Tasmania sparkles at wine show

House of Arras winemaker Ed Carr (Photo: Accolade Wines)

Sparkling wine is one of Tasmania’s great strengths, and this year’s bubbly classes at the Tasmanian Wine Show were as strong as usual. The House of Arras dominated, especially in the older-vintage classes. Home Hill’s two 2014 bubblies, Kelly’s Cuvée and Miss Daisy Cuvée both impressed me. Heemskerk’s style is always on the austere, refined side, which needs age to look the goods, but the 2011 and 2012 both wowed me, while the 2013 was still very restrained and less impressive on the day. Freycinet’s Radenti 2011 was my personal top-scoring bubbly in the vintage class: a tremendously complex, polished wine of great generosity and thoroughly satisfying flavour.

Arras Grand Vintage 2008 added to its already-long string of gold medals and the 2003 E.J. Carr Late Disgorged was wonderful, while the 2008 Blanc de Blancs scooped the trophy for the best older-vintage sparkling wine of show.

The non-vintage class was in some ways the most impressive bubbly class. Eleven of the 20 wines scored a medal: two gold, two silver and seven bronze. This is a strong showing for what should be the youngest bracket of sparkling wines – but the results are an indication that winemakers are taking non-vintage wines seriously, and either ageing them longer on lees or using some older-vintage material in their blends (this is possible especially if the transfer process is used).

Most impressive were the Ninth Island pair: the NV Rosé scored a gold medal and the white NV scored a bronze and was unlucky not to get a silver, I thought. These are fresh, bright wines full of interest and it’s tempting to ask whether the two new consultant winemakers, Natalie Fryar and Jim Chatto, are already having an influence here. These are wines that sell in the big shops for AUD $19, and they’re terrific value for money.

The House of Arras’s A By Arras was the top-scoring NV, and winemaker Ed Carr told me later that the average age of the blend has been increased to 30 months: components can vary from 18 to 48 months average age. The wine is assembled from matured components by the transfer method. It’s an amazing value buy at AUD $20 (full price is AUD $30). A pity it’s only available in Dan Murphy’s stores.

At the end of the day, however, it was the 2011 Heemskerk which swept all before it and took home the trophy for the best sparkling wine of the show, and, for its curtain-call, the top prize: Champion Wine of Show.

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