The Bubbles Review

for people who love champagne and all things sparkling!

Do you know the way to make rosé?

Who doesn’t love a pink bubbly?! Let’s not mistake it for a sweet drink (sparkling Moscato), a sparkling or champagne rosé has a rich flavour profile with a crisp dry finish that is a perfect to drink as a food match at this time of year, or anytime really!

Australia makes the top 10 in the world for champagne imports, although we are the second lowest for imports of rosé champagne, but this trend is changing, 2018 saw the highest imports in a decade.

For every 28 bottles of champagne popped in Australia, one of them is pink. Across all markets, it’s one in ten, and the USA set a new record last year of more than one in six.  

Possibly a case of supply vs demand, as there is less choice when looking for a rosé champagne. But this is definitely shifting, I’ve noticed more and more options and there are also some great Aussie sparkling rosés available. I am happy to do my bit for increasing demand ?.

The method to create the bubbles in a sparkling rosé is the same as white sparkling, but how the colour is achieved may differ between blending (assemblage) and saignée. 

Rosé d’assemblage is a blending method, the most common way of making rosé, in which a tiny quantity (around 15%) of Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier made as table wine is added to the white base wine.

The Veuve Clicquot was the first to use this method. Breaking away from the tradition of adding an elderberry-based preparation to create rosé champagne. Madame Clicquot created the first “rosé d’assemblage” by blending some of her red wines from vineyards in Bouzy with her champagne to create the very first blend of rosé champagne.

To make champagne, only certain grapes can be used, there are seven grapes on the list, however there are three that are most commonly used, which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Only one of the three, is actually a white grape.

(See the full list of champagne grapes here:  FAQ)

As described in our blog: Come quickly I am drinking the stars.

It is the skin that creates the red colour of a red wine, to create a white sparkling wine from red grapes, this is done by gentle pressing with very limited skin contact. In different champagne styles you will find a 100% Pinot Noir, which is known in Champagne as a Blanc de Noirs meaning white from black.  So, although it is 100% Pinot Noir it will still be a white champagne, as it is not pressed on skins.

But, using the second method of creating a Sparkling rosé, the saignée method, the pink of a rosé can be achieved by using the skins. Saignée literally means bleeding in French and with this technique the rosé is made by ‘bleeding’ off juice from just-crushed pinot noir or meunier grapes after a short maceration (soaking) on skins prior to fermentation.

This minimal maceration allows the must (still wine) to develop stronger aromas and flavour profiles while deepening the colour.  

In sparklings from other parts of the world you might find a sparkling Pinot Noir or other grape varieties to create a sparkling red wine. But you will never find a sparkling red in Champagne, as it is against the rules to make a sparkling red in Champagne.  A pink as a rosé is okay, and there is a still red wine, the Coteaux Champenois which is allowed, but never a red champagne.

In Australia, a Sparkling Shiraz is loved by many. Sparkling red wines begin their life in the same way as still reds, fermented on skins to extract colour, flavour and tannin. The finest are then privileged to méthode traditionnelle, although transfer, charmat or carbonation methods can also be used.

Our giveaways over the past few months have featured some lovely sparkling rosés and champagne, keep an eye out, we may even have some sparkling red in the pipeline! A sparkling rosé with dumplings is a heavenly match.  I love the change of seasons, the cooler nights, which go so well with hearty food, casseroles and rich flavoured meals. Perhaps a long weekend lunch or evening meal, with a sparkling rosé or red might be the perfect bubbly match for your Autumn and Winter dining.

You may also like these blogs that talk about champagne techniques and tasting:

Why that is not a glass of Champagne that you are drinking!

Minerality in Champagne

Is champagne better than sex?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Natalie-champagne-jacket-and-flute-1024x682.png

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? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

What is a Pét-Nat?

It seems like Pét-Nats are popping up everywhere at the moment. One might assume that they are a new wine style, or just another hipster trend. Well, they are definitely ‘on trend’, but you may be surprised to discover that Pét-Nats are actually the oldest sparkling wine!  With records showing them pre. 1500s long before the sparkling wines of England (1662) and then Champagne in 1668.

So, what is a Pét-Nat?

Pét-Nat is short for pétillant naturel, which is means “naturally sparkling” in French.  It is made in the  “ancestral” method of bottling before the first fermentation has finished, allowing the process to complete in bottle (as opposed to the Champagne method, which commences second fermentation in bottle after the first has completed in tank/barrel).

The more rustic approach to making pét-nat means that there is less interference, so it is on trend as a natural sparkling. It is usually less bubbly and less refined, so I wouldn’t compare it to champagne or other sparkling wines, but be open to try something different.  I have seen some people liken it to drinking beer (although it is still made with grapes), I can see the comparison, as it refreshing in that way and this winemaking process results in a less alcoholic wine.  This relaxed, casual wine is perfect for an Autumn picnic matched with a Charcuterie plate, or try it with something sweet!

Our giveaway this month is from Chateau La Colombiere which is in Fronton, 30 mins north of Toulouse, where husband and wife team Diane and Philippe Cauvin are painstakingly nursing back from extinction some of France’s rarest vines. The pair are living their dream, crafting wines from the regional ancient variety: Negrette which is native to their area of Fronton. Diane took the reins of the family estate after learning viticulture and completing a tour de force throughout French vineyards including Burgundy. The first and perhaps the most significant change was to step up the effort to preserve these rare vines by farming biodynamically in 2006. As the vines have been cultivated here in the same way since the 15th century, this was a significant change, to say the least. Add to this hand picking and sorting and you get the base to create something delicious.

The feature this month is 2016 Chateau La Colombiere, Sparkling Pet Nat, Negrette.

Tastes like:  Some sediments in suspension, the mousse is rich, bubbles are generous and active for a Pét-Nat even after opening. It is a delicious dry style with yeasty and fresh strawberry as well as fleshy peach notes. This smashable low alcohol sparkling Pet Nat have also some cider vibe with flavour of ripe red apples.

Area: Fronton (South-West France)

Farming: Biodynamic (certified)

Grapes: Negrette (100%)

Occasion: Brunch/ lunch/ dinner wine! A perfect park wine or by the pool.

Food match: Charcuterie, salads or fresh goat cheese.

When to drink: Drink now or before end 2019.

With special thanks to Mosaique Wines who import and distribute this and other artisanal wines from France.  The owner Thomas Gisbert told me:

“I travel extensively throughout the country each year to bring you a collection of wines that reflect the heart and soul of this land- a mosaic of small and beautiful parts that make a bigger picture.

Each wine has been hand-selected for the unique qualities they express, lovingly made by local producers who dedicated their lives to their craft. These producers respect the land they farm above all else, using sustainable, organic or biodynamic techniques to nourish their vines and the ecosystem around them. We have endeavoured to tell their stories in the hope you can envisage yourself sharing a glass with these characters and enjoying the fruits of their labour.”

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? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Tassie Sparkling Cellar Doors

Tassie Sparkling Cellar Doors

I love a chance to visit Tasmania. I have trekked through some of its great natural landscapes, the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, Bay of Fires lodge walk, and Freycinet looking over the beautiful Wineglass Bay. But it is not just the scenery that I love; they also do food and wine exceptionally well! 

In particular, they make great bubbly! Tasmania’s reputation for producing some of Australia’s best sparkling wines is increasing each year, thanks to the pristine cool climate, which is very similar to the Champagne region of France and perfect for growing grapes for sparkling. Such is the reputation of sparkling wines from Tasmania, according to Tyson Stelzer, award- winning wine writer and reviewer “No region anywhere on the planet outside of Champagne itself makes sparkling as exceptionally as Tasmania”. High praise indeed!

My research for this blog was made up of a series of trips in 2018 and 2019 (as well as attending Effervescence a festival of Tasmanian Sparkling wine). In contrast to mainland Australia, Tasmania as an island state is compact, but it is bigger than you think, it is not possible to cover everything in a few days.  For the purposes of this blog I have broken it down into a few regions: the Tamar Valley (north near Launceston), East Coast (Freycinet), and Hobart and surrounds

As always, I suggest that you check the winery website to confirm opening times, tasting fees, and to make bookings for tours or meals, which I suggest that you do for most of the Cellar Doors with a restaurant.

There are so many sparklings on tasting here, a visit to the Cellar Doors really is a bubbly paradise!  I suggest that you will need a designated driver, and there are a few local tour operators that offer wine tours, which is always a good way to find your way around, Uber is available in Hobart and has now arrived in Launceston, and local taxis could also get you to the Cellar Doors that are located near to one of these cities.

Tamar Valley

The Tamar Valley Wine Route covers the wineries in this region, I realised this can even be broken into a few smaller regions: Relbia just south of Launceston, West Tamar, East Tamar and Pipers River in the North East of the Tamar.

The area enjoys a significant climatic advantage that is unique to the rest of Australia; that of very low day time temperatures caused from the local geographical features. The waters of Bass Strait cool the hot northerly winds, while the cool southerlies gain heat as they cross the island. Cool temperatures and significant sunshine hours make for ideal conditions to retain delicate aromas in the fruit. The frosty and sometimes wild conditions of winter give way to clear, crisp, blue-sky days through the growing season, allowing the fruit to ripen slowly and evenly, assuring the lingering acidity essential to producing premium cool climate wines.

Relbia

Josef Chromy

This Cellar Door is around a 15 minute drive from Launceston. Josef Chromy OAM has been instrumental to the Tasmanian food and wine industry, having owned and developed some of Tasmania’s leading wineries including Rochecombe (now Bay of Fires), Jansz, Heemskerk and Tamar Ridge.

In December 2007, at 76, when most people would be thinking about easing up, Joe launched Josef Chromy Wines.  Joe fled his war-torn Czech village in 1950 as a penniless 19-year-old. “I came here with nothing but hope and ambition over 50 years ago. Tasmanians welcomed me and, with their help, I have been rewarded for the challenges and risks I have taken in both the meat and wine industries”.

Arrival at the Cellar Door rewards you with a venue that includes a stunning restaurant, overlooking a picturesque lake and vineyard. It is listed as one of the Top 10 Cellar Doors of Australia and the restaurant has been awarded a Chefs Hat in the Good Food Guide.  The menu features locally sourced produce, and you can enjoy dining in the restaurant or purchase a Cheese or Meat/Cheese Platters to enjoy in the grounds.

I visited during Effervescence Tasmania. The vineyard catered for this event very well, and a few of the smaller Tassie sparkling producers told me that they use the facilities at Josef Chromy and the expertise of chief winemaker Jeremy Dineen to make their sparklings. I visited the Cellar Door again in early 2019 and enjoyed a delightful meal in the restaurant.   There are a few sparklings available for tasting from the Josef Chromy and Pepik ranges, or available by the glass in the restaurant.

Bookings are required for tasting groups of 6 or more.  Behind the scenes wine tours are also available to be booked on the website.

On my recent visit, I got to meet the man himself! Josef Chromy and Natalie Pickett from The Bubbles Review

https://www.josefchromy.com.au/

West Tamar

Tamar Ridge Cellar Door (Pirie)

Tamar Ridge Cellar Door is high in the hills overlooking the beautiful Tamar River.  I was very happy to find lots of sparkling on tasting and to learn the story of the Pirie range.  Pirie is named after Dr Andrew Pirie who has been a very influential figure in the Tasmanian wine industry, initiating and building some of Tasmania’s largest and most important vineyards and wineries including Pipers Brook Vineyard, and Ninth Island which he co-founded with his brother David in 1974 and Pirie sparkling in 1999.

Andrew Pirie no longer owns the Pirie label as it was sold to Brown Brothers around eight years ago, but he continues to be involved as a consultant and ambassador for the brand. He now has a new vineyard Apogee (more about that later), consults on wine industry development, conducts climate research and is writing a book on wine terroir.

I tasted the:

Pirie NV Sparkling, made up of around 12 different reserve wines, 65/35 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir. Fine persistent bead and minerality.

Pirie 2011 Vintage Sparkling, 50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, rich and toasty with great length.

Pirie 2010 Sparkling Rose, 100% Pinot Noir, very faint salmon colour, almost a Blanc de Noirs, rich palate and complex fruit.

Pirie 2009 Blanc de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay, lovely honey toast nose, creamy, complex with a long layered finish. 

Resident chefs Hubert & Dan, provide fresh, seasonal platters with local and house made cheeses, salmon and charcuterie to complement the tasting experience.

I made this my lunch spot and sat out on the deck with a view of the river through the trees, a platter and a glass of the 2011 Vintage whilst I made my notes. The perfect office!

http://www.tamarridge.com.au/

Moores Hill

A small producer embracing innovation “We make wine powered by the sun” in 2017 they built Tasmania’s first 100% off grid winery and follow traditional small batch wine making philosophies with modern winemaking techniques. The small Cellar Door, is a cottage with a great verandah with views out over the vineyards.  Tasting plates featuring specially selected, local produce are available to complement the wines.

I met Fiona who manages the Cellar Door, and sales and marketing and her husband Julian, who is the winemaker.

I tasted the NV Sparkling Blanc de Blancs. Single vineyard, hand vinified, hand bottled and hand disgorged. It is fine, crisp, and creamy cuvee and has been aged on yeast lees for 12 months. They recommend “Enjoy with oysters and good friends” which sounds like a good idea to me!

Since my visit I notice that this wine won a Silver Medal at the 2018 Tasmanian Wine Show. I also tasted a Blanc de Noirs from their sister vineyard Native Point which is on the other side of the Tamar and notice that they now have their own Moores Hill Blanc de Noirs available for purchase.

https://www.mooreshill.com.au/

Holm Oak

This small rustic Cellar Door, is located a bit off the beaten track.  The staff here were very friendly and shared a bit about the story of this family owned winery.  They also shared some great tips on other sparkling Cellar Doors in the area.  I tasted the NV Sparkling which is a 60/40 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay. Lovely crisp citrus and green able with spicy berry notes from the Pinot Noir. 

Local cheeses, terrines and salmon products are available to purchase, to create your own platter with some lovely spots for a picnic with vineyard and rural views.  Some weekends the Bird n’ Herd BBQ food truck is also on site.

http://www.holmoakvineyards.com.au/

Goaty Hill

This wasn’t on my list but I dropped in here on the off chance that they might have a bubbles, and I was rewarded with one.  It is a small Cellar Door. The partners are close friends from two families who chose the Tamar Valley as the place to start their winemaking. I met Tony one of the owners who was very friendly and introduced me to the Goaty Hill Sparkling, which is described as Vintage, Baked Apple, Moreish. They also serve Gourmet Platters and Cheese Plates, available daily from 11.30 – 3.00 and can be designed for 2 people or more. 

https://www.goatyhill.com/

East Tamar (including Pipers River)

Delamere

A small family friendly Cellar Door. This family business owned by Fran Austin and Shane Holloway, who are partners in wine and in life and they are producing a great range of quality sparklings.

“Delamere represents to me the opportunity to produce wines from the vineyard through to the glass, working alongside family with some of the finest quality fruit in the country.”

— Shane Holloway

Predominantly focused on Traditional Method sparkling wines, that are 100% estate grown and produced — a Grower/Producer in the true sense of the term, they describe that they are on a journey to create a unique range of handcrafted single site sparkling wines.

I met Alice the Cellar Door manager, and when I told her about The Bubbles Review, she found both Fran and Shane who generously spent time with me to share more about the story of the vineyard. Fran at the time, was juggling maternity leave with winemaking duties.  I could clearly see the passion and dedication of this hardworking team for achieving their goals of making sparkling wines of exceptional quality, and unique in character.

I tasted a few from this range:

Non Vintage Cuvée – a blend of vintages with the majority coming from 2014 vintage, with 30% of reserve wine adding complexity and depth. 2014 yields were particularly small, giving wonderful concentration of flavour. Around two years aging on lees.

Non Vintage Sparkling Rosé – pale salmon colour and an aroma of fresh strawberry and musk, 100% hand harvested Pinot Noir with reserve wine from 2016 adding complexity and around two years aging on lees.

2014 Sparkling Cuvée – the 2014 vintage delivered very small crops of exceptional quality and will be highly sought after. Rich and complex, opens with honey and develops through the palate, with stone fruits and fine line of minerality, a lingering and complex finish. Around three years aging on less.

2012 Vintage Sparkling Rosé – 100% Pinot Noir. Five years aging on lees and a low dosage of less than 2 grams allows the voluptuous flavours of the fruit to shine through.

2013 Blanc de Blancs – 2013 was something of a rollercoaster with some very warm, dry days and rain before vintage but this all lead to some intense flavours in the fruit and high levels of complexity. 5 years aging on lees and a low dosage of less than 2 grams.

2008 Late Disgorged Blanc de Blancs – 100% Chardonnay. 10 years aging on lees and a low dosage of less than 2 grams allows the voluptuous flavours of the fruit to shine through and the clear acid backbone to be a focal point of this wine.

Local produce is available to purchase to ‘pick your own picnic’ emphasis is on seasonal produce that suits a picnicker’s palate. You can enjoy under the pergola, with the different tasting options.

https://www.delamerevineyards.com.au/

Jansz

The Jansz Tasmania vineyard sits to the northeast of the island state within the Pipers River region of the Tamar Valley. This cool little corner is known colloquially as ‘Sparkling Tasmania’.

I learnt a few things about this area on my visit. Temperatures here are moderated by close proximity to Bass Strait. The ocean breezes keep the temperature up during winter – minimising risk of frost, and down in summer – allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and develop intense, delicate and refined flavours.

The soils are also an advantage, resting on a bed of pure, red, free-draining basalt soils, the Jansz vineyard is the perfect site to grow grapes for world-class sparkling wines.

Jansz has evolved as one of Australia’s most respected premium sparkling wines and has trademarked the term Méthode Tasmanoise.

“It could be argued we’re completely mad growing grapes in the wild and unforgivingly cold Tasmanian environment. But there’s méthode to our madness.

The climatic conditions of the Jansz vineyard rival the famed French wine region of Champagne. In fact, it was originally with French contribution that Jansz became Tasmania’s first sparkling made using the traditional Méthode.

Today we call it, Méthode Tasmanoise. It’s the essence of a partnership between the environment and our winemaker. Just as the cool Tasmanian climate creates spectacular beauty in nature, it is also instrumental in the creation of art in bottles.”

In a previous blog on Favourite Aussie Sparklings I included Jansz as one of my ‘go to’ labels.  I was so happy to be here at the vineyard and was pleased to meet the Cellar Door manager Maxine, already a subscriber to The Bubbles Review who was excited to see me and provided some great information to add to my notes. Maxine told me that it is still a family owned operation, a handcrafted and passionate brand who along with some of the other founders in this region (and supported by the study by Dr Andrew Pirie), recognised the similarity of this area with the Champagne region and the opportunity to create quality sparkling wines.  With added input from Jean Baptiste from the Louis Roederer Champagne House it is easy to see why Jansz has evolved as one of Australia’s premium sparkling wines.

The Cellar Door is the Jansz Tasmania Wine Room and includes an Interpretive Centre.  It is adjacent to the vineyard, overlooking a picturesque lake, cheese boards are available to purchase to enjoy with tastings.

There are around 6 sparklings on tasting and available for purchase. I tasted the:

Jansz Tasmania Cuvee 2012 50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, spend 6 months in oak before aged for 5 years on lees. Complex aromas, lemon peach and hazelnuts. Layered and elegant.

Jansz Tasmania Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 this Blanc de Blancs is not something that is made every year. It is limited release with each bottle numbered, as the name suggests it is from a single block of Chardonnay at the Jansz vineyard. The wine is 100% aged in French Oak and then spent 6 years in second fermentation in the bottle (aged on lees). Very pale gold colour, layers of citrus, almond nougat, with creamy texture and chalky long palate.

https://www.jansz.com.au/

Pipers Brook

The Jansz and Pipers Brook vineyards share a driveway, and you will see a sign pointing to Pipers Brook just after the entrance. An unmade driveway over the hill through the vineyard, reveals ocean views as you drive through the vines to arrive at the architecturally designed winery building. At Pipers Brook you can taste Pipers Brook, Ninth Island and Kreglinger wines.

The café was closed for refurbishment when I was there, but has since re-opened featuring fresh, local Tasmanian produce.

In 2016 winemaker Natalie Fryar (formerly Jansz) joined the Kreglinger team “I’m so excited to be working with some of the best sparkling fruit in Australia found right here on the estate at Pipers Brook.” Natalie said “It will be my honour and challenge to oversee the sparkling program and from what I’ve experienced already, wine lovers are in for a real treat with our upcoming releases.”

There are already some great results. In his 2018 Sparkling Report, Tyson Stelzer listed the Ninth Island NV Rosé as the Sparkling Wine of The Year Under $25 (a great achievement for a Rosé) with Ninth Island Non Vintage Cuvee listed as a runner up for the title. The acclaim follows the Gold Medal win for the NV Rosé at the 2018 Tasmanian Wine Show.

Ninth Island Non-Vintage Sparkling, blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, this is another  good quality sparkling at a great price.

Ninth Island Non-vintage Sparkling Rosé, rose petals, fresh strawberry, spice and pouring cream. The blend showcases the Pinot Noir, supported by fresh zesty structure of Chardonnay. Rich layered palate.

There were several sparklings available for tasting at the Cellar Door. I tasted:

Pipers Brook 2015 Vintage Cuvee, lemon, rich brioche, oyster shells.

Kreglinger 2004 Brut de Blancs, 100% Chardonnay, a lovely Blanc de Blancs, full palate, depth of flavours.

Kreglinger 2006 Brut Rosé, 100% Pinot Noir, rose petals, ripe strawberries, cream with a great dry finish. 

www.kreglingerwineestates.com

House of Arras and Bay of Fires

Bay of Fires’ cellar door is the Tasmanian home of Bay of Fires, House of Arras sparkling wines.

Bay of Fires Wines was founded in the 1990s by a team of dedicated winemaking and viticultural professionals, who believed Tasmania would one day become the pre-eminent Australian region to produce cool-climate Tasmanian wines.

The philosophy for Arras sparkling wines is to create world class sparkling wines. Created by Australia’s most awarded sparkling winemaker, Ed Carr, outstanding fruit is sourced across Tasmania’s premium cold climate regions. The art of blending sparkling wine is one that can only be mastered by perfecting the craft, patience to allow the wine to mature at its own pace and the experience to know when it is at its best. The entire portfolio of Arras sparkling wines are held back between 3-10 yrs to give these wines the distinction, quality and maturity they require to be world class, unique sparkling wines.

Over the past 20 years Ed Carr has amassed more than 100 trophies in Australian wine shows including 21 consecutive “Best Sparkling White Wine of Show” trophies at capital city wine shows. In 2018 he became the only non-champenois to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in London, alongside the legendary chef de caves of Charles Heidsieck, Dom Pérignon, Billecart-Salmon, Taittinger, Perrier-Jouët, Lanson and Pommery. To see Tasmanian sparkling acknowledged in such company on the global stage is an amazing achievement!

At the ‘Tasmanian Sparkling Takes on the World’ Masterclass that I attended at Effervescence Tasmania, in a blind tasting of eight sparklings including a few big name champagnes, the Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2003 was overwhelming voted the favourite.

It was Ed’s foresight and firm belief in the potential of Tasmania as Australia’s best sparkling fruit resource that was the driving force behind the company’s 1995 decision to produce Tasmanian prestige cuvée, evolving into the House of Arras range. December 2002 marked the release of the 1998 Arras – the first vintage made from 100% Tasmanian fruit.

The Cellar Door experience offers gardens with sweeping views over the vines, the winery and Pipers River. With local cheese and artisan pizzas to enjoy with the wines, this is one of the few sparkling wineries that served food in this area, so you could plan for a lunch stop here. There is also a seated Premium Arras Tasting Experience.

The staff here were great, I met Alicia and she generously shared her knowledge of the wines, the vineyards and the local region.

I tasted:

Arras Grand Vintage 2008 (just changed over from 2007). 65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir, aged for 7 years, complex full palate wine, lingering finish, aromas of toast, honeycomb, sourdough and nougat.

Arras Rose 2006 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay (with a dash of Pinot Meunier), a light salmon colour, it is barely pink, lovely savoury flavours balanced with ripe strawberries.

https://www.bayoffireswines.com.au/Visit-Us/Cellar-Door

Clover Hill

Clover Hill is one of Australia’s very few premium sparkling houses solely producing sparkling wines in the traditional method. With the intention to produce a refined sparkling wine to rival that of great Champagne houses, Clover Hill was established in 1986 on the site of an old dairy farm in north eastern Tasmania. These first plantings produced Clover Hill’s debut vintage in 1991. Since this time, Clover Hill has become synonymous with elegance and refinement, gaining a reputation of uncompromising quality. A new Cellar Door opened in late 2017.

A long-time favourite of mine, I am in good company as it was chosen by royalty when ‘our own’ Princess Mary chose Clover Hill Vintage Brut to be served to celebrate her wedding to Prince Frederick. It was also selected as one of the four iconic Australian wines served to Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh during their Australian visit in 2011.

Clover Hill is acknowledged as one of Australia’s finest sparkling producers. With the cool climate and growing conditions of Tasmania being remarkably similar to that of the Champagne region of France, Clover Hill has been able to produce sparkling wines of quality, elegance and finesse.

Ian, the Cellar Door Manager discussed some of the background of the new building, the owners of Clover Hill (the Goelet family from France, who also own Taltarni in Victoria) wanted a Cellar Door to reflect the quality of the brand.

The new Cellar Door stays true to the 3 pillars of Clover Hill: terroir, method and blend.  This beautiful architect designed building with rammed earth walls made from the local terroir, features a tasting room that has doors opening up onto the deck with panoramic views of the vineyard, natural forests and Bass Strait.  Inside is a relaxing lounge area with plush ottomans, a tasting bar and a VIP room for Club Prestige members wanting a peaceful moment.

A perfect place to sit and taste your way through the Clover Hill range!

“The neomodern building sits at the top of our sloping vineyard so your eye is led down into the vines – which we encourage visitors to take a wander through – and on a clear day you can see the white caps of Bass Strait.”

Clover Hill’s commitment to excellence has been recognised with numerous awards including being inducted into the Australian Sparkling Hall of Honour in 2017, twice awarded Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year, and the Gourmet Traveller 2018 Cellar Door Awards – Best Tasting Experience.

Clover Hill is planted solely to the traditional sparkling wine varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These varieties are all trellised in traditional close proximity plantings. A strong focus on Chardonnay is acknowledged and rewarded with Tyson Stelzer naming the Clover Hill 2005 Cuvée Prestige Late Disgorged his Blanc de Blancs of 2018.

Some of the wines featured are available for regular tastings, some with the VIP Experience and some you won’t find in stores as they are only for purchase at Cellar Door.

Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvée Rosé, NON-VINTAGE – 54% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir, 3% Pinot Meunier – delicate salmon pink colour, with a soft and creamy mousse. Strawberry and dark cherry notes marry perfectly with the wine’s fresh brioche characters. The wine is well structured, with sweet red berries and cream enveloping the palate.

Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvée, NON-VINTAGE – 53% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier- Delicate and soft mousse, on the nose, notes of bright citrus, fresh apples, brioche and cream. On the palate, crisp apple pie and lime characters. Great drive and length.

Clover Hill VINTAGE 2013 – 63% Chardonnay, 31% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Meunier blend. The palate is delicate and creamy, with fine bead and persistent mousse, light straw colour indicative of a chardonnay, has developed a golden hue during its three years on tirage. On the nose, it displays citrus and red berries, with a hint of toasted brioche. This is a delightful wine.

Clover Hill Cuvée Exceptionnelle Blanc de Blancs, VINTAGE 2012 – 100% Chardonnay. The 2012 Blanc de Blancs is a pale straw colour with a fine, persistent bead and mousse. Aromas of fresh melon, underpinned by toasty notes and sweet cinnamon. The palate is bold and rich with flavours of fresh citris with a persistent soft minerality the lingers on the finish.

Clover Hill Cuvée Exceptionnelle Vintage Rosé, VINTAGE 2013 – 100% Pinot Noir, limited release, is crafted via extended skin contact of Pinot Noir to create a soft, pink colour. Fine persistent bead and mouth filling mousse, rich flavours of strawberry and citrus with hints of brioche, with a fine crisp finish.

Clover Hill Cuvée Prestige Brut. VINTAGE 2005 – 100% Chardonnay. This limited-release Late Disgorged Brut. A vibrant rich straw colour with a persistent fine bead are precursors to the refined and gentle foaming mousse.  An assortment of fresh lemon curd and brioche, developed almond and toasty characters, it is the epitome of Clover Hill’s signature house style – a true combination of passion and patience.

Cheese platters are available every day and share plates with seasonal local produce are available on weekends.

The Clover Hill Elite VIP Experience , is a guided tasting experience and a great way to taste the range, which includes the limited release Exceptionelle and Prestige Blanc de Blancs, tasting plate and wine credit. It is $75pp and must be booked in advance.

Apogee

I mentioned earlier that we would learn more about Dr Andrew Pirie of the Pirie label whose name appears over and over in the history of sparkling wine in Tasmania. Aside from his continued research, published studies and consulting work, he has established the Apogee label.

The goal to produce very high-quality wines from a small, hand tended area that is operated on a commercial and sustainable basis. The belief is that the combination of the highly researched site with the latest knowledge of terroir theory is leading to wines that are very expressive of the terroir.

“A search for the ‘terroir’ of the famous French cool-climate areas of northern France in Australia led me to buy land in partnership with my brother David, in northern Tasmania in December 1973. This search study became part of my doctoral thesis on viticulture completed at the University of Sydney in 1977. The vineyard was named Pipers Brook Vineyard after the local brook and is now part of history. Pipers Brook’s second-label Ninth Island became the most widely distributed and recognised label from Tasmania. Pirie was the Pipers Brook sparkling wine label and was first made in 1995. It became the most awarded of all the wines I made and has been drunk by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on at least two occasions.

“I have continued to research wine climates and these days the knowledge is more precise in predicting ‘terroir’. In a paper at the International Cool Climate Symposium in Hobart in 2012 I selected the best index for predicting grapevine ripening in cool climates. When the opportunity to apply this learning arose again recently, I could not resist planting another sparkling wine vineyard in what appeared to be a grand cru sparkling site.”

The vineyard name Apogee, means the highest point.

The philosophy behind Apogee:

1. Use the latest climatology to locate a perfect ripening location for sparkling wine using the classic Champagne grapes Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier with a small amount of Pinot Gris known as Fromenteau in Champagne.

2. Produce only Single Vineyard wines so that the output fully reflects the distinguished vineyard conditions and intensive vineyard manipulations.

3. Restrict the scale to 2 hectares, which is the average size of a holding in Champagne. This is deliberately chosen to test the theory that the ability to manage vineyards perfectly limits their scale.

The Apogee project has had several objectives, the main being to produce traditional method sparkling that rivals Champagne. Others are to demonstrate how the latest knowledge of terroir can pin-point great sites and to show that single site sparklings can produce the best wine.

The Cellar Door is tiny, and Andrew wasn’t there on my visit, but the friendly family Labrador greeted me and someone came out from the house to show me the Cellar Door.  Apogee, the highest point is not just about a location, but also the zenith of accomplishment. Andrew Pirie, now in his 70s, is working on the culmination of his career, which is all about quality rather than quantity.  Only vintage wine is created and I tasted these two on my visit:

2014 Deluxe Vintage Brut. Light gold with fine mousse and a suitable foamy collar when poured.  Aromas range from bready, yeasty overtones through to perfumed red fruits and lemon-rind with a faint salty oyster-shell character which is part of our terroir.  Full palate with notes of toasty honey honey with a racy lemon finish towards the end. A vineyard blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.

Vintage Deluxe Rosé 2014. Light salmon pink (almost rose gold) with fine mousse. aromas of cherry, raspberry and musk are typical of this vineyard and are found in this wine. The palate shows strong midpalate richness, faint salty oyster shell with cherry and floral tones.  A vineyard blend of 88% pinot noir and 12% chardonnay was hand-picked and whole bunch pressed, soaked on skins (saigné).

Apogee is located very close to Clover Hill, and you could plan your itinerary to visit to the two of them. You may want to check in advance if Apogee will be open on the day of your visit, or take a chance and check to see if the signboard is out the front on the day.

https://www.apogeetasmania.com/

East Coast

Freycinet Vineyard

Founded in 1976, they have been producing sparkling since 1993. Geoff and Susan Bull cleared the site in 1978, planted the first vines in 1979 and established the first commercial winery on the East Coast. They were early pioneers in a new region which years later revealed exciting quality potential in wines. The region now boasts over a dozen different vineyards.

The Freycinet Vineyard and Winery is family owned with daughter Lindy Bull and her partner Claudio Radenti taking over the family tradition of gently handcrafting the wines. 

I tasted the 2011 Radenti Sparkling which is 69/31 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir. It has spent 4 years on lees, I tasted green apple, citrus and some spicy notes that flow and merge with creamy, soft yeasty complexity and textures.  The Radenti sparkling heritage has received multiple awards and the 2011 had just won gold at the Tasmanian wine show. 

Lovely deck overlooking the vineyard to enjoy a drink and the view.

http://www.freycinetvineyard.com.au/

Devils Corner

“At Devil’s Corner we are dedicated to creating the finest wines imaginable, but in doing so we’ve had to make a home in one of the wildest places in Tasmania.”

There is an amazing view from this Cellar Door. “It’s a beautiful struggle, being caught between Devil’s Corner and the deep blue sea.”

It is a great lunch stop, as there is food made from local produce at Tombolo Café, fresh seafood from The Fishers and you can relax on the deck with a glass of wine to match, overlooking magnificent views of the Hazards and ocean.  There is also a fun lookout to climb. 

This was a very busy Cellar Door and definitely worth a stop for the view and something to eat.  There is only one sparkling produced under this label, the Devil’s Corner, Sparkling Cuvée NV. Fresh crunchy apple, and a touch of citrus. It is lively and fresh in the mouth with a dry refreshing finish.  80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. The second fermentation is done using the tank method, also known as the Charmat method, which produces bright, fresh fruit characters, in contrast the traditional method which produces a more complex flavour profile from aging on yeast in the bottle.

Devil’s Corner, like the Pirie sparkling label, is also owned by Brown Brothers.


Spring Vale

Spring Vale Vineyard’s small and intimate Cellar Door is actually an old stable, which was built by convict labour in 1842 and is now heritage listed.

The stable has been preserved (with minor restorations necessary) and is now a unique cellar door building with a very historic feel.

The 2016 “Salute” Sparkling comprises 72% Pinot Noir, 23% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier. The aromas show fresh strawberry and lemon zest and a hint of vanilla. Fresh berry fruit give some sweetness to the palate which is nicely balanced with Granny Smith apple, leading to a dry, savoury finish. A classic aperitif sparkling, delicious with Tassie oysters.

No café on site, but you can purchase a cheese box. There was a nice little picnic area set up with a tent for shade looking over the vineyard. 

http://www.springvalewines.com/

Milton

With a focus on producing small quantities of handmade wine Milton are the winners of the 2017 Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year award.

There are two sparklings produced, but unfortunately neither of them are available for tasting.  They are available to purchase by the glass and take into the Sophie’s restaurant which shares the space.  Located in a lovely weatherboard building with big verandahs with views out over the lake and vineyard.

2010 Vintage Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir – 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir

This limited release Vintage Sparkling is a medium bodied style with some yeasty complexity and creamy texture. Aging on lees for 5 years has contributed to a fine persistent bead.

2016 Sparkling Pinot Noir Laura. A lovely pale pink sparkling wine made predominately from Pinot Noir. Refreshingly dry, elegant and crisp with strawberry and cherry flavours and a long fine finish.

I made this my lunch stop and paired it with a glass of 2016 Sparkling Pinot Noir Laura.  The restaurant Sophie’s is the creation of chef Sophie Bermudes, who trained in Bordeaux and has spent the majority of her career working throughout the south-west of France.  She has a French approach to Tasmanian produce. Guests can choose from a blackboard seasonal menu and take-away picnic options are also available.

Melshell Oyster Shack

This is not a Cellar Door. It is an oyster farm gate shop … and yes, it is a shack (well caravan), located about 20 minutes off the Tasman Highway near Swansea at a place called Dolphin Sands. You could grab a bottle of chilled bubbly from one of your Cellar Door visits and include a stop here for freshly shucked oysters straight off the farm. Yum!

http://www.melshelloysters.com.au

Hobart and Surrounds

Bangor Vineyard Shed

A small family vineyard with four hectares of vines (Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay), which are hand-tended.

At a latitude of 42 degrees 53’ south, Bangor’s vineyard is one of the most southerly in Tasmania, and the world, making it a true cool climate site. There is a beautiful view over Dunalley and Blackman Bay which you can view from the verandah or from one of the picnic tables on the lawn.  There is a cubby and sandpit for kids to play in. There is only one sparkling produced, but it was lovely, and matched with local oysters taking in the view it was a divine experience.

Bangor Vintage Sparkling (2012)

Bangor’s 2012 vintage sparkling is a 60/40 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, made in the méthode traditionelle. A deliciously crisp sparkling displaying peach pear, white cherry and strawberry fruit flavours, balanced with creamy nougat and almond notes.

https://www.bangorshed.com.au/

Frogmore Creek

Located 20 minutes from Hobart in the Coal River Valley, the Frogmore Creek Cellar Door is housed in a rustic homestead that looks out over rolling hills and the vineyard.

On the mezzanine floor you can take a walk around the display of art works depicting the history of winemaking in Tasmania.

There are a few sparklings on tasting from the 42 Degree South and the Frogmore Creek range. I tasted:

NV 42 degrees South Sparkling – 82% Chardonnay, 18% Pinot Noir. Aromas of toasty brioche and delicate citrus subtly emerge from the fine beads. Full and crisp flavours of apples with lengthy creamy structure.  Fine and Subtle.

NV 42 degrees South Sparkling Rose – 90% Pinot Noir, 7 % Pinot Meunier, 3% Chardonnay.  This wine has a deep salmon colour with a nose of light strawberry flavours and fresh fruit. On the palate you should taste fresh red berry fruit with a creamy texture.

2016 Frogmore Creek Sparkling Cuvée – 64% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay, 4% Pinot Meunier. Light beads, subtle, fresh and delicate. A beautiful wine.

The Cellar Door includes a restaurant featuring seasonal local produce from sea, land and garden, with a deck with views out over the vineyard and a big lawn area with some lawn games and space for kids to roam. I dined here and had a beautiful food match of Tempura Oysters with the Sparkling Rose.

You can now also visit the The Lounge by Frogmore Creek (Bar and Restaurant) located in the Macq01 building in Hobart, which is elevated over Kings Wharf. It is a lovely way to spend an afternoon enjoying views of the marina, whilst sipping a glass of their lovely bubbly.


Stefano Lubiana

Stefano (Steve) Lubiana is a fifth generation wine maker who has carved out a niche in the Tasmanian wine industry. Steve identified the uniqueness that Tasmanian grape growing had to offer and tasted the potential for greatness. The family owned vineyard is around a 30 minute drive from Hobart and wraps itself around the picturesque foothills of the Derwent River estuary. Established in 1990 the majority of the estate is dedicated to biodynamically grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I love Stefano Lubiana wines and order them whenever I see them on a menu.

At the Cellar Door there is an Osteria, which can be described as a small ‘farmhouse’ style eatery in Italy.

The menu here is fresh, seasonal and based around what comes out of their biodynamic vegetable garden. They harvest honey from their own bees and pickle and preserve their own produce. Free-range meats are sourced from local farmers and wild caught seafood from the pristine waters of Tasmania.

We enjoyed a platter on the terrace with a glass of the NV Brut Reserve, before relaxing in the bean bags in the sun, taking in the view.  It was a delightful afternoon!  I tasted:

Stefano Lubiana NV Brut Reserve – multi-vintage blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that incorporates aged reserves of wine specially prepared for the production the house style of sparkling. The natural viticulture and low yields along with the reserve wine creates a sparkling wine that tastes so different – fruit-pure, intense, rich, creamy and complex. A Gold Winner at the Decanter International Awards. It is a great all-rounder sparkling wine.

Stefano Lubiana Grande Vintage 2008 – A blend of Chardonnay (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%) with 7 years on lees before being disgorged in May 2016. A delightful classic ‘Tassie Sparkling’ with plenty of natural acidity.

https://slw.com.au/

Moorilla at Mona

On my last trip I didn’t get to visit this Cellar Door as Mona was booked out for a Dark Mofo event.  I visited the winery about 20 years ago, which was very basic compared to today!  Now situated in the amazing Mona art gallery, (which I did go to the opening of), I agree with their website “Come and quaff Moorilla Wine and art. A match made in the proverbial. And what better way to experience it than a top-notch tour or two as part of Moorilla Experiences.”

The winery was founded in 1962 and focuses on a small, very high-quality output. From estate-grown fruit, the ultra-premium wines are made using small-batch winemaking techniques in a gravity-assisted winery. They do make some lovely sparklings. You could easily spend a half or even full day taking in all there is to see and experience, and they also offer amazing accommodation so you could stay overnight. From Hobart, you can take the Mona ferry, which is around 25 minutes, or around 20 minutes by car.

https://moorilla.com.au/

A big thank you to Clover Hill, Jansz and Bay of Fires who provided giveaways for our subscribers as part of our feature on Tassie Sparkling Wine.

Like to join me for our Tassie Sparkling Cellar Door tour? Visit our Events and Tours page for more information


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? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Here’s cheers to the fabulous women of Champagne!

There are many examples of amazing women in Champagne, here a few names you might know, and some you would like to know more about.  From historical to modern times, if you look at the dates, they are around 50 -100 years apart. In life, we all benefit from the legacy created from those that came before us. International Women’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate that. Here’s cheers to all of the fabulous women of Champagne!

The word ‘veuve’ means widow in French, many of the great women of champagne, were widows and mothers, who became major influencers in the champagne industry. At the time the only way a woman could be at the helm of a business was to take over after the death of her husband. So successful were the veuves, it is rumoured that some producers added veuve into their title, even when there was no veuve at the house!

Veuve Clicquot – Veuve Barbe-Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin

In 1805, after the death of her husband, Madame Clicquot at 27 years old became one of the first businesswomen of France when she took over the Clicquot business. In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company – a role she undertook with passion and determination. According to the Veuve Clicquot company description of her, Madame Clicquot’s character might be summarised with two words: audacious and intelligent.

Imagine the audacity of this decision at a time when women were not even allowed to open their own bank account!

She is credited with many innovations that have steered the success of champagne – the riddling process to remove the sediment from the bottle; improving the bottle so it would withstand the pressure of the bubbles; creating Rose champagne by adding some red wine; and her PR and branding, creating the first labels on a champagne bottle – the yellow label that still adorns the Veuve Clicquot bottle today.

I love the story of Veuve Clicquot, you can read more about her on our blog here:

Madame Pommery – Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Mélin Pommery

It was upon her husband’s death in 1858, that Madame Pommery, assumed full control of the business. One of her first decisions was to sell off their struggling wool business, and concentrate on the Champagne wine business. And, we are so glad that she did!

“I decided there and then to carry on the business in my husband’s stead”

With those words, the young widow set out to conquer national and international markets –overturning, without any qualms whatsoever, one or two corporate management rules. She was a true trailblazer, laying down the basis for any luxury product promotion; style, brand, communication and public relations on the estates.

She invented the modern style of champagne with the introduction of Brut Champagne, Brut being a much drier style was a bold initiative, as at the time the prevailing taste was for very sweet champagne (up to 300gms of sugar per litre, compared with now, depending on the level of Brut, is  up to 12 gms per litre). 

Only 10 years after taking over the business she built the Pommery Estate which at the time was the biggest building site of the century in Reims.  This grand site is still the home of Pommery and is an amazing place to visit.  Madame Pommery described her champagne in two words; “Joyful and Lightness”.  Now that is something to be celebrated!

Another amazing legacy, you can read more about Madame Pommery on our blog here:

Lily Bollinger – Élisabeth Law Lauriston-Boubers-Bollinger

In a new century, another amazing lady, Lily Bollinger took over the presidency of the Bollinger house after the death of her husband Jacques in 1941, and directed it until 1971. She launched the Bollinger RD vintage in 1961 and the vintage Vieilles Vignes Françaises in 1969, putting the brand on the international stage.  She is credited with introducing the brand to celebrities of the time. When asked by a journalist from the London Daily Mail in 1961 “When do you drink champagne?” her witty and facetious answer is still quoted today as an exquisite definition of champagne:

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it — unless I’m thirsty…”

Historically there have been some great women of Champagne. But what is it like today?  

We asked Floriane Eznack from Champagne Jacquart about women working in Champagne today.

Floriane explained about the role of the wine maker, and how in Champagne the main responsibility is to produce the consistency of style in the non-vintage blend.

As a young winemaker, Floriane earned a Masters Degree in Oenology in Reims in 2004. Her studies included a couple of harvests in some of Champagne’s finest Houses, including Moët & Chandon. She joined Jacquart in January 2011 as Chef de Cave (Chief Winemaker), where she plays a central role in the creation of the finest quality blends for all of the Jacquart’s champagnes.

In our interview Floriane shares with us her motivation for working in the industry, and how she gave up her dream of becoming a fighter pilot! When she chose the wine industry, it was clear, she didn’t want to work with any other wine, but bubbles; “Not just bubbles for celebration, but a wine that everyone loves. It cheers you up and makes you happy and there is a magic behind champagne” she says.
See our interview with Floriane here:

In 2019 we will feature more stories on the modern era of women in Champagne, so stay tuned for that.

Until then, let’s raise a glass to celebrate these amazing women.

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? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Christmas in Champagne

As is the custom in the cities of France, a Christmas market is established in the centre of Reims, with 145 stalls in little chalets in the square surrounding the famous Notre Dame cathedral.  Tourists and locals wander tasting traditional products, drinking wine or cidre chaud (hot cider) and enjoying the Christmas lights.

In Epernay, the historic capital of Champagne, les Habits de Lumière happens with a three day festival on the second weekend of December. Every Champagne House on the Avenue de Champagne opens its gates to the public and light shows are projected on the facades of Moët & Chandon, Perrier-Jouët, Pol Roger, de Venoge and more. The event includes illuminations, projections, dazzling sound and light shows, champagne and gourmet food tastings, and finishes with a vintage car display on the Sunday.

Picture credit – Habits de Lumiere

Picture credit – Habits de Lumiere
De Lumiere at Perrier-Jouët

?#habitsdelumiere #epernay

Posted by Habits de Lumière Epernay on Friday, December 8, 2017

Aside from celebrations, the period before Christmas is very busy for Champagne Houses and growers! Indeed, they receive last minute orders from their customers: wine shops and private individuals. It is a key moment in terms of sales for the whole of Champagne.

In the winery, some start tasting the vins clairs (still wines from last harvest that are in vats or barrels) and will decide later of the assemblages (blends). This year there is great excitement as the Vintage of 2018 is very promising!

In the vineyards, everything is so quiet although some growers may begin to prune, pruning will be much more intense in the first months of 2019, before spring.

But I am sure you wonder how we celebrate Christmas?!  Here is a typical lunch or dinner paired with champagne or wine that we enjoy every year! I will share with you the best match between each dish and a type of champagne.

Christmas lunch menu

Oysters with a very low dosage Blanc de Blancs (Extra-Brut)

Smoked salmon with a standard Brut champagne (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier in equal parts)

Foie Gras with a Vintage Brut Champagne (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in equal parts)

Turkey and chestnuts with a pure Pinot Noir champagne (Blanc de Noirs)

Cheeses, let’s have a break and enjoy some red wines! Why not a red Coteaux Champenois, which is a still wine produced in the Champagne region. Champagne is not only about bubbles! If you like blue cheese (Roquefort, Fourme d’Ambert), try some Ratafia, which is a sweet liqueur produced by many Champagne houses.

Bûche de Noël (yule log) pairs nicely with a demi-sec champagne.  Demi sec, although it translates to half dry, is actually the term for a sweet champagne.

Merry Christmas – Joyeux Noël to you!

Sébastien Lebon was born, raised and continues to live and work in Champagne. Lucky him!  He has worked in a range of roles for some of the big champagne houses as well as grower champagnes. His favourite champagne quote is by Sir Winston Churchill: “Magnum is the best size for two gentlemen to share over lunch, especially if one of them is not drinking.”

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

Harvest in Champagne

I am so pleased to introduce my friend Sébastien Lebon as a contributor to The Bubbles Review.  Born, raised and still living in Champagne, Sébastien will be providing us with some bubbly snippets, direct from the source.  I asked Sébastien to share some insights on what it is like to be in the region for harvest.

Harvest in Champagne

“The calm before the storm” – This is what we might say when wandering in the Champagne vineyard just before the beginning of the harvest. Everything is so quiet and all of a sudden…more than 100 000 seasonal workers land on the chalky ground of the region.

Within more or less 3 weeks, they will pick the equivalent of 35 000 hectares as it is strictly forbidden to use machines. The C.I.V.C. (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) decides for each wine village or “cru” (320 in total) when the grapes can be gathered. For instance, picking usually starts earlier in the south of the region since the climate is a bit warmer so the grapes will be ripe sooner than in the north. In a qualitative approach this organisation also limits the yield per hectare (10 800 kg/hectare in 2018).

Several factors are considered before commencing: the acidity, the level of sugar and the health of the grapes are the most important. Some samples of grapes from each village are analysed before making any decision.

The work is tough and painful and must be done efficiently regardless of what the weather conditions are. To regain their strength, pickers wait for the morning break: coffee (or champagne!), pâtés en croûte (terrine wrapped in pastry) and maroilles (cheese) pies!

Once the grapes are collected, they are taken to a presshouse. There are presshouses all over the region because we do not want to damage the grapes during a long transportation. It is not unusual to find that traffic is busy and slow in September as the roads are filled with tractors carrying these precious fruits!

Pressing, it is done very softly to avoid colouring the white juice with the black skins of Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes. Then the juice is collected in decanting vats and after a few hours, the first alcoholic fermentation starts!

After days or weeks of hard labour, you know harvest comes to an end when you can hear in the distance cars and tractors honking. Tradition also warrants the vans to be decorated with vines. The “cochelet” is the name given to the big party thrown to celebrate the end of this intense period where champagne flows freely!

I am sure you are wondering how last harvest was… well it was exceptional! In recent years, harvest has begun earlier than usual and this year picking began in the earlier ripening villages on the 20th of August,  and the quality was very high for any type of grape!  It’s definitely a harvest everyone will remember. Let’s hope that the winter and spring tastings of vins clairs (clear still wines) will meet our expectations!

Sébastien Lebon was born, raised and continues to live and work in Champagne. Lucky him!  He has worked in a range of roles for some of the big champagne houses as well as grower champagnes. His favourite champagne quote is by Sir Winston Churchill: “Magnum is the best size for two gentlemen to share over lunch, especially if one of them is not drinking.”

If you liked this you may also like these other blogs from The Bubbles Review:

Come quickly. I am drinking the stars!

Minerality in Champagne

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

 

Margaret River Sparkling Cellar Doors

The Margaret River region is situated around three and a half hours South of Perth.  It is more than a day trip, at least three days would allow you time to discover some of the Sparkling Cellar Doors.

This is was not my first visit to Margaret River, but it was the first time I have visited to explore only the bubbles from the region. I love that the area has so much to offer – beaches, towering Karri tree forests, vineyards and rural views, local produce, gourmet food and, of course, the wine. On this ‘research’ trip during February 2018, I enjoyed pleasant mid-twenty degree temperatures, perfect for touring, and the warm days benefited from gentle sea breezes.

Sparkling wine is in its infancy in WA, but there are some nice bubbles developing.

You can explore the region by self driving, but then there is always the issue of limiting the tastings for the designated driver. This is why I love a winery tour, when someone who knows the area takes you to the best places and will, of course, also be the designated driver. In Margaret River, I was pleased to find a bubbles specific tour Margaret River Bubbles Tour.  With a background as a tradie and ex-rugby player, Mark, the owner, is an unlikely bubbles tour guide. He told me that the idea for the tour company came when he, his wife and a group of their friends visited the area on holidays, only to discover there was no tour catering for bubbles drinkers. An idea was sparked, and a few years later Mark and his wife moved to the area and established Margaret River Bubbles Tour. Prior to my visit, Mark gladly shared information about the wineries that produced bubbles in the area to help me with my planning, and I enjoyed a day out on tour with him experiencing the area. Mark only visits the smaller producers, so you can easily enjoy a few days exploring on your own and fit the day tour into your itinerary to cover some of the boutique wineries. Tours can also be customised to include visits to cheese, chocolates and olive oil, and they have just commenced a new tour featuring whale watching in season.

If you have a look at the list of Margaret River wineries, you’ll find over 95 Cellar Doors. Mark told us that even though there are around 130 vineyards in the region, they represent only 1% of the Australian wine market, but around 26% of Australia’s premium wine market. Only around 40 of these vineyards produce a sparkling wine.

The geology of the region is the oldest in Australia, and the gravel soils, microclimate, aspect and consistent maritime influence create ideal conditions for the region’s grape varieties.

I discovered that only a few wineries had their own sparkling wine facilities, and many of them have their sparkling wine produced locally by John Frazer – Frazer Woods Wines. As I travelled around, many people told me that I needed to meet John. He is an elusive character, but I was told that I could find him at his ‘sparkling shed’. Although it is not open to visitors, I was given directions to follow an old dirt road until I saw a sign that said ‘God’s Farm’, take that driveway and just turn up to see if he is there. I did find ‘God’s Farm’, but John wasn’t there. Instead, his son kindly showed me around and had a quick chat, but he suggested that I make contact with his dad. John kindly contacted me via our website afterwards to provide some more detail for me.

When planning your visit, I suggest that you check the Cellar Door websites for opening days and times, as they can change depending on the season.

Here is my list of Sparkling Cellar Doors:

Vasse Felix

‘Site of first vineyard and winery in Margaret River established in 1967’ is featured on a large sign as you enter the driveway.

Lovely options for food and wine tasting. Wine lounge for charcuterie, cheese and olives, and restaurant upstairs for an interesting menu of dishes featuring local produce. The estate has an Art Gallery and Sculpture park, and all spaces look out over the vineyard, which is quite close to the Indian Ocean. I couldn’t see the ocean, but I could smell the salty sea air as the breeze washed over the vineyard.

They have one sparkling, which is the Vasse Felix Blanc de Blancs. I tasted the 2016 Vintage that had recently been released after 18 months on lees, green apple and hints of French oak. The staff explained that the Chardonnay is from a parcel of vineyard in Karridale, which is in the Southern part of the region, and has a cooler climate.

The place was busy, but relaxed. You may want to book in advance for the restaurant. Behind the scenes tours are also available for booking on the website.

https://www.vassefelix.com.au/

Swings and Roundabouts

Rustic relaxed atmosphere, open fires, cosy corners and a huge lawn with vineyard views. It is family friendly with lawn games, ping pong table, and tyre swings. Simple menu with local ingredients, woodfired pizza, with a few other options including charcuterie, olives, and arancini.

They produce two different labels:

Backyard Stories is the premium label sparkling produced in small batches – NV Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir, which has been aged for two years on lees. Brioche, toast, nutty, fine creamy palate, crisp notes.

The Swings and Roundabouts range is a larger production Sparkling NV, which is 100% Chenin Blanc, mid-palate fruit of guava, passionfruit, apples, high acidity.

My favourite of the two was the Backyard Stories.

https://www.swings.com.au

Brookwood Estate

This family-owned vineyard, began as a bare paddock, until the family (although not originally from a wine background) planted out vines. The family’s experience and expertise has evolved a lot since then. I met Bronlee, the winemaker. She is the daughter of the owners and grew up here, and she loved it so much she studied to turn winemaking into her qualification and career. Funny enough, her nickname is ‘Bubbles’, so of course there needed to be a sparkling wine, and it is called just that – Bubbles. Brookwood’s bubbles is a blend of Semillion, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. Quite fruity and a bit sweet, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The bubbles are added and not bottle fermented. For some on our tour, this was their favourite. It has a Zork closure – an imitation cork, one that can be used to reseal the bottle. We enjoyed lunch here as part of our tour – a lovely dining experience on the verandah looking out over the vines.

https://brookwood.com.au/

Howard Park

There were lots of bubbles on tasting here. Sparkling is a speciality of this family-owned winery, and they are one of a few to have their own bottling line for sparkling wine. The Howard Park Jeté Brut Blanc NV had recently won prestigious ‘Best Australian Sparkling Wine’ trophy at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in London. This accolade has created such a demand for the label that it meant there was none available for tasting on my visit. Their bubbly expertise, however, was evident in the other sparklings on tasting.

Madfish Prosecco – released in October 2017, this is their first Prosecco. The grapes are from the King Valley in Victoria. Only available at Cellar Door.

Madfish Vera – Traditional method – 18 months on lees. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Crisp, citrus fruit and apricot, very dry finish.

Jeté NV Brut – as mentioned above, in addition this Jeté range has also won two golds, and a silver award. Almost sold out on my visit, so it wasn’t available for tasting.

“There is some tough competition in the Australian Sparkling space, so it really is an honour to have won this award, as a Western Australian winery, not famed for their sparkling, it is a fantastic achievement.” — Chief Wine Maker, Janice McDonald.

Howard Park Jete Rose – 100% Pinot Noir, 18 months on lees. Mid-palate berry fruit provide richness and freshness, very dry finish.

Grand Jete 2013 – 55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir. The blend varies depending on the best grapes for that year. It has been a Blanc de Blancs before. The first vintage was in 2009, and there are plans to release a vintage each year, depending on the harvest. This was fresh and fruity, with complexity through mid to full palate.

There were a couple more available for purchase but not tasting:

Pascal, Marchand and Burch. Limited vintage created in collaboration with the French champagne house. The Australian collection is made here under direction of Pascal. For the French collection, the fruit is sourced locally by Pascal to create the Marchand and Burch range.

Franck Bonville Champagne is also imported and sold here. I queried why, as there was not a winemaking collaboration – “because it is awesome”, that’s what they told me at the Cellar Door! It wasn’t available for tasting, so for now, I will take their word.

There is no restaurant here, but Howard Park hosts festivals where catering is brought in. December is ‘Bubbles and Blooms’, January ‘Oysters and Revelry’, February for Chinese New Year, Asian street food, and they also create a pop-up restaurant on some weekends. I suggest that you check their website for events before visiting.

I asked about availability to purchase their wines on the East Coast, and they told me that there is limited distribution. If you are keen to try any of the range, either visit the Cellar Door or order online.

https://www.howardparkwines.com.au/

Leeuwin Estate

Leeuwin has a great heritage in the region, being one of the first vineyards established in 1969. This is the site of the great Leeuwin Estate concerts. As you approach the entrance of the Cellar Door, you can see posters from the legacy of this great event, as well as the stage set overlooking the lawn, providing an inkling of the excitement of being at a concert here. Artwork is also a feature of this estate through their Art Series labels, which features paintings commissioned from leading contemporary Australian Artists. You can visit the art gallery onsite, which shows these wonderful works. It is worth spending time to explore. I didn’t dine here, but the menu at the restaurant looked nice and afforded views over the lawn to the concert stage.

I tasted the 2014 Brut Pinot Noir Chardonnay, with 60% Pinot Noir. It has spent some time in French Oak before bottle fermented – three years on lees. Oyster shell, lemon, lime and apple on the palate, bright and racy mouth feel with a dry finish.  Great aperitif style.

https://leeuwinestate.com.au

Voyager Estate

Wow, what a sense of arrival! The estate is the vision of the founder Michael Wright. Built in the style of Cape Dutch architecture with stunning gardens, with spectacular Wine Room and Restaurant. The biggest Australian flag in the Southern Hemisphere flies from the flag pole to greet you as you enter.

“Inviting everyone to come and enjoy a glass with us in Margaret River. The perfect combination of food, wine and the warmth of family and friends is what a visit to Voyager Estate is about … every feature of the Estate is designed to give you an inspirational experience.” The estate is still family-owned, with Michael’s two daughters taking over the reins since his passing in 2012 – continuing the direction of style as their father did.

I tasted the 2015 Blanc de Blancs, which had a lovely nose, small bead and creamy texture with citrus featured. It is limited release and small batch. I thought it was delightful, but was disappointed to hear that the 2015 will be the last vintage as they will now only produce the Project Sparkling Chenin Blanc, which I also tasted, dry finish with a fruity mid palate. I am not totally converted to the Chenin Blanc. I did prefer the Chardonnay.

Allow some time for a visit here. The estate is very big, and I spent time just sitting and looking out over the rose garden and kitchen garden that look out over the lawns to the vineyard. They have guided tours, a private tasting room, daily tour of the estate, which includes a walk through the vineyard, learn about tending the vines, show through the winery and barrel room as well as the biggest underground cellar in Australia. Tastings are available at the Cellar Door, and there are also sommelier-created wine flights, cheese and charcuturie platters, and a restaurant serving a degustation menu as well as High Teas on the weekend. Most of these need to be pre-booked which you can do online.

www.voyagerestate.com.au

Watershed

Great looking venue, but I didn’t stay to taste. As is the case with some Cellar Doors, they didn’t have their sparkling available for tasting. I assume that you can order it by the glass in the onsite café or restaurant. They do have one sparkling, which I had tasted previously at my hotel. It is the Blanc de Blancs 2013 – 100% Chardonnay grown on their estate vineyard. Produced as an aperitif style of sparkling using the ‘Méthode Traditionnelle’.

www.watershedwines.com.au

Xanadu

Yes, I did have Olivia’s tune ringing in my ears as I drove the along the driveway through the vineyards into Xanadu. I had visited here before, many years ago, but the Cellar Door was in a shed at the time. The sense of arrival now was something a bit more spectacular, with architect-designed visitor facilities of the Cellar Door and open plan restaurant looking out onto a ‘chill out’ courtyard, where people were lazing in the sun, sitting on bean bags and sipping wine. I did think that perhaps I had arrived in Xanadu.

The staff were great, and everyone was so friendly and helpful. They told me the story of how the vineyard was given its name. When the eccentric Irishman Dr John Lagan, who loved poems and literature, settled here with his wife Eithne, to establish one of the region’s earliest vineyards (1977). Dr Lagan said that he had found the land of paradise, an idyllic setting, where there are now 65 hectares of vines, and he called it Xanadu. The winery has since experienced some transition in ownership. It was publicly listed, but is now privately owned by the Rathbone family. Successful winemakers and owners of other great Cellar Doors (think Yering Station, Yarrabank and Mount Langi Ghiran), the Rathbone family looked to expand into Margaret River. The potential of Xanadu was recognised by them as having the combination of great viticulture, great wine making facilities and great tourism facilities.

At the Cellar Door, I tasted the Xanadu 2014 ‘Methode Traditionelle’ Brut, which was delightful. It is 100% Chardonnay with a very low dosage, it is almost what is called a Brut Nature. It has spent some time in oak barrel, and then three years on lees. All made onsite, hand-picked, small batch. The palate had some citrus and brioche. I made this my lunch stop and this was a perfect food match with the Soft Crab Corn Fritters. The only disappointment is that due to the small production, it has since run out of stock and no longer available to taste at the Cellar Door. The next bubbly release will be the 2016 vintage, due for release in 2019.

Don’t despair, bubbles are still served in the restaurant. The advantage of being part of the Rathbone group, is that there is always wine of good pedigree on hand! Another delightful bubbles, the 2012 Yarrabank Cuvee Brut ‘Methode Traditionnelle’, which is made through a joint venture between Champagne Devaux and the Rathbone’s Yering Station in the Yarra Valley, is currently being served until the next vintage of Xanadu is available.

https://www.xanaduwines.com/

Clairault Streicker BdB

The scenic driveway off Caves Road winds through farmland and native forest, bringing you to the lovely Cellar Door and café with an outlook over the vineyard. One sparkling on tasting here.

2014 Streicker Blanc de Blancs – Sonja the Cellar Door manager told me that it was “frightfully easy to drink”, and she was right. It is made in the traditional method with two years on lees. Lemon zest, granny smith apple and a bit of brioche and toasted nuts.

https://www.clairaultstreickerwines.com.au/

Fermoy Estate

Lovely building, this is a smaller Cellar Door, with no café onsite. It is family-owned, and the staff told me that one of the loveliest ways to experience the wines here is to enjoy a picnic under the leafy trees on the front lawn, or take a seat in the Cellar Door with a glass of bubbles and enjoy the atmosphere.

They only make vintage bubbles, and I tasted the Fermoy 2013 Pinot Noir Chardonnay. Pinot Noir led at 60%. Small parcel, hand-pruned, hand-picked from Pemberton Region, which is bottle fermented in the traditional method and aged on lees for four years. It was a lovely bubbly, characters of creamy lemon, brioche and toasted nuts with a delicate and persistent bead.

https://www.fermoy.com.au/

Sandalford Wines

Their Margaret River Cellar Door is much smaller than the one in the Swan Valley, and this one sits in the middle of a beautiful country garden surrounded by grape vines. There are picnic tables under a covered pergola and free BBQ facilities. There are also a variety of local artwork, wine accessories and Sandalford merchandise available for purchase.

I tasted the Sandalfords NV Sparkling, which is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Only available at Cellar Door, crisp, lemon, zesty with a creaminess from time on lees.

https://www.sandalford.com/cellar-door/cellar-door-margaret-river

Cape Grace Wines

This is a small Cellar Door, a little off the beaten track. We were very lucky to receive a bit of a behind the scenes tour here. Harvest was underway for some varieties, and we watched some whole batch Zinfandel being crushed. The winemaker told us that it was an experiment to try to make sparkling Zinfandel. Not sure how that is progressing, but we did taste the 2017 Cremant de Grace – Sparkling Chenin Blanc, which had hints of lemon meringue, a touch of citrus peel, and finishes with a beautiful lemon/lime acidity.

https://www.capegracewines.com.au/

Harmans Estate

Harmans Estate is a family-run, premier small-batch winery. They explained to me that they are one of a few wineries in the region who processes, produces, bottles and labels all onsite, ensuring the integrity and heart and soul of Harmans is in every bottle.

One of the specialities is wine distilled into pure, smooth high-proof spirit (Pisco). I didn’t try it, but I did taste the 2013 Sparkling Pink Pinot Noir – crafted from 100% Pinot Noir, 36 months on lees, strawberries, raspberries, with layers of marmalade and spicy fruits.

https://www.harmans.com.au/

Old Kent River

This is a small Cellar Door, of rammed earth structure with a rural outlook. There is no restaurant onsite, so it is only a tasting stop, but there are some picnic tables that you could make use of and a lawn that kids could run and play on if you had the family in tow. A small selection of local cheese and produce is available to purchase, and ‘make your own’ platters to enjoy with a glass of wine, or you are welcome to bring your own picnic.

Their sparkling is called Diamondtina (the diamond of the range). The staff were very friendly and talked me through the range. I tasted the 2006, which is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It has spent eight years on lees (which is a long time for an Aussie sparkling). It is their museum release with limited stock. The staff explained that the Cellar Door used to be much further south in Denmark, and has recently moved to Margaret River. The Pinot Noir is single vineyard from the owners’ family property in Frankland River, which is cooler climate and much better for Pinot Noir. Also available was the Diamondtina 2008, which is the same blend and has spent six years on lees, with hints of French Oak. There is also the Diamondtina NV sparkling Rose, which is the same blend, but has spent three hours on skins to give the pink colour. Fruity with a dry finish. Not too complex, an easy drinking wine.

http://www.oldkentriverwines.com.au/

Firetail Sparkling

This is a very small Cellar Door. The space has an emphasis on wood, built with local Jarrah teamed with French Oak from barrels used to age their wines. The Cellar Door, Jessica the owner told me, is “like our wines, hand-crafted, stylish and pretty special.”

Jessica was very happy that the new Firetail Sparkling had just arrived. It is a Blanc de Blancs made from 100 % chardonnay, which is from a friend’s vineyard. A portion of the base wine was fermented in French Oak barrels before secondary fermentation in the bottle in the traditional method. The wine was aged for 30 months on lees before disgorging in February 2018.

www.firetail.com.au

The Berry Farm

At the Berry Farm, I discovered wine made from a different kind of fruit – berries. The helpful Cellar Door staff arranged for Mike the winemaker to come and have a chat with me, and guide me through the tastings on offer. I discovered that fruit wine can be made from virtually any plant matter that can be fermented. Most fruits and berries have the potential to produce wine. There are a number of methods of extracting flavour and juice from the fruits or plants being used, pressing the juice, stewing and fermenting the pulp of the fruits are common, however few foods other than grapes have the balanced quantities of sugar, acid, tannin, nutritive salts for yeast feeding and water to naturally produce a stable, drinkable wine, so these products require the addition or sugar or honey to make them palatable and to increase the alcoholic content (sugar is converted to alcohol in the fermentation). I tasted Strawberry, Passionfruit, and ‘Tickled Pink’, which was a blend of lemon and elderberry. I do think that it is an acquired taste. I don’t think I was converted, as they are very rich and mostly sweet. I can see though that there would be a market. “I don’t think there is a fruit I haven’t tried fermenting”, said Mike. He mentioned that the best food matches would be spicy food (yes, a sweeter wine works better with spice), dessert or a bubbly breakfast. I moved onto a coffee from the café before setting off. It was a nice impromptu stop for me. It is a good family-friendly place, with a kids adventure playground, café, produce shop and (fruity) Cellar Door.

https://www.theberryfarm.com.au/

Flametrees

Small family-owned Cellar Door, with no vineyard, but yes, flametrees that greet you at the entrance, as well as featured on the label. I may have had the Cold Chisel tune ringing in my ears whilst tasting. Lovely light flows through large windows into the Cellar Door, with views out to the open lawn to relax at a picnic table for a tasting, and space for kids to play. Food selection is platters, with local cheese and produce.

I tried the Blanc de Blancs, which has been aged for three years and the NV, which is 30% Pinot Noir, 70% Chardonnay. The winemaker here was previously the winemaker at Voyager Estate.

https://www.flametreewines.com/

Mongrel Creek

Rustic is not quite the word, but the Cellar Door reminded me a little of the Ettamogah pub. With a name like Mongrel Creek, what does one expect?

The owner, Larry has a no BS approach, and told me that as a small family-owned winery, their primary focus is on producing quality wine at an affordable price.

The bubbles on offer were the 2012 Le Mongrel Sparkling, which is 100% Chenin Blanc, which had been aged for five years, and Le Mongrel Sparkling Rouge – aged for two years, which is 100% Cab Sav. These are usually released in small batches of 1,096 at a time.

https://www.mongrelcreek.com.au

House of Cards

Another small family-run Cellar Door. Established in 2011 by a young couple Travis and Elizabeth Wray. Travis is the winemaker and Elizabeth takes care of the marketing. Their young family also feature on their website. The attention to detail here is remarkable, hand-made neck tags and hand-made labels on the bottles. We visited as part of bubbles tour, and they had kindly arranged for a Queen Bee Magnum to be opened for our visit.

We tasted the 2015 Queen Bee Vintage Magnum, which has spent two and a half years on lees, single vineyard Blanc de Blancs, citrus and creamy. As this is a magnum, this one could be cellared for longer to bring out more complexity in the wine. We also tasted the 2015 Blanc de Blancs Queen of Diamonds, three years on lees, green apples, pears and buttered toast dominate the aromatics.

The Cellar Door also features a great range of art and jewellery by local and Australian artists. For food, the nearby Chow’s Table provides traditional Chinese/Malay cuisine with a modern twist, overlooking the vineyard, and Gabriel’s Chocolates is also in this corner of Caves Road, so you might allow some time to explore here.

https://www.houseofcardswine.com.au/

Windows Estate

This is a small family-owned and operated business, just over the road from House of Cards. Walk-ins are fine, but they do ask that advance bookings are made for groups of six or more people. They have won the Gourmet Traveller Small Cellar Door award for the past three years.

This is not just single vineyard production, but it is a single person vineyard. Chris, the owner, has worked the vineyard completely on his own from day one, which he says is the only way to meet the high standards he sets for himself. He spends the vast majority of his time in the vineyard. He knows it like the back of his own hand, hand-pruning every single one of the vines himself, year after year.

I tasted the 2016 Mousseux – 100% Chenin Blanc made in the traditional method.

The residual sugar after dosage is minimal, so it is predominantly fresh green apple aromas, zesty citrus notes. This is an elegant sparkling wine, delicate fine bead and smooth creamy texture with a refreshing clean finish. With my preference for a Champagne style, I hadn’t been convinced with the trend in Margaret River for a sparkling Chenin Blanc, however this one did convince me. Definitely worth a tasting.

http://www.windowsestate.com/

Credaro

Family-owned, four generations of the Credaro family, a pioneering family to the region, first settling in Margaret River in 1922 after migrating from Northern Italy. Initially involved in farming and the timber industry, small plots of vines were planted to provide the family with table wine.

2013 Vintage Sparkling – 85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir. All grapes sourced from the family vineyards in Margaret River, within a 50km radius. Made in the Traditional Method, this sparkling wine has delicate aromas of spiced apple and grilled nuts with subtle yeast characters. The palate is finely structured with layers of citrus, brioche and white peach.

This Cellar Door doesn’t have food, but they can do catered events. They did have a small selection of boutique clothing and homewares available for sale, so you can tie in shopping with your bubbles tasting. The terrace is the perfect spot to enjoy some bubbles with lovely rural views.

https://credarowines.com.au/

Windance

Family, Heritage and a passion for great wine – is the tagline here. I tasted the 2016 Glen Valley Blanc de Blancs – apple, sherbert, citrus – traditional method, 15 months on lees. Fresh, vibrant with crisp finish.

The Chardonnay is sourced from Wilyabrup, which means ‘place of water’.

This family-owned vineyard has a new Cellar Door. They explained that they are in generational transition from Father to daughter Billie, and the son-in-law Michale (with French winemaking experience), is the winemaker. The focus is on producing quality wines, whilst incorporating sustainable land management and environmentally-friendly viticultural practices.

https://www.windance.com.au/

I would like to acknowledge Mark from Margaret River Bubbles Tour and Margaret River Tourism for providing assistance with this trip.  Margaret River Tourism will now feature this blog as their information on Margaret River Sparkling Cellar Doors.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

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 the Widow Clicquot!

The word ‘veuve’ means widow in French, and I feel that is important information to share. I sometimes find myself using the phrase ‘I am drinking a glass of veuve’, but what does that really mean?

There are many great women of champagne, many of them widows and mothers, who became major influencers in the champagne industry. So successful were the veuves, it is rumoured that some producers added veuve into their title, even when there was no veuve at the house.

The story of the Widow Clicquot is intriguing. Several years ago, I read the little tag about her that was attached to a bottle of Veuve Clicquot that I had bought for a celebration. I wanted to know more, and have been captivated by her (and other champagne stories), ever since.  I was very happy to discover the book The Widow Clicquot at my local bookstore, and became a huge fan – not just of the wine, but also of this amazing woman. Widow Clicquot was a visionary who took a small business and built a champagne empire. She was a legend in her tumultuous times, and she showed the world how to live with style.

Madame Clicquot was born Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, in Reims in 1777. The daughter of Baron Nicolas Ponsardin, her social standing allowed her to receive an excellent education, which was founded upon the traditional morals and values of the time.

In 1789, when Barbe-Nicole was aged 12, the French Revolution brought great change.  Barbe-Nicole’s father was a prosperous textile merchant who had ambitions to vault his family from the upper middle class into the nobility. As the revolution hit the town of Reims, Barbe-Nicole, who had been attending the royal convent of Saint-Pierre-les-Dames, had to be rescued by the family dressmaker. She was smuggled home dressed like a peasant, before the chanting, angry mobs roaming the streets of Reims came to its doorstep, as the convent became a target of public abuse.

Barbe-Nicole father’s dreams of either gaining a coat of arms for his family or marrying his two daughters (Barbe-Nicole had a younger sister Clementine) into the nobility were shattered when the Revolution came. Nicolas was, however, a shrewd man. He switched sides and became a fervent proponent of the Revolution – going so far as to join the Jacobins. He eventually achieved the title of Baron in 1813.

Just as the Revolution may have changed her path, her future was greatly influenced again when, in 1798, she married François Clicquot, son of the founder of the Maison Clicquot. François came from a wealthy family who had made their money in textiles, but they also had a side business as wine brokers. François had ambitions to take that side business and turn it into something more – not just distributing other people’s wines, but making their own. He shared his passion and knowledge for champagne creation and distribution with his young wife. This knowledge and skill proved highly valuable when Barbe-Nicole, a mother of a young daughter, took charge of the business after François’ untimely death in 1805.

At 27, Madame Clicquot became one of the first businesswomen of modern times when she took over the Clicquot business. In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company – a role she undertook with passion and determination. According to the Veuve Clicquot company description of her, Madame Clicquot’s character might be summarised with two words: audacious and intelligent.

Imagine the audacity of this decision at a time when women were not even allowed to open their own bank account!

She was willing to take risks, and would seize each new opportunity that arose – eventually expanding her business to all four corners of the world. I loved reading about the rivalry and battles with Jean-Rémy Moët who, at the time, was the wine merchant who helped bring the Champagne house of Moët et Chandon to prominence. The secret and very high-risk strategies included transporting their Champagne either overland or by sea to arrive before their rivals into new markets. Such competitive strategies would guarantee either great success or certain failure. One example was when the continental embargo was in place in 1814. Overland transport of goods to Russia was not possible, and to not be able to sell their vintage could have meant financial ruin. Clicquot and her wine broker hatched a daring plan to send more than 10,000 bottles by sea to St Petersburg. They say fortune favours the brave, and the venture was a great success. The vintage was sold at a top market price when it arrived to a triumphant welcome in Russia.

Ever the innovator, Madame Clicquot perfected new techniques of production. In 1816, along with her cellar master, she invented the “table de remuage” (riddling table/rack), which is used to clarify champagne. When champagne is aged on ‘lees’ (the yeast used to create the second fermentation in the bottle), this leaves sediment. Prior to Madame Clicquot’s invention, the sediment was either drunk or attempted to be removed when pouring. With only small batches of production possible, imagine how much was wasted prior to this system. The technique of the riddling process (still used today), is to delicately manoeuvre the sediment to the neck of the bottle to allow it to be removed swiftly and efficiently. Any loss of wine is then topped up by the dosage, prior to sealing with a cork and ready for sale. With this invention, the Maison Clicquot was able to increase their production exponentially. They managed to keep the riddling rack a secret from their competitors for some time – maintaining quality wines whilst also increasing production. Their rivals must have been watching in wonder.

Madame Clicquot continued to improve the business with bottles, branding and PR:

  • She is credited with improving the quality of the bottles to be able to take the pressure of the bubbles, which would often burst in the cellars or whilst shipping, causing great distress and financial loss.
  • At the time, Champagne bottles didn’t have labels, so were only recognised by the cork. The Anchor as the Christian sign of hope has been used since the business was founded, and still features on the Veuve Clicquot cork today. The Maison Clicquot started dressing its bottles in a yellow label, an unusual colour for the time. The ‘V.Clicquot P. Werlé’ Yellow label was trademarked in 1877. This distinctive, original label, which is still used today, was to become one of the most distinguishing features of Veuve Clicquot.
  • Breaking away from the tradition of adding an elderberry-based preparation to create rosé champagne. Madame Clicquot created the first “rosé d’assemblage” by blending some of her red wines from vineyards in Bouzy with her champagne to create the very first blend of rosé champagne.
  • Madame Clicquot paid great attention to public relations and communications, and was a prolific letter writer. Many of her more than one hundred thousand letters sent and received are preserved today in the Veuve Clicquot archives, “Pavillon du Patrimoine Historique”. Her signature is featured on the label today.

Uncompromising when it came to the quality of her wines, within just a few years she made her name into a brand of excellence – a name today renowned around the world. Even then, her peers recognised her formidable contributions, and referred to her as the “Grande Dame of Champagne”.

I think it is a great tribute (and a little ironic) that both the houses Veuve Clicquot and Moët et Chandon are now owned by the same parent company. A brand that is synonymous with great luxury, LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy).

Veuve Barbe-Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin died 1866, aged 88. The legacy of quality created by her is evident in a glass today. The NV Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut is a great example. It uses all three of the traditional champagne grape varieties, with a focus on Pinot Noir. The key to quality with the blend is that it draws on a particularly high percentage of reserve wines originating from several harvests (usually 5 or 6); from 25 to 35% (sometimes as much as 40%) of the blend coming from previous vintages, and some of these wines are around 9 years old.

This is to ensure the consistency of the House style, so you always know when you a drinking a glass of ‘veuve’. Next time you do, include a toast to the Widow Clicquot!

Cheers!

 

Giveaway

We were very blessed to have the beautiful ‘Veuve and Orange’ Hamper provided by Custom Hampers Studio, with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for our giveaway this month. Custom Hampers Studio Veuve and Orange

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

Note:

In researching this blog I have relied on information provided on the Veuve Clicquot website and Tilar Mazzeo’s book, The Widow Clicquot, which I highly recommend if you are interested to know more: Tilar Mazzeo’s The Widow Clicquot

You may also like these blogs from The Bubbles Review:

Celebrating Madame Pommery

Come quickly I am drinking the stars

Why that is not a glass of Champagne that you are drinking!

How do I pronounce Moët

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.

We’ll never be Royals!

Yes, it is unlikely that any of us will be joining the ranks of the English Royal Family, but we can still drink the same bubbles!

So forget what she is wearing, more importantly, what bubbles will they be serving?

There are so many media outlets speculating about this, from Style, Town and Country, to Forbes magazine to name but a few, predictions are being made on what brand of bubbles will be served.

Most predict that the bubbles will come from the Royal Warrant list, however I have seen it mentioned, that the caterers may have flexibility to provide their own suggestions beyond that list.

Currently, over 1,100 royal warrants have been granted to tradespeople who supply goods. Nine of these warrants are currently bestowed on Champagne houses, according to the Royal Warrant Holders Association, the office founded to represent and advise the various holders.

England’s first Champagne warrants were issued in 1884, and my research shows that the current holders are Bollinger, G. H. Mumm, Krug, Lanson, Louis Roederer, Laurent-Perrier, Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Pol Roger.

Royal warrants, which cannot be purchased, are linked directly to a specific member of the immediate royal household. Members authorized to confer this honour include Queen Elizabeth, who determines the list, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles. Each of the three can individually grant warrants for 5 years; the warrants can be renewed, as long as the warrant holder is providing goods. The goods are not gifts, but outright purchases by the court.

Aside from Laurent-Perrier, which I understand solely serves Prince Charles, the Champagnes are all suppliers to Queen Elizabeth, who is said to drink a glass or two at the end of each day.  I am sure that must be her secret to longevity!

So what will it be?  Perhaps instead of a Champagne (or as well as), an English sparkling wine will be served?  English bubbles are showing award winning results of late.

So many wonderful choices.  Which one would you serve?

 

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. This month it is the beautiful ‘Veuve and Orange’ Hamper from Custom Hampers Studio, with a lovely bottle of Veuve Clicquot, which is of course, on the Royal Warrant List.  Join our list!

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.

 

 

 

 

Come quickly. I am drinking the stars!

If you have followed me for a while, or have come to one of my events, you would know that I think that champagne and sparkling wine is one of the joys of life and something to be shared.

Dom Perignon is one of my heroes for discovering the art of the second fermentation to make the bubbles in champagne and sparkling wine.  His famous quote when he wanted to share this discovery “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!” resonated with me.

So, imagine my disappointment when my research in recent years revealed that he wasn’t the inventor of the bubbles.  In fact, Dom Pérignon was originally charged by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get rid of the bubbles, since the pressure in the bottles caused many of them to burst in the cellar.  The bubbles had been occurring by accident mainly due to fluctuations in temperature, which produced a re-fermentation and this bubbly wine was considered to be faulty and given the nickname of the Devils Wine. Quelle horreur!

It seems that it was an English chemist. Well, scientist and physician – Christopher Merret who documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation, six years before Dom Pérignon had arrived in the Abbey of Hautvillers. Merret presented a paper at the Royal Society in 1662, in which he detailed what is now called méthode champenoise or methode traditionelle.

So, he may not have been the first, but let’s not let the facts of history get in the way of a good story. Along with the romance of so many stories that I love about Champagne, I am happy to still give credit to Dom Perignon for his discovery that it was not in fact the wine of the devil, but perhaps in my opinion at least, and I am sure that many of you concur – that it was a gift from the angels.  Dom Perignon is however credited with unearthing many other great techniques in the making of champagne that are still used today.

He created the technique that allows winemakers to produce a successful white wine from red grapes. This, say winemakers, was a major step toward the development of modern champagne.

At our event The Bubbles Festival, which we held a couple of times in Melbourne last year (dates and locations tbc for this year), I was surprised to discover that there were many people who did not realise that red grapes were used in making champagne.  Although we hear the names of the grapes in the blends, it doesn’t always register, and our eyes deceive us when we are surely drinking a white wine!

The method is using red grapes with gentle pressing that separates the juice without spending time on the skins.  Think about the last time you peeled a red grape (or if you are lucky had someone peel it for you) the fruit inside is not red, the red colour comes from the skins. After harvest the grapes are pressed several times and different juices or cuvees are obtained at these different stages of pressing.  In champagne, only the first (as a prestige cuvee) pressing is used and this is the same for most sparkling wines, although sometimes the second pressings can be used.  There are several pressings of the same grapes, other pressings after that may be used for table wines and fortified wines or liqueurs.

For champagne only certain grapes can be used, there are seven grapes on the list, however there are three that are most commonly used, which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Only one of the three is actually a white grape.

(See the full list of champagne grapes here:  FAQ)

There is only Cru ratings for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and they are considered the King and Queen of a champagne blend, the Pinot Meunier is used more for balance and it also helps the wine mature with less age.  I have however noticed a movement in champagne recently championing the Meunier grape (as well as some of the other grapes on the list) and I have tasted a few champagnes and also a still wine made from 100% Pinot Meunier.

Blending is led by the winemaker but it is rarely the work of a single person, usually reflecting the combined talents of a team of professionals or family members. It does however rely on the sensory experience and memory of each individual team member.

When I met Laurent Fresnet, who is the chief winemaker at Champagne Henriot and has won the prestigious award of Sparkling Winemaker of the Year more than once, he told me that blending starts in the vineyard with the fruit. “I stand in the vineyard, tasting and smelling the fruit, this is where the blend starts”.

Marrying different grape varieties brings contrasting and complementary qualities to champagne wines.

You will find some champagnes that have the three grapes in the blend, some blends may have only the two grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but there is usually a particular focus, either Chardonnay led or Pinot Noir led, eg. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, or vice versa, often with a smaller amount of Pinot Meunier used for balance. The particular style will usually depend on the champagne house and the winemaker.  Some houses may have quite a variety in their range.

You will also find some champagnes that use 100% of the one grape variety.  These are usually a 100% Chardonnay which is known as a Blanc de Blancs which literally means a white from whites. Or, you will also find a 100% Pinot Noir which is known in Champagne as a Blanc de Noirs meaning white from black.  So, although it is 100% Pinot Noir it will still be a white champagne. In sparklings from other parts of the world you might find a sparkling Pinot Noir which is a red sparkling, but you will never find that in Champagne, as it is against the rules to make a sparkling red in Champagne, a pink as a rose is okay, but never a red champagne.

The blending also involves blending wines from different years (for non vintage) and from different Crus meaning different parcels of grapes from different vineyards.

By combining wines with different sensory characteristics (colours, aromas, flavours) the Champagne maker looks to create a wine that is carefully balanced with a harmony of notes and flavours.  After blending, other techniques influence the profile of the wine which include, ageing on lees, and dosage – the final stage before release.

Champagne has such diversity, try different styles, explore different blends, follow the ones that you like, and be open to new discoveries.

Our February giveaway has been a bottle of Blanc de Noirs from Champagne Philippe Fourrier, from the Côte des Bar where the climate and clay soils suits the Pinot Noir grape perfectly.

All due respect to Dom Perignon for this legacy which seems devinely inspired. Drinking the stars it certainly is!

Cheers

You may also like these blogs that talk about champagne techniques and tasting:

Why that is not a glass of Champagne that you are drinking!

Minerality in Champagne

Is champagne better than sex?

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? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. This month was the Blanc de Noirs from Champagne Philippe Fourrier.  Join our list!

 

 

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén