Tasmania’s House of Arras is keeping Australian sparkling wine real ….
Champagne has been top of mind for celebratory bubbles throughout the world for over the past century. It is less widely known outside Australia’s borders that the country has a diverse, and high quality, domestic sparkling wine offering. A glass of ‘champers dahling’ has come a long way from a glass of the humble Seaview Brut that I remember being offered as a twenty year old. It is not just the traditional Champagne trio of grapes used either. You can find sparkling versions of the many grape varieties grown in Australia, using a variety of methods as well.
Since the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) however, when reaching for a bottle of bubbles it has become increasingly popular for Australians to reach for Champagne. This was thanks to an advantageous currency exchange rate and a softer ‘financial crisis’ for many Australians. The price difference of a bottle of Champagne and Australian sparkling wine decreased to a point where it encouraged more Australian’s to ‘trade up’ to the foreign imports.
In parallel however, since the early 2000’s the quality of the Australia sparkling wines has also steadily increased. This has provided those imported Champagnes some steep competition.
Keeping the tradition…
To get those luxurious bubbles, most Australian sparkling are produced using the traditional method. The very same method used to produce those famous bubbles from Champagne. That is to say, the wine is first fermented to dry and usually made from any proportion of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. This dry wine then is bottled and then goes through a second ferment. This additional ferment produces those bubbles. Plus, this time on the dead yeast cells (lees) adds complexity to the flavours and aromas.
The best Australian sparkling wines tend to come from cooler climate regions and there are few regions cooler than Tasmania. It makes sense then, that some of Australia’s finest come from that most southern island state. And there are few sparkling wines finer than the House of Arras’ range, with the first release being in 2002 with a 1998 vintage.
To read more about Tasmania and its wines, please click here.
The House of Arras is a name that you most definitely need to know if you are lover of fine sparkling wine. Chief Winemaker, Ed Carr is passionate about making Australia’s best sparkling wines in a country that has a huge appetite for bubbles. Here, he makes wines that are renowned for finesse and complexity, showcasing just how elegant wines from Tasmania can be.
Current House of Arras reviews
House of Arras Brut Elite Non-Vintage (Cuvee 1301)
The Brut Elite Cuvee is a non-vintage wine where the wines undertake an extended period on lees giving the wine a brioche lushness. It is a Pinot Noir / Chardonnay blend. The fresh Tasmanian lemon citrus and berry fruit becomes lightly toasted thanks to some partial barrel treatment for the base wine. For the price, this is a excellent choice. The number on the neck changes each year depending on the dominant vintage. AU$39
House of Arras Grand Vintage 2007
This is a clear step up in quality of fruit compared to the Elite Cuvee with a longer time on lees to give this wine an extra polished dimension. The neck label of the Grand vintage bottle proclaims 7 years tirage, but the 2007 has eight years according to the tasting notes on their website. Combined with a rich creaminess that in no way overwhelms the elegance of the Grand Vintage, and this remains one of Australia’s benchmark sparkling wines.
This vintage is a Tasmanian blend of 78% chardonnay with the rest being the companionable pinot noir. The creamy floral, citrus, apple fruit retains a crystalline note above the minerally eggshell and spice. When you have a wine as fine as this, it should not be restricted to being for ‘appetiser’ occasions. This style of wine is a versatile wine for more flavourful dishes. Or you could let it rest for a while longer in the cellar if you have the patience. AU$99
House of Arras Late Disgorged 2004
‘LD’ champagnes and sparkling wines offer up vintage distinctiveness and gentle complexity. This is characteristic of being left to develop under the protective preservative power of those dead yeast cells. Consequently, these cells also keep oxidative characters at bay.
The benefits of this late disgorgement is immediately obvious. The Arras Late Disgorged has layers of dimension built up from a decade of resting on lees, before those dead yeast cells are exploded from the bottle. Extended lees contact means that there is a fresh vivacity to these bubbles.
There is a floral freshness to the zesty citrus notes. These are seamlessly melded with the light spices, nutty nougat and buttery shortbread and supported by a hint of a deeper briney character. The Arras Late Disgorged has a fuller mouthfeel, that keeps on delivering along a generous length.
It would be a shame to rush this wine. It is textural and rich. A wine for taking slowly and letting unfurl in the glass. It goes without saying that it is a good wine for food. Hedonistically, I am guilty of just sitting and giving it the full appreciation it really deserves. AU$199
House of Arras Rose
Click here to read the review for Arras Rose.
Visit The House of Arras website for more information.