Sparkling and Champagne


The summer approaches and with it the end of another year, with staff parties followed by Christmas and family reunions, and New Year celebrations – everything augurs well for sales of fizzy wine.

My latest sparkling wine and Champagne tastings have thrown up some discoveries. The big news is Andrew Pirie’s new wines under his Apogee label, a rosé (tasting) and a white vintage (tasting), both 2012s, and while they are on the young side (just two years on lees) they are superb.

Pirie of course was the founder of Pipers Brook Vineyard (in 1974) and a Tasmanian pioneer of sorts, who was involved with a number of other Tassie brands (Tamar Ridge, Pirie and Rosevears Estate) before planting a new vineyard – in the Pipers River region, naturally – and striding out on his own once more. The man personifies the creative and adventurous spirit and I wish him well in his new venture. He also has a very handy pinot gris dry white on the market. Like the bubblies, it’s superbly packaged.

The other excitement in my tasting was Deviation Road, the sparkling (and still) venture of Kate and Hamish Laurie in the Adelaide Hills. Kate is the winemaker, passionate about Champagne, and her sparkling wines have been exciting my palate for the past few years. She has a new Loftia (2012 pinot noir chardonnay – tasting) and Beltana (2009 blanc de blancs – tasting) out. Both are exceptional.

Speaking of Adelaide Hills, Pike & Joyce have released their first sparkling wines, and they’ve hit the ground running. There’s a non-vintage (tasting) and a 2009 vintage (tasting), very good wines indeed, especially the vintage. Winemaker is, of course, Neil Pike of the Clare Valley.

There are also several other Tasmanian bubblies, including Pirie Non-Vintage (tasting), which at $32 continues to be outstanding value for money. Its name is a relic of the time when Andrew Pirie moved from Pipers Brook to Tamar Ridge and took the name with him. The Pirie brand is now owned, along with the rest of Tamar Ridge, by Brown Brothers. Confusing for everyone.

There are bubblies from Heemskerk (tasting), Abel’s Tempest (tasting), Jansz (tastings), Bream Creek (tasting) and Nocton Vineyard (tasting), too. And for a value cheapie, Spain’s Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava (tasting): the latest sample is the best I’ve ever had, in many years of tasting this wine. 

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