used.  

The sparkling wine pedigree of this family-owned sparkling brand is producing some delectable sparkling wines. Champagne connoisseurs at our Bubbles Festivals have told me that it is the only Australian sparkling wine that they like! I tasted these two:

DAOSA Natural Rèserve 3rd Release

Pinot Noir 83%, Chardonnay 17%

The fruit was whole bunch pressed, retaining only the first press, producing very fresh acidity, clean juice and good primary fruit characters prior to fermentation. Fermented cool in stainless steel with malolactic fermentation, before being blended (assemblage) with some 2016 and 2017 Réserve Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, aged in old barrels without sulphur. The wine was then ‘tiraged’ in February 2019 for secondary fermentation in bottle. Aged for 18 months. Dosage 7g/L. It is rated 96 points, James Halliday. The 4th release of the natural reserve has since been released, and you can see my virtual tasting on The Bubbles Review Facebook page.

DAOSA Blanc de Blancs 2016

Chardonnay 100%

This single vineyard Blanc de Blancs is from the family Chardonnay vineyard on the higher slopes of the Piccadilly Valley. Méthode Traditionnelle (Method ClassicTM). Fruit was hand harvested and whole bunch pressed, retaining only a small amount of the first press, which presents a very bright acidity, clean juice and good primary fruit characters. The juice was cold settled in tank for one week before being run into old barrels for primary fermentation. Once primary fermentation was completed, the barrels were topped and the wine stayed in barrel, with some lees stirring for a further 10 months where it went through malolactic fermentation. The wine was then ‘tiraged’ for the secondary fermentation in bottle. Aged for more than 42 months in bottle before being disgorged. Dosage 6g/L. This wine has spent more than four years on lees in total.

DAOSA Blanc de Blancs – the 2016 is a new release. I tasted the 2015 on my visit, which is now sold out. The 2015 won a Platinum medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards (awarded to just 178 wines out of 16,500+), was the top-rated sparkling wine in Gourmet Traveller Wine and was featured in James Halliday’s ‘Best of the Best’ Sparkling Wines.  I tasted the 2016 when we had it on the list at The Bubbles Festivals around the country, and it was extremely well received. The 2017 has since been released, and you can see my virtual tasting on The Bubbles Review Facebook page.

See website here.

Greenhill Wines

Owned and operated by Paul and Penny Henschke the Cellar Door and Café occupy a carefully restored and extended 1880s settler’s cottage in Summertown. Situated on a ridge with a large deck and grassed area with a stunning panoramic view of the Piccadilly Valley and vineyards, eucalypt forested Mt Bonython and distant Mt George range.

Paul describes Greenhill as a ‘nano-scale’ producer, with very small production. He manages the vineyard, is winemaker for their wine range, and manages the Cellar Door. Penny is the sole cook for the café. Both former Academics, they tell me that they love sharing what they create at Greenhills with visitors to the Cellar Door.

Paul is a fifth generation of the Eden Valley Henschke wine family, and after a career as an internationally recognised wine research microbiologist and educationalist (Australian Wine Research Institute and The University of Adelaide), he now focuses on grape growing and winemaking. He has an amazing knowledge of the wine fermentation process and the critical role that wine yeasts and bacteria play, which he says are the real microscopic winemakers. His knowledge is being put to great practical use to emphasize the qualities of their grapes, with minimal technological intervention. They purchased the vineyard in 2009 and produced their first sparkling wine in 2011.

I love new discoveries and Greenhill Wines are producing some interesting varieties. Two of the most common grapes used in Champagne are Pinot Noir and Meunier which are red grapes. Using the gentle pressing method and only taking the first press, allows the winemaker to produce a white wine from red grapes, known as a Blanc de Noirs – white from blacks. All of the Greenhill sparklings are red grape dominant, but not sparkling reds. I love the delicacy of experiencing the Pinot flavours in a good sparkling wine.

Pinot Meunier or Meunier, is a red grape, that is usually blended with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in a traditional blend. Meunier is known for its ability to balance out and bring harmony to the other two. I have tasted 100% Meuniers in Champagne, there is a growing trend amongst grower champagnes to create a 100% Pinot Meunier sparkling. It is very unusual in Australia, I have only tasted one other, so the Greenhill’s, Blanc de Noir was delightful to experience. All of their sparklings are traditional method ‘methode traditionelle’.

2017 Estate Sparkling Pinot Meunier Blanc de Noir

Fine bead and textured palate, lovely mid palate fresh fruit with a crisp finish and long length.

Greenhill’s ‘unique’ 100% Pinot Meunier from the Piccadilly Valley, Paul tells me that 2017 was a very cool 2017. This wine spent 2.5 years on lees.  

I also taste the late disgorged Pinot Noir Rosé, which has spent 6 years on lees.  This is from their first sparkling year –  the cold 2011 vintage.

2011 Estate Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé Brut – 6 Years Late Disgorged

High altitude, cool climate, Piccadilly Valley (Summertown) single vineyard, Estate grown Pinot Noir (100%). Disgorged after 6 years on yeast lees in bottle, October 2019.
Very pale pink, with fine and persistent bead. The aromas are complex, lemon, citrus, honey, green apple, strawberry and brioche. On the palate it is lively, luscious, rich creamy texture, and lingering fresh crisp dry finish.

2016 Estate Sparkling Pinot Noir Brut Rosé

High altitude, cool climate, Piccadilly Valley (Summertown), single vineyard, Estate grown Pinot Noir (95%) and Pinot Meunier (2.5%), and includes Chardonnay (5%). Third release: disgorged after 3 years maturation on yeast lees in bottle, March 2020. This sparkling Pinot Rosé was tiraged with a novel hybrid yeast bred by a colleague of Paul’s.

A delicate pink colour with fine and persistent bead. The aromas are complex strawberry with hints of raspberry, green apple, citrus and subtle brioche. The palate is lively and luscious, creamy, and lingering dry (brut), crisp fresh fruity finish.

Wine flights are available throughout the day, and Paul is often available to present those, which can be accompanied by food served from the café, which showcases local fruit and vegetables, pasta, and Penny’s bread baked daily. The menu features the Greenhill Café tasting plate, which typically features three dishes freshly prepared and designed to complement each other with ciabatta. Small plates, including cheese and salami platters, are also available.

See website here.

The Tank at the Uraidla Hotel

The Uraidla Hotel has a quirky character with retro styling. They have a microbrewery, great food and an amazing wine list. The creation of the tank tasting room for a unique wine tasting experience was done by repurposing a disused water tank at the hotel. Perfect, very cool wine storage conditions, so crochet blankets (like your nanna may have made) are thoughtfully provided to wrap around you whilst you taste. The tank holds 4,000 bottles that surround you as you taste on the circular tasting bar in the centre of the room. They showcase wines from the region, particularly Piccadilly Valley, and feature some lovely sparklings that you may not have discovered yet, as well as some great grower champagnes. I tasted these local sparklings:

2018 Piccadilly Circus Blanc de Blancs – Methode Traditionelle

A crisp, clean, cool climate Blanc de Blancs with gentle flavours of citrus and cashew. Great persistence of flavour and balance. Hand-picked, whole bunch pressed then matured in oak before second fermentation in the bottle results in a great example of Piccadilly Valley Sparkling.

Norton Summit Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir 2010

Produced using organic practices, natural (wild) fermentation, are hand-picked and pruned. Released after 1 year in new and seasoned oak plus 2-3 years more in bottle for aged characters.

70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Sauvage dosage. Fermented in bottle. Biologique. 10 years on lees. Late disgorged.

Nice, lifted nose and lovely depth and length of complex flavours. Very classy and beautifully elegant wine.

I also tasted one champagne:

Champagne Larmandier Bernadier Latitude Extra-Brut

100% Chardonnay 40%Reserve wines 4g/l Dosage

This family owned, grower champagne from Vertus is known for creating wines to express specific terroir from their estate. This is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes which all come from the same “latitude”: the south of Vertus. A generous terroir and grapes picked fully ripe.  This non-vintage cuvée contains 40% of wines coming from the estate’s perpetual reserve started in 2004. Lovely mineral quality, harmonious aperitif style, fully round character, delightful on the palate.

I visited the Tank on my own and returned a few days later with my group of friends, it’s a great stop to include on a sparkling tasting day in the region.

See website here.

Honey Moon Vineyard

Honey Moon Vineyard is owned and operated by Jane Bromley and Hylton McLean. The vineyard is situated on a cool but sunny site, on the high ridges of Echunga. Hylton and Jane make the wine that they want to drink. Hylton a wine educator, and experienced sparkling maker, having spent more than 10 years as the sparkling maker at Orlando. Jane is a winner of the Vin de Champagne award. They have a great passion and credentials for creating some special sparkling wines. Their beautiful vineyard is located at their home, and the name Honey Moon comes from them noticing the full moon sitting over the vineyard and thinking it looked like a big drop of honey. Their sparklings are all hand-picked, first press, taking the cuvee only for traditional method sparklings.

I tasted their Rosé Brut, which is mainly Pinot Noir with a little bit of Chardonnay – the same reserve from the Piccadilly Valley used in the Blanc de Blancs. The colour is from the saignee method, picking up a bit of pigment on press. It is mainly the 2015 vintage having spent 52 months on lees. It had lovely mid-palate fruit, wild raspberry, with some spicy notes, and fragrant violets. It retails for $50 but their private customer list gets special pricing. 2017 Blanc de Blancs – 100% Chardonnay from two different vineyards, majority from the 2017 harvest in Charleston, 14% from reserves from the Piccadilly Valley 2015 Vintage. Their reserves are stored in Magnum (like Bollinger), which is an expensive way to hold reserves, but provides great complexity in the wine. 32 months on lees. Delightful, delicate balance in this wine. Lovely nutty, cashew flavours on the palate, which are cut through perfectly with citrus fresh lime acidity. The ageing mentioned on these wines are the minimum, and Honey Moon retain stock still ageing on lees and disgorge on demand. They hand label and write the customer’s name on the bottle as well as the disgorgement date. 

Honey Moon Vineyard Rosé Brut 2015

85% Pinot Noir and 15% Adelaide Hills Chardonnay

This is a Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling wine, based predominantly on Pinot Noir from the Honey

Tirage-bottled in January 2016, thus 45 months on lees (at the time of writing). Disgorged by hand, on demand means that the wine remains in contact with the yeast lees, under cool cellaring conditions, for as long as possible – with all the benefits this brings. The year and month of disgorgement is written on each label enabling one to calculate the time on lees. Dosage – 9.0 g/L

Appearance is delicate rose pink, with a fine pin-point bead. The aroma is subtle strawberry and quince aromas mingle with hints of citrus and sea breeze/oyster shell notes. A vibrantly fresh palate with notes of new season strawberry, cherry and delicate citrus. Subtle secondary nutty and bready notes, arising from the time on lees, are now becoming part of the wine’s complexity. The creamy texture and soft mousse builds pleasantly on the palate, integrating flavour with refreshing acidity to give a lingering and crisp finish. Pair with light dishes such as salads, seafood (salmon, shellfish, small ocean fish such as garfish and tommy ruffs, and chargrilled squid), sushi and white meats. Also delicious with soft cheeses.

Honey Moon Adelaide Hills Blanc de Blancs Brut 2017

Chardonnay 100%

90% Chardonnay from the Anderson (Almond Cart) vineyard in Charleston, plus 10% Chardonnay reserve wine from Piccadilly, Chapel Hill Vineyard, ex magnums (on light lees).

Total production 1,204 bottles, plus six magnums

Appearance is pale light yellow with vibrant green hue and fine bead.  Aroma is subtle lemon lime citrus aromas mingle with green apples, lively and fresh. Palate is a fresh aperitif style. Vibrant with notes of lemons and granny smith apples. A light creamy texture and refreshing mousse builds pleasantly on the palate, integrating flavour and acid to give a lingering and dry finish. Pair with light dishes such as entrées, salads, seafood (great with fresh oysters!) and white meats. Dosage 7.5 g/L. Disgorgement in Oct /Nov 2020 = 32 months on lees.

Private tastings can be arranged at their home by appointment. You can purchase online or join their private customer list. I discovered them on some of the best sparkling lists in Adelaide, and they were also a favourite at The Bubbles Festival Adelaide.

See website here.

Mordrelle

Visits to this small family-owned Cellar Door are by appointment. I visited Mordrelle twice during my stay, once on my own to taste the sparklings before returning a few days later with a group of friends, when we tasted sparklings and some of their still wines. Co-owner Martin Moran is not only a great winemaker, he is also a great host who is more than happy to tailor visits to what is needed.  Tastings are usually accompanied by olives, and cheese platters are available on request. If you want to make this your lunch stop, Martin will prepare an Argentinian BBQ, sharing the delights of cuisine from his homeland. If you ask him, Martin will play a few songs on his guitar too!

Martin holds an engineering degree in Agriculture (the second most difficult after Medicine) specialising in viticulture and oenology, making reds, whites, and sparkling wines. His winemaking travels brought him to the Adelaide Hills, where he fell in love with the area, and his now wife Michelle. Establishing Mordrelle together, with Michelle’s parents, the wine labels features artwork by Martin’s father, Jose Luis Moran, who passed away in 2010. “Our label is our opportunity to share with you the wonderful artistic skills of my father Jose Luis Moran and dedicating our wine to his memory,” says Martin. If you’re lucky, there might still be stocks of the ‘Wedding Wine’, produced for Martin and Michelle’s wedding. At the time of their wedding, it was a fresh young sparkling wine, served to their wedding guests. Today, with about 10 years of ageing on it, it is a more complex wine with a lovely nose. A Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay, it is creamy on the mid palate, hints of umami saltiness, with crisp dry finish, as you would expect as a zero dosage.

All of the sparklings are Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay), Brut Nature (zero dosage). Mordrelle was another favourite at The Bubbles Festival Adelaide. The other wines in the sparkling range that we tasted were:

Mordrelle 2011 Blanc de Blancs – this one is a trophy winner. Produced from a cold and wet vintage, very crisp, fresh green apples, good length and acidity, an earth minerality of ocean and truffles.

Mordrelle 2012 Blanc de Blancs, Adelaide Hills ‘Museum Release’ Brut-Nature – another wine trophy winner.  A low yield vintage, lively fresh fruit, grapefruit with crisp acidity.

Mordrelle 2015 Blanc de Blancs Reserva, Adelaide Hills Brut-Nature – fresh on the palate, crisp, light, aperitif style. Winner of 2021 Adelaide Hills Wine Show Best Sparkling and Best Single Vineyard Wine.

Mordrelle Apple Cider, ‘Methode Traditionelle’ 2014 – I’m not a cider lover, but I did taste the Pink Lady Apple cider, which was very refreshing, made in the traditional method that adds some complexity. Cider lovers will appreciate this one.

See website here.

Wicks Estate Wines

We had the family-owned Wicks sparklings at The Bubbles Festival Adelaide and they were very popular. A Cellar Door is currently in development, so keep an eye on this one for future visits. For now, you can enjoy the view of the vineyard on your travels through the region. You can also see the virtual tasting for Wicks Estate on The Bubbles Review Facebook page.

Here are their tasting notes.

Wicks Estate – Pamela Sparkling Adelaide Hills 2015

Chardonnay 70%, Pinot Noir 30%

Our 2015 Pamela represents our finest expression of traditional method sparkling, a wine only produced in the finest vintages. Parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are hand-picked from our estate vineyard at Woodside with any imperfect fruit rejected to achieve the highest quality outcome. Traditional methods of whole bunch pressing, bottle fermentation and a minimum of four years on tirage help ensure a level of prestige and finesse. 100% Adelaide Hills, South Australia Cool Climate vineyards, individual parcel selection.

Colour is bright pale straw. Aroma is lifted buttery and toasty French oak, with a subtle hint of fresh cut apple and melon. Flavour is notes of brioche and white peach with hints of fresh cut apple and a fresh clean finish on the palate. 5.9 g/L Residual Sugar. Pair with oysters or a selection of gourmet cheese and dried fruits. Cellar for 10+ years.

Wicks Estate – Chardonnay Pinot Noir Vintage Adelaide Hills 2020

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Fashioned with vibrant fruit and sparkling purity, this early release style vintage sparkling is based upon the most famous sparkling wine varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Blended from two clones of Chardonnay and two clones of Pinot Noir, these carefully selected parcels from the Wicks Estate vineyards were meticulously nurtured through the winemaking process in order to retain their pristine fruit flavours and delicate aromatic nuances. A layering of complexity achieved through the secondary fermentation provides and delightful distraction from the crisp apple chardonnay derived characters and the gentile strawberry notes from the Pinot Noir all tied together by the fine, refreshing natural acidity. Colour is pale straw. Aroma is lifted florals. Flavour is fresh green apple with white stone fruit. 5.0 g/L Residual Sugar. Pair with canapes and entrées. Cellar for 3–5 years.

See website here.

Petaluma

Founded by Brian Croser with the original vineyard in the Piccadilly Valley in the late 1980s, he was the first to produce Sparkling Wine from the Adelaide Hills, and Croser is the sparkling label of Petaluma. Now owned by the Accolade group, the Petaluma state-of-the-art winery has been in this new location since 2015 – situated on their estate vineyards in the township of Woodside, just a 40-minute drive from Adelaide CBD. The Cellar Door has expansive views of the Adelaide Hills, and the converted farmstead has a modern and elegant interior, and an outdoor deck overlooks the vineyard. They offer a selection of wine flights, including a Croser sparkling flight, Chardonnay flight or a Yellow Label flight, each served with a tasting of local produce.

I met with Paul Easton, one of the sparkling winemakers, who sat with me to take me through the tasting of their sparkling range. The Croser Non-Vintage made my list of ‘go to’ Aussie Sparklings a few years ago. It is a good consistent traditional method bubbly, and great value for money.

Croser NV Adelaide Hills

It is usually around 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay, from selected sites in the Piccadilly Valley and other parts of the Adelaide Hills. A blend of the current vintage of Croser with reserve wine from several older vintages. Each vintage adding distinctive qualities to the final blend. Croser Non Vintage stays true to the ‘aperitif’ style, fresh bright fruit, hints of grapefruit, with balanced acidity. Methode traditionelle, the NV spends 12–18 months on lees. 

Croser Non-Vintage Rose NV

A blend of 100% Pinot Noir fruit sourced from selected cool climate vineyards across the Adelaide Hills and combined with several back vintage reserve wines of Pinot Noir delivers a sophisticated Methode traditionelle. It is whole bunch pressed, and after settling, the juice is fermented in a combination of 80% stainless steel, with 20% fermented in old oak barriques for added complexity. The colour is blush salmon pink. Lovely mid palate fruit of red berries. Mineral saltiness on the finish.

2015 Croser Piccadilly Valley Vintage Sparkling

This is a blend of 63% Pinot Nor and 37% Chardonnay.  Complex, elegant and creamy on the palate.

The fruit is hand-picked from the Piccadilly Valley, and the Petaluma Yellow Reserve Chardonnay also comes from the Piccadilly Valley. It is chilled overnight, then whole bunch pressed, then fermented, blended, filtered, tiraged and stored on lees for a minimum of 3 years. Disgorged at their new state of the art winery.

On the nose and palate, there was notes of stone fruit, brioche and strawberry. Fine crisp finish, nuttiness on back palate, with hints of sourdough. A little bit of malolactic fermentation is used, which softens the acidity, leaving a very fine crisp finish.

The next vintage is the 2017, which has been released since my visit.

Croser 2006 Late Disgorged Piccadilly Valley

Slightly warmer growing season than the long-term average. Smaller yields provided exceptional fruit concentration and natural acidity. The near-perfect conditions at harvest saw traditional picking dates for both varieties in mid to late March.

The nose had the complexity you expect from a wine aged on lees for 12 years. Disgorged in late 2019. This is zero dosage. Traditional champagne yeast is used for fermentation. On the nose, I noted sticky toffee, with yeast bakery notes of brioche, as well as some strawberry and baked apples. Lovely mid palate experience of fruit, finishing to the front palate with spice. Remarkably fresh with crunchy acidity with a wonderfully fine bead and creamy mousse. Honey, cashew and apple pie complement the layers of complexity on the palate.

See website here.

Bird in Hand

Owned by the Nugent family, the venue décor and sculpture collection is a work in progress as the Nugent family continue their love of collecting pieces from around the world. Exciting things are happening here as they prepare for their $30 million development of a new Cellar Door, Restaurant and Art Gallery. Art is a big part of the ethos of this winery, and the grounds feature original works from artists who demonstrate a philosophical connection to the spirit of the winery. Sculptures in the gardens, inspiring interiors, paintings that speak to our time and nod to the classics.

Bird in Hand Flight Club members get private access to dine at The Gallery Restaurant, where a seasonal curation of artworks by Hugo Michell Gallery provides a visual feast while overlooking the vineyard. Beyond the restaurant, the love of art continues.

On my visit, I met the Sparkling Winemaker, Sara Burnvill. Bird in Hand are probably most well known for their NV sparkling which is a rosé. This is a charmat method, usually 100% Pinot Noir, although 2020 did have some Chardonnay included as harvest volume was challenged by the bushfires in the region. This is their volume wine, with 100 thousand cases produced, and is a big seller in Australia and the UK.

Aside from their flagship sparkling, Bird in Hand also make some lovely Methode Traditionelle sparklings, which are named after family members. Here is what I tasted during my visit.

2018 O (OWN) Sparkling

OWN is named after the owner’s son. It is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, very crisp, light on palate. Aromas of red apple, citrus blossom, honey nougat and lovely mid palate fruit, fleshy white peach and lemon zest, subtle oak spice with crisp dry finish and mineral saltiness. 26 months on lees, 6gms dosage.

Nest Egg Joy 2015

Joy is named after Andrew’s mum. It is a 2015 vintage traditional method, Blanc de Noirs of 100% Pinot Noir. Notes of red apple combined with pink grapefruit, a hint of musk and subtle shortbread aromatics. A delicious brut style sparkling with a richness and creaminess on the palate from the natural fruit weight and time on lees in bottle. A tight acid line and fine lacy bead drive the wine through the palate adding length and precision. Nest Egg Joy is aged for 30 months on its lees before release to add further texture and complexity resulting in subtle biscuit, brioche and shortbread characters.

Lalla Victoria 2007

This is a late disgorged version of Joy. It has spent 8 years ageing on lees. It is the 2007 vintage, disgorged in 2015. It offers further complexity from extended ageing. The nose offers spicy notes from the Pinot Noir, with a richness and creaminess on the palate, lovely mid palate fruit with spicy notes on the finish and extended length.

See website here.

Pike & Joyce

Pike & Joyce Wines was established in 1998 as the coming together of the Pike family from Pikes Wines in the Clare Valley, and the Joyce family, fifth generation horticulturists from the Adelaide Hills – a joint venture of two families who share a love of the region, a passion for viticulture, and a desire to produce only the finest wine. The vineyard is all hand pruned and handpicked, with the fruit being chilled overnight in the Joyce cool rooms, before being transported to Pike’s Clare Valley winery for vinification.

This is a ‘wow’ factor Cellar Door! The restaurant and tasting room is housed in a sandstone structure with glass (a lot of it retractable), giving 180-degree views over the single estate vineyard and the spectacular Onkaparinga Valley. Contemporary Australian themed artwork adorns the walls as you enter, and the philosophy of the restaurant menu is all about embracing seasonal and local produce.

I tasted the NV ‘Methode Cuve’ Pinot Noir Rosé

A bright, pale salmon pink blush. Tank method (aka Cuve or Charmat). This is fresh and fruity, a perfect light on the palate summer drinking wine. Aromas of tropical fruit, cranberry and strawberry.

Since my visit, they have also released the 2016 MT Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir. The fifth release of their ‘Methode Traditionelle’. It has spent 4.5 years on lees resulting in complexity that you would expect in a quality sparkling wine. This small batched wine is available exclusively from the Cellar Door.

See website here.

Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard

Mt Lofty Ranges Vineyard (MLRV) is a family-owned, five star rated boutique winery nestled high in the Adelaide Hills at Lenswood 20km due east of Adelaide at a height of 550m. This picturesque sloping vineyard, where all vines are hand pruned and grapes are hand-picked, produces fruit of consistently high quality.

I met the owners Sharon Pearson and Garry Sweeney at the restaurant and cellar door, which has stunning views of the vineyard and surrounding ranges. Using sustainable reclaimed timbers and repurposed materials the venue also features a glass dining room, three tiered decks and undercover outdoor dining. Provenance of wine and food is at the forefront of MLRV’s philosophy, with a strong emphasis on ethical local farming and menus defined by seasonal and locally grown produce.

Established in 1992, the vineyard has 19,000 planted vines consisting of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They make traditional method sparklings, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I sat down for a tasting with Garry and then had lunch on the deck enjoying the views of the vineyard.

Méthode Traditionelle Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2018

Garry told me that this was their seventh Méthode Traditionelle. A blend of Pinot Noir 55% and Chardonnay 45%. The wine has spent some time in oak, before tirage with 26 months on lees.  Lovely on the nose, a leanness in the fruit characteristics, the creamy mousse, sits very light on the palate, crisp aperitif style, with a mineral saltiness on the finish.

Méthode Traditionelle – Late Disgorged – Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2013

The late disgorged is a similar blend of 60% Pinot Noir, and 40% Chardonnay, it has spent extra time on lees, a total of almost 7 years.

Lovely nose with aromas of brioche, toffee, autolysis bringing biscuity, sourdough notes. Rich on the palate, but surprisingly light, it almost levitates on the palate, lovely and delicate.

The restaurant is open daily for lunch and set menu options apply. Friday Night Sunset Sessions are held on the first Friday of every month. Sip some bubbles (or one of their still wines) by the open fire, and enjoy live music and dine on a two or three course a la carte menu or a five course tasting menu.

See website here.

Golding Wines

Golding Wines is situated on the outskirts of Lobethal, within the Lenswood appellation. A family-owned vineyard, their philosophy is that the best wines come from great vineyards and taste even better when shared in beautiful surrounds.

The Goldings have created a beautiful space to enjoy their wines. The Cellar Door, housed in what was a family-built sandstone barn, is surrounded by ancient gums, a lush garden with landscaped terraces, encased by their vineyard.

The Tasting Room offers wine flights, accompanied by canapés, and cheese platters are also available.

They have two sparklings on tasting – one from the Market Series and one from their Portrait Series.

Market Series – Last Hurrah Sparkling

The Market series comes from family history of working at the East End Markets, and the celebration of its ‘Last Hurrah’ when it closed. “It surely was the end of an era when the grand old dame that was the East End Market closed in 1988. Celebrated with no less than a gala ball for over 800 guests. It was a magical event etched into the minds of the old market merchants and known as The Last Hurrah”.

55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay – Charmat method. Aromas of strawberry and crunchy green apple. The palate is bright, fresh, and fabulous, finishing with crisp citrus.

Portrait Series – 2013 Marjorie

Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Named after Lucy Golding’s grandmother who always loved a celebration. “It’s fitting that our premium Sparkling wine, made in the traditional method, is dedicated to her. Marjorie is inspired by our love of great Champagne.” Extended lees ageing of around 3 years, adds complex toasted nut and yeasty characters to the honeyed poached apple aromas. The palate offers notes of lemon and is crisp with a lingering finish. A persistent fine bead and creamy mousse gives extra lift to these delicious aromas and flavours.

Other tasting experiences include Nido (Italian for nest). A quirky way to enjoy your afternoon, nestled in a giant nest, set in the vineyard with a 5 course grazing menu. There is also a Wine Safari (a tasting amongst the vines). A Pallet Picnic Experience (a picnic with rugs, cushions, table set with linen and cutlery). A tepee for grown-ups completes the setting! Or you could choose Hamper in the Hills for a self-guided picnic experience.

The Ginkgo restaurant also serves seasonal plates and wood-fired dishes. Awarded Gourmet Traveller – Best Cellar Door Tasting Experience – Adelaide Hills 2020.

See website here.

Sidewood

The Sidewood Restaurant and Cellar Door is a stunning mix of materials in the interior, including giant Victorian Ash trusses, local stone flooring, and warm caramel leather banquettes. The venue also features an eclectic collection of Australian art, including works by Olsen, Blackman, Boissevain and Grey-Smith. This flows outside onto an enormous hardwood deck, which offers many different types of casual dining experiences. Set amongst eucalyptus trees and landscaped gardens, there are lounges in front of an open two-way stone fireplace, bar stools along a fifteen-metre bar overlooking petanque and lawn bowls courts, a kid friendly location nature playground and six VIP day beds that are available for hire. Who doesn’t love a day bed?!

Sidewood is a family-owned, 5 Red Star Halliday Wine Companion accredited winery, and they are the largest Certified Sustainable Winery in the Adelaide Hills. My friends joined me for this tasting of a great range of sparkling wines, followed my lunch in the dining room. And a quick photo opportunity from one of the day beds!

Here is what we tasted:

NV Sidewood Estate Sparkling Pinot Rose

Grapes are selected from low yielding vines and chilled in the cold room within an hour of picking, before being gently pressed. Free-run juice is then fermented with partial malolactic and extended time on lees prior to secondary ferment and bottling.

This 100% Pinot Noir wine has aromas of fresh strawberry, wild raspberries and dried fig. The palate is round and beautifully balanced. Intense flavours of cherry, white peach and strawberries are matched with a crisp minerality and a touch of brioche. The natural acidity provides excellent structure and finesse with a luscious, generous mouthfeel. 

NV Sidewood Estate Sparkling

A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, the bouquet offers aromas of strawberry, lemon citrus and underlying notes of biscotti. The palate is elegant, displaying intense strawberry, nectarine and cashew characters, which is enhanced by partial malolactic fermentation and extended time on yeast lees providing softness and complexity, while still retaining natural acidity for structure and finesse. A mouth-watering citrus and nougat finish.

2015 Sparkling Chloe Cuvee

With a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, this wine has wonderful toasty brioche aromas enhanced by green fruits and zesty citrus. The palate has a harmonious balance of orange blossom, biscotti and green apple that complement the salty, driving minerality balanced perfectly with an elegant creamy finish.

2015 Sidewood Cassandra Blanc de Blancs

The wine showcases a complex, creamy mouthfeel marrying notes of buttered brioche, marmalade and dried orange peel on the nose, leading to a saline, oyster-shell minerality and racy acidity on the palate. Fig, ginger and white peach are abundant, the tasting notes describe it as: “Cassandra Blanc de Blancs is a powerful and persistent vinous songstress, with each ‘note’ in complete operatic, sensory-harmony”.

2014 Isabella Rosé Sparkling

This wine of extraordinary sophistication and poise is named after the owners’ and vignerons’ daughter, Isabella Rose. With a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, this wine displays aromas of red berries with enticing delicate hints of pressed flowers. Flavours of wild strawberries, black cherries, citrus blossom and toasted brioche delight the palate and are balanced with zesty, crisp acidity and long textural finish.

Sidewood is open for tastings and restaurant bookings every day except Tuesdays and Public Holidays.

See website here.

The Lane Vineyard

Sitting 400m high atop the rolling hills adjacent the Onkaparinga Valley, The Lane Vineyard is a boutique state-of-the-art winery, modern cellar door and award-winning vineyard restaurant. Their Single vineyard Estate wines are paired with their five-course Provenance menu, exploring the rich connection between food, wine and their origins, and designed to feature the best South Australian produce.

Another ‘wow’ factor location, visiting the Lane is not just about food and wine, but aspires to heighten your food and wine discovery with a range of experiences. The Gathering Experience is the Lane’s signature tasting, where you take a seat and enjoy a miniature degustation style wine tasting that showcases the harmony between their estate wines and restaurant menu. A heightened discovery of their flagship Estate range thoughtfully paired with amuse-bouche by the chef.

You can also reserve exclusive experiences including blend your own wine, the Panaroma enjoy lunch in a private location in the vineyard; Boatshed by the lake, Winemaker, and Chef experiences. 

Lois NV Blanc de Blancs

A refreshing blend of five different Chardonnay clones showcases its complexity, displaying hints of subtle citrus, white flower, granny smith apple and toasted brioche. A creamy palate balanced by a fine bead and crisp acidity.

2015 Estate Cuveé Blanc de Blancs

The highest parcels of fruit from the Balhannah Vineyard highlight the unique terroir. This is a ‘méthode traditionnelle’ sparkling, which has been aged for a minimum of 5 years in bottle and disgorged on demand. Aromas of lemon zest and brioche dough with a delicate palate of vanilla bean and shortbread balanced by a fine bead and crisp acidity.

2010 Heritage Late Disgorged Cuvée

The Heritage collection is made to showcase the nuances of single vineyard terroir. This was a highlight, as you would expect from a late disgorged sparkling, lovely and complex on the palate. Made using ‘méthode traditionnelle’, aged for a minimum of 10 years in bottle and disgorged on demand. A rich palate of tangerine, toasted sourdough, cultured butter, honeycomb and almond praline. All tightly held together with vibrant citrus fruits that drive a lovely line down the tongue and nice length to savour at the end.

See website here.

Howard Vineyard

Howard Vineyard is a second-generation family-owned business located in Nairne. When I visited, they had the 2020 Sparkling Rose on tasting. It’s a Charmat method, and I met the wine maker Tom who told me that they only do vintage, so each sparkling showcases the fruit of that year. They do some barrel work on the wines before the second fermentation in tanks. They usually have at least one sparkling on tasting. There was a 2020 Blanc de Blancs which was due for release soon, and I managed to get a bottle to take with me and try later. As you would expect from tank method wines, they are fresh and showcase vibrant primary fruit on the palate, producing easy drinking bubbly. There is a youth and playfulness in the heart of what they do here. The Cellar Door has a lovely lawn area with views of the vines, and they have a restaurant with an Asian-influenced menu, known for their dumplings that would be a great match with the sparkling rose.  

See website here.

Somerled Cellar Bar – Hahndorf

This wine bar in the town of Hahndorf was a lovely discovery. I arrived just before closing, but the lovely Meela looked after me with a quick tasting of their sparkling, which is not always on tasting. They serve platters, so a visit works well as a pre-dinner stop, or an afternoon of grazing in the courtyard. Somerled is a family-owned label, and their wines are made at the Greenhills Winery. I tasted:

Somerled Sparkling 2016 Min 24 months on lees and disgorged in small batches. 100% Pinot Noir. I do enjoy a Blanc de Noir, and this was light with lovely mid palate fruit and a crisp dry finish. It is considered a Brut Nature with a dosage of less than 1gm.

See website here.


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Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Bubbly border hopping – delivering The Bubbles Festival during a pandemic!

My name is Natalie Pickett, and many of you will know me as the Founder of The Bubbles Review and Creator of The Bubbles Festival. Recently, I have had the honour of being interviewed about The Bubbles Review in major publications in the USA (the links to the articles are at the end of this post), and I thought it would be a great idea to share some insight with you about where the idea for The Bubbles Review came from and a behind the scenes look at what it took to deliver the recent sold-out Bubbles Festivals across Australia in the middle of a global pandemic!

As a serial entrepreneur, I have founded multiple businesses, with both 6 and 7 figure success stories. I have had my share of triumphs and so called ‘failures’. After closing my travel company during the GFC, I established a successful consulting, mentoring and speaking business. I like to operate from my core values, one of which is ‘fun’, which we can forget to make a priority in business. I love being able to share this knowledge with others, to help them to take their business, and daily life, from surviving to thriving.

The Bubbles Review is my passion business. The ‘Aha!’ moment was a culmination of two things. The first was that I had always loved champagne and sparkling wine. For my 18th birthday I had a champagne luncheon. I love the stories, the romance, the glamour of it. 

The other ‘Aha!’ moment came to me at a marketing seminar when the presenter mentioned that because he had wine review websites, he claimed his wine purchases as a tax deduction. And at that moment, I knew my review blog would be about sparkling wine. Once I did the business case it was an easy ‘Yes!’, and I could incorporate my travel industry skills to run events and tours. Creating a business that means you get paid to drink champagne is awesome, and we’ve been listed in the top champagne blogs in different countries around the world, which is also pretty amazing!

The keys to success with each of my businesses is that they all come from my passion, my core values, and my desire to contribute and share my knowledge with others. When they become stressful, I remind myself that business and life is supposed to be fun. Our businesses should work for us, not the other way around.

I have purposely kept the pace of growth of this business at a level that doesn’t become overwhelming. This is important, because The Bubbles Review is my bubbly passion project. The number 1 priority is that it should be fun – for me, and everyone who shares the bubbly joy with me.

The idea for what has become our signature event – The Bubbles Festival – came to me in a meditation one morning, and I like to think that it was divinely inspired.  I mentioned it to a friend who owned an art space, and he was very enthusiastic and provided the venue free of charge so that I could deliver the inaugural The Bubbles Festival in April 2017. The first one was about testing to see if it was of interest – both for exhibitors to showcase their champagne and sparkling wine and ticket holders to the event. The inaugural Bubbles Festival (and a follow-up event in October 2017), received very positive feedback, with patrons giving the event 5 stars.

Postponing The Bubbles Festival in 2020 was incredibly disappointing, particularly because it was the first time that I was taking the event nationally. It was also very costly, as by the time restrictions on mass gatherings across the country were imposed, we’d already expended a lot of the advertising budget. I had appointed team members in other states to assist with set up and had paid deposits to venues. Moving the events meant that most of that expenditure was lost, except for the venues who were accommodating in finding solutions and refunding larger deposits. Not all venues managed this well, but most did.

Delivering The Bubbles Festival in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, and Perth in 2021 was no mean feat! The invitation for exhibitors was sent in February, which was later than usual, as I tried to forecast restrictions. We had some exhibitors who were still committed since 2020, as well as new wonderful exhibitors who enthusiastically signed up, but by March, restrictions were still fluctuating, so some were wanting to wait and see before committing.

Ticket holders, on the other hand, were ‘champing’ at the bit.  I think that having been under restrictions for so long, people were so happy to be out and about, meeting likeminded people and drinking bubbly. Almost every session was sold out, and in some locations, the whole event was sold out in a matter of weeks, and people were writing to me begging for tickets, and offering to pay more to attend.

I designed the event just like I would if I was arranging for people to come to my home. That’s why everything is included – a lovely glass, canapés, and a welcoming introduction on sparkling wine from me. Once people are at the event, they don’t need to keep paying for extras like more tastings or food – they just relax, mingle and enjoy the bubbly experience.

Anyone who has planned events before will know there are always challenges, but COVID added a whole new dimension. Capacity restrictions were moved up and down several times, and every state had their own version of conditions around public gatherings.

My experience of 30 years in travel and events gave me the confidence to be able to deliver, and Melbourne kicked off the series and was a great success. After achieving the record for the most locked down city in the world in 2020, people were excited to be out enjoying being social and drinking bubbles. It was so exciting to be hosting this event – a much needed and long overdue celebration!

“We had great fun and loved the available selection of French champagne and sparkling wines. The accompanying canapés were delicious too! Looking forward to attending future Bubbles Festivals.” ~ Leanne Turner

“Fun night out with friends who truly appreciate fine champagne and all things bubbly.” ~ Kate Cadet

“Great way to spend the afternoon!” ~ Rick McLeod

“A lovely way to spend a couple of hours trying and learning about the bubbles, the background to them, food pairing and meeting other like-minded souls.” ~ Janet MacLeish

“I love the evening. The only drawback was that I wish it was longer. In saying that, I would still come again and enjoy it just as much.  Thank you for a great night out!” ~ Betheia Lele

The next day, there were hints that Perth (the location for the event on the next weekend), may go into lockdown – and on Monday, the Western Australian (WA) Premier announced the restrictions. We could probably have proceeded, but everyone would need to be wearing masks, and from a safety point of view, you don’t want to put your patrons at risk and you certainly do not want your event to be listed as an exposure site. The difficult decision was made to move the Perth event forward at least 6 weeks to give time for the case numbers to go down and for restrictions around public gatherings to return to a point where the ticket holders in Perth could enjoy the event at its most celebratory.

As I was dealing with the date changes for Perth, and finalising post event activities for Melbourne, I received a message from a cousin of Michelle (our Sydney-based Event Manager), who was writing to advise me that Michelle had passed away suddenly from a heart attack. We were only 4 weeks out from the Sydney event and Michelle had been assisting us with preparations, including sourcing a new venue (the lovely RACA), student helpers and securing some late exhibitor sign ups. I had known Michelle for many years through our different roles in tourism. She was a consummate professional and beautiful soul. I was devasted for her husband and family, and I cried for days. The only good thing that came out of moving the dates of the Perth event, was that I was free to travel to Sydney to attend Michelle’s funeral later that week.

I had planned to stay overnight after Michelle’s funeral, but there were news reports of COVID infections and exposure sites in different parts of the city, including the area we were currently in for Michelle’s wake. There was an announcement that Sydney would enforce restrictions from 5pm that evening, and I realised that if I stayed, I would run the risk of having to quarantine when going back to Victoria, and therefore not be able to get to Brisbane and Adelaide for the next two events. I quickly changed my flight, said my goodbyes and headed for the airport. I made it safely back to Melbourne before any issues arose about having been in Sydney.

Our Brisbane Bubbles Festival was the next event, and although there were fluctuating concerns since a lockdown about a month prior (which prevented me from visiting for a pre-event site visit), we were safely able to proceed with Brisbane without too many disruptions. The event sold out within 2 weeks of the tickets being released. We had a waitlist and were eventually able to release more tickets to the waitlist as capacity restrictions were eased. Our WA exhibitors couldn’t travel to Queensland, as it was too risky for them to get caught in another state due to WA’s strict COVID border controls. We made arrangements to staff their stands, and the event was a great success with many people coming to thank me for arranging such a wonderful celebration during these incredibly challenging times.

“We really enjoyed our first Bubbles Festival event and would recommend it to our friends!” ~ Peta Shiels

“The Bubbles Festival was a welcome relaxed Evening. Informative as much as social and some wonderfully attired folks who made an effort which pairs with the Classic Architecture and history of the Building.” ~  Anya Slinn            

“A delightful sensation for the nose and palate.  Fabulous selection of Bubbly and Canapés to complement. I am also happy to say the wines I enjoyed most were both from Australian wine makers. Well done Natalie for a great event. See you at the next one 😘🤗🥂” ~ Jane Dewit

“Very well organised & great selection.” ~ Ingrid Ostbye

“A very bubbly evening thank you 🥂” ~ Kerrie Hodgson

“A wonderful way to taste some interesting bubbles from Australia and overseas.” ~ Peter Ryan

“I am so glad I found out about this event. If you get a chance to come and join in the future, do it. Meet new people learn more about bubbles. What more can I say!” ~ Loretta Carmichael

“A fabulous night in an amazing venue. It was a wonderful opportunity to discover some new sparkling wines complemented perfectly by the selection of canapés. Would definitely go again!” ~ Rachel Hodgson

“Fantastic night with great bubbles and canapes – learned a lot! Beautiful venue with views over the river and lights on the bridge added to the atmosphere.” ~ Debbie          

“My first experience and not my last. It was refreshingly educational, enjoyable and a wonderful way to start the weekend. Fantastic!” ~ Chris Hodgson

“A fun & educational event, can’t wait for the next one!” ~ Lesley Harris

Our next stop was Adelaide, and we were blessed with no major breakout. South Australian (SA) border restrictions were pretty risk adverse, so it was a bit touch and go. Victoria had recently recorded a few cases and SA had closed the border to anyone from Victoria who had been in an identified hotspot. Lucky for me, I had not. Arriving at Adelaide airport, I waited in a long queue as border officials checked entry permits on incoming flights from Victoria. The Adelaide event was sold out, and I had people writing to me begging for tickets and offering to pay more. Fortunately, due to the easing of some restrictions, we were able to release a small number of new tickets, which sold out in just two days!

“What a fabulous afternoon filled with quality bubbles – looking forward to the next one and bringing more friends along 🥂🥂🥂 – thanks Natalie 🥂” ~ Julie Johnston

 “A fun way to get together with friends and learn more about the art of Bubbles… with a great range of local produce all in one easy location.” ~  Sharon Gulley-Frith

“A great event showcasing local bubbles with comprehensive tasting notes and friendly producers. Well orchestrated- thank you.” ~ Sarah Vaile

“Great fun day with excellent bubbles!!” ~ Faye Lorain

“Just a great way to spend a few hours, delightful selection of sparkling with knowledgeable wine experts, some tasty nibbles and fun.” ~ Fiona Rich

“Bubbles, bubbles, much more than froth and trouble, even though too many could lead to it!” ~ Anita Zocchi                          

“Had a great time tasting different bubbles with friends!” ~ Amy Blackmore         

“Had a great time and the VIP experience was well worth it.  Would come again.” ~ Cheryl Lees

“The best educational tasting & girls day out I’ve been to in the city!” ~ Ashleigh

“Highly recommend the Bubbles festival. Went with 3 friends and had a ladies’ day out. Full of fun and met new people tasting many wines. Had a great day and can’t wait for the next one. “ ~ Sue Lushington               

“I would thoroughly recommend the bubbles festival to all my friends, I had a very enjoyable experience.”

As we moved through the series of Bubbles Festivals, I kept getting the feeling that everything would be okay. It was like we’d found this level of flow that was allowing us to gently navigate the challenges of the uncertainty of so many factors and conditions.

With Adelaide under our belts, I returned home to Melbourne. By this time, exposure sites were growing, and by Tuesday, one of the sites listed as a concern was the MCG during a crowded football match. SA had closed their border to all of Victoria, so we were lucky to have been able to hold the Adelaide event only days before. I was booked to fly to Sydney for our event that coming weekend, but looking like a lockdown could be imminent, I wondered if I should try to get on an earlier flight. I checked availability and there were seats, but at about 10 times the price I had paid. My flight was around 1.30pm the next day, and I decided it would be okay. It was totally nerve wracking waiting for the press conference as I prepared to leave for the airport. The Victorian Government announced that the state would go into the lockdown at 5pm that day. I checked the NSW response, and by that stage they hadn’t imposed any border restrictions for Victorians, but I wasn’t going to ‘count my chickens’ until I was through the arrivals lounge on the other side. I boarded my flight and hoped for the best. 

When we landed in Sydney, I checked my phone and there was a text from my mother saying “Are you there yet? You need to be in by 4pm!” It was just after 2.30pm, so I was there just in time to avoid the ‘stay at home’ orders that were being imposed on anyone arriving from Victoria. The Sydney event was another success, with two sold out sessions. We received glowing reviews and the event was lots of fun. 

“What a fabulous way to spend two hours, educational and fun. Can’t wait till next time.” ~ Simone Messenger

“All the suppliers were very knowledgeable and accommodating. Tasting notes help you to remember who had which wine. Loved it all!!” ~ Johanne Champness

“What a fabulous event!! So happy get on board with this event!! Do yourself a favour – get out of your comfort zone of sparkling wine & champagne & go to The Bubbles Festival!!! You will be surprised & amazed!!” ~ Corinne Layton

“It was a great event and I highly recommend you catch the next one. The sooner the better!!” ~ Peter Robert Tuckey

“For a night of “Bubbles”, friends and a bit of learning too, this is a fun event to attend. We shall return. Thank you Natalie!” ~ Melinda Baderski

“A fabulous event! Natalie was a wonderful host, taking us through the art of tasting and finding our own ‘happy place’.” ~ Erin Noordeloos

“What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. See you next year.” ~ Janet Green

In the days after my arrival, I realised that returning home to Victoria (which was now in lockdown with an ever-growing list of COVID exposure sites), would risk the upcoming Perth event. The WA government had already closed the border to anyone arriving from Victoria, or who had been in Victoria during the dates of the outbreak, which was eventually changed to been in Victoria within 14 days of arrival.

An array of different logistical options were running around my head! ‘Should I stay, or should I go?’ The Perth event was 4 weeks away, and it was possible that things could clear in Victoria before the event – but it was a risk, and one that I wanted to mitigate. Having already postponed the event from 2020 to 2021, and then having to move it again only a few weeks ago, I wanted to do whatever I could to ensure that the event would run. I had some loyal and patient ticket holders who were still holding tickets from our pre-sales in late 2019. I didn’t want to move the event again. Yes, it was possible it could be run without me if I found someone locally to do it, but that wasn’t ideal because my followers were expecting me to be there.

I researched all the different state border options, looking for the best way to get to WA. Counting out days on the calendar, it worked out that I had exactly enough days to spend 14 days in NSW, which at this stage was mainly clear of COVID, to then arrive in WA with 14 days clear in case I needed to quarantine on arrival. If NSW stayed with low or no COVID cases, the plan would work. I cancelled and changed flight bookings. I had only packed for a few days in Sydney, so I shopped for essentials and my daughter kindly sent me some extra clothing from our home.

While I could have stayed in Sydney for the rest of the 14 days, I decided to see if Byron Bay was an option. I could rent an Airbnb room and have a nice time catching up with friends. I checked flights and they were available and cheap. If I was going to need to work remotely, then I would choose some special places to work from. As soon as I arrived in Byron, I knew I had made the right choice – I could feel the stress of the past few weeks just drift away.

I arrived back in Sydney the night before my flight to Perth and stayed at an airport hotel. Having done the amount of work I had done to be able to arrive safely in time for the Perth event, I didn’t want to take any risks of missed connections! Everything was looking fine for me to arrive without needing to quarantine, but I was still apprehensive about what would happen on arrival. After touchdown, we were advised that we would need to wait on board until the WA Police were available to meet the flight. We needed to have our border passes ready to be viewed, and there were signs to inform us to have our hands free so that we could be sanitised before proceeding.

At the head of the queue, there were two people in full PPE gowns, masks, and face shields – one person to take our temperature, and one to spray our hands with sanitizer. Once that was done, we visited a cubicle to respond to a police officer asking questions. I was incredibly relieved to be given the ‘all clear’ – free to enter the state and no quarantine!

I had a pre-event site inspection of the venue booked for that afternoon, and then I was also free to enjoy the rest of my plans, which were to travel to Broome the following day to stay at my Mum’s place. The irony was that she had travelled to Melbourne for her sister’s 80th birthday on the day that I flew into Sydney. She was now stranded in Melbourne, because even as a resident she was unable to return home to Broome without a 14-day quarantine period in Perth. While it was disappointing that I wouldn’t be able to spend some time with my Mum, if I needed to be working remotely, I was going to make the most of it. One of my clients had called my efforts ‘an odyssey’, and I agreed with that very apt description of the adventure I was on!

My dear friend Jane, who had been managing the door at the events, lives in northern NSW, and although NSW had remained a very low risk category, there were new cases starting to be recorded. I had become very good at predicting what would happen with restrictions and border closures, so Jane and I discussed options that would still allow her to make it into WA for the Perth event. I suggested that we book her onto a direct flight from Sydney to Broome the next day, but there were none. I knew that every passing day would mean an increase in cases in NSW and possible closure of the WA border to any arrivals from that state.

The new plan was to have Jane arrive in Perth early. By this stage the travel budget had been well and truly blown, so although it would mean a few extra nights’ accommodation, it would still be better than me trying to find and train extra staff only days before the event. Jane managed to get a booking to travel on the Monday to Perth. The WA border was still open but was changing whilst people were mid-air enroute, with an extra restriction for NSW arrivals – which was get a COVID test on arrival and isolate until getting a negative test result. There was a chance that the border would close or a 14-day quarantine period would be imposed, which would make her arrival obsolete as she wouldn’t be able to work at the event. We enquired about the alternative, which would mean Jane having to return to NSW on the next flight back. She was bringing the banners and some other event supplies and having already changed flights several times, it was now a very expensive airfare. We did joke about how expensive that would make it for just delivering the banners if she was to be turned away. But make it in she did, and the border closed to NSW arrivals the following day.

The Perth Bubbles Festival was another great, sold-out success. We received so many wonderful comments, and some of them were so lovely, that in my state of post-event series exhaustion they brought a tear to my eye. We’d done it! Five sell out events across the country, border hopping like fugitives, and working every angle or option to be able to deliver.

“It was a fun time and definitely recommend 💕” ~ Veronique Shepherd

“This is such a fantastic event; for those who truly love their bubbles and want to experience some that they wouldn’t ordinarily try.  Natalie is so knowledgeable!” ~ Kelly

“Best two hours of fun I’ve had for a long time and it was great to share it with friends and other lovely attendees 😊” ~ Marla Reid

“Thank you Natalie for organising a wonderful event.  It was an absolutely wonderful event and glad we held onto our tickets.  Third time we got there.  The atmosphere was awesome and got to chat to lovely fellow guests and exhibitors and of course the sparkling wines and Champagnes were fantastic.  Thanks again, looking forward to the next event.” ~ Jo-anne Kramer

“Thank you for bringing to WA a unique experience for the bubbly lovers. Having a very knowledgeable and passionate presenter-founder made the experience that extra bit more enjoyable. I look forward to the next one.” ~ Brenda Fenerty

“Fantastic night with many and varied bubbles from which to choose paired with a delicious grazing board! Well done 👍” ~ Allison Pivac     

“A well organised event with some fantastic sparklings showcased.” Louize Kang

“This was my first time at a Bubbles Festival and it was fabulous. I will definitely be back and so will my friends!” ~ Ceri Writer

“My Friend and I have a Fabulous afternoon as VIPs, the tastings were generous the Grazing table spectacular …. We are excited to attend any future events and have a few friends who are very keen to come with us.  An exceptional day which was enjoyable and extremely informative.” ~  Logan Nicholson

“The Bubbles Festival is a well organized fun event that is not only informative but great value for money.” ~ Ina Boxshall

“What a fabulous afternoon to enjoy with friends and to sample some amazing BUBBLES from our regions within Australia cannot wait for the next experience.” ~ Leonie Spencer

“Had a great evening at The Bubbles Festival and would recommend going to The Bubbles Review’s events!” ~ Monicka McDonough

“I thought I couldn’t love bubbles any more but I was wrong!! This experience was second to none! A classy yet relaxed vibe with access to all the best, new, interesting and popular bubbles, some of which were completely new to me. The VIP experience was to die for, a great privilege. Congratulations to Natalie and her team for putting this together in today’s climate. A true testament to her love of bubbles and a phenomenal way to share it with the country! I will definitely be on the lookout for the next event!!” ~ Jana Bartecki

“Thanks to Natalie, Jane and the WA team for such an amazing evening. Covid had delayed me enjoying my 2020 Mother’s Day gift until now. Totally worth the wait and can’t wait to partake in the next event. Thank you again & keep up the great bubbly work!!” ~ Isla Ferrarotto          

“Fabulous afternoon out at a boutique feeling event. Lovely champers and sparkling wines. We really enjoyed it, thank you for persisting in trying to stage it!!”

“A great afternoon with the chance to mingle with likeminded bubbly lovers. A fun afternoon full of great sparkling on offer thank you!” ~ Brooke O’Donnell

We’d planned to have some time in Perth on the Sunday before returning home on Monday. We were relaxing at the Fremantle markets on the Sunday morning when we were told that Perth was going into restrictions by midday that day. Venue capacities would be reduced, and masks were mandatory indoors. We had delivered the Perth event just in time! Perth would then declare a lockdown commencing later that day, and the Victorian Government declared Perth a medium risk zone. Upon my return to Melbourne, I was (perhaps ironically) required to get a COVID test and isolate. It didn’t matter, I was happy to be home. I joke that one of the things that I have collected in 2021 is the QR check in apps for almost all the states of Australia!

I feel very blessed that we were able to hold the national series of Bubbles Festivals. I did have plans for some smaller events and tours in the later part of this year, but it’s September and Melbourne is back in lockdown. Sydney is too. It is unlikely that there will be opportunities for events for the rest of the year, but I remain hopeful that we will get a clear run for 2022. The plan is to take The Bubbles Festival to more locations in Australia, and eventually New Zealand, the USA and UK. I am also optimistic that we may even be able to hold our tour to Champagne in 2022, but perhaps that will be 2023.

Whilst working remotely in Broome, I had seen an opportunity to be a co-author in a book that was being published in the USA – Becoming an Unstoppable Woman! I submitted an application and at my interview, they asked me to tell them a bit about myself. I said ‘Sure. Let me tell you about my latest unstoppable story!’ I shared the story of being able to deliver all of these events during a pandemic, border closures, and snap lockdowns. It was definitely an example of being unstoppable. I was accepted and went on to create my chapter called ‘Living the Dream’, which is all about my career as an entrepreneur and business mentor, on overcoming adversity, with a focus on savouring life’s precious moments. The book was released in September and is now an international best-seller. It has also led to several articles published in the US media on my business success and how I created The Bubbles Review. There’s no stopping a woman on a bubbly mission! Cheers!

Get tickets for The Bubbles Festival 2022 on this special pre-sale here.

You may also like these articles

 Natalie Pickett: From Avocation To Vocation; How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career | by Penny Bauder | Authority Magazine | Sep, 2021 | Medium

Natalie Pickett: Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life | by Pirie Jones Grossman | Authority Magazine | Sep, 2021 | Medium

Purchase link for the Becoming an Unstoppable Woman book- Natalie Pickett | She Rises Book Pre-Order (sherisesstudios.com)

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Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Cheers to your good health!

I’ve been thinking of the origins of ‘Bless you’ recently.  As we are facing a global pandemic, I was reminded about my time as a tour leader in Europe, and the story I used to tell our guests about where the phrase comes from. The phrase ‘God bless you’ is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who uttered it in the sixth century during a bubonic plague epidemic. Whenever someone sneezed, which was an obvious symptom of the plague, people would bless them in the hope that they remained in good health. The exchangeable German term ‘gesundheit’ literally means ‘health’. It is interesting that this term has endured all of this time, and is so very relevant for us all today.

The drinking party, in one form or another, has been around for thousands of years, and I wanted to explore the origins of how we use the occasion of getting together to drink bubbles, with toasting to the good health of our companions.

Historians guess that the toast most likely originated with the Greek libation, the custom of pouring out a portion of one’s drink in honour of the Gods. And yes, there were even gods of wine! The Greek God, Dionysus or Dionysos, known as Bacchus to the Romans, is the God of the vine, grape-harvest, wine-making, wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre.

From there, it was an easy step to offering a drink in honour of one’s companions.

Early medieval Anglo-Saxon feasts featured round-bottomed drinking glasses, designed to be emptied, since they could not be set down without spilling them. Guests drained their cups and then turned them upside-down on the table. This is most likely where the tradition of ‘bottoms up!’ comes from. Around the same time, the Saxon word ‘waes hael!’ (‘Good health!’), has been noted in history books.

The term ‘toast’ – as in drinking to someone’s health – comes from a literal piece of spiced or charred toast, which was dropped in a cup or bowl of wine, either as form of food or perhaps to make the wine taste better. Shakespeare mentions this in The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which Falstaff calls for a quart of spiced wine, then adds “Put a toast in it.” By the 18th century, the term ‘toast’ had been transferred from the floating bread, to the person honoured by the toast, and those who were very popular became known as the ‘toast of the town.’

It seems that the ‘bottoms up’ tradition of toasting was a common practice in many countries, but it was not one that everyone appreciated. The first temperance society, the Order of Temperance, established in Germany in 1517, was dedicated to abolishing toasts. Louis XIV banned toasting at his court, and in 1634, Massachusetts banned the ‘abominable’ custom of drinking to another’s health.

Eventually, in polite society, one no longer had to guzzle an entire wine glass for each proposed toast; a sip was considered plenty.

There are a few theories about the clinking of the glasses. One of these is to engage all the senses by adding the sound of clinking glassware. Some say it was to ward off evil spirits, while raising the glass may relate back to the raising of wine to the gods.

When I worked in Switzerland, we would take our guests for a fondue dinner and I would introduce the local custom of saying ‘cheers’ whilst looking your companions in the eye. If you did not make eye contact, you were considered untrustworthy. This custom is not unique to the Swiss, as there is also the tradition of drinking before or after battle and celebrating with friends and foes, and the need for eye contact to prove your trustworthiness.

In English we say ‘cheers!’, and often toast to people’s good health. The word ‘cheers’ comes from the Anglo-French of medieval times, ‘cheres’ meaning ‘face’, or the Old French ‘chiere’ for ‘expression’. It evolved to signify the mood shown on one’s face when happy. By the 1800s, saying ‘cheers’ came to represent gladness, or to show support or encouragement.

We shared information on our social media recently about how drinking champagne may help boost your immune system. In moderation of course, and not to be taken as medical advice!

So here’s cheers to your bubbly good health!

Here’s what they say to ‘toast’ to good health in other countries:

French – Santé (pronounced Son tay) or votre santé – good health or to your good health

Italian – Salute (prounounced Salut ay) – cheers, bless you, to good health

Spanish – Salud – (pronounced Salude) – cheers, bless you, to good health

German – Prost (from the latin prodesse – to be beneficial) or gesundheit – good health

Afrikaans – Gesondheid – good health

Scottish, Irish Gaelic – Sláinte (pronounced slawn-cha) – ‘to your health’ and is from the root ‘slán’ defined as ‘healthy’

Danish, Swedish and Norwegian – Skål – (pronounced Skoal) – ‘to your health’ or ‘bottoms up’

Finnish – Kippis – comes from an expression – to tilt glasses

Chinese – gānbēi! – literally means dry cup – ‘bottoms up’

How do you say cheers?

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us, get first look at events, receive bubbly information and be in our giveaway draws and have a chance to win a bubbly prize? You can join our list, it’s FREE to join here.

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