All that Sparkles
There's nothing quite like the pop of a cork and the fizz of beautifully beading bubbles, and as we roll into the festive season, you can be sure that we will soon be hearing the ''popping'' of corks as bottles of sparkling wine are opened to celebrate Christmas and the coming of the new year.
Sparkling wine embraces a broad spectrum from ultra-luxury to every day, but its traditional role has remained one of social joy – celebrating togetherness and those notable moments in life. For many of us, sparkling wine or Champagne was often the first alcohol we ever tasted.
Whatever the occasion, we have adopted the habit of celebrating with sparkling wine and are reaching for this ''bubbly wine'' like never before. So, brace yourself for the sound of enthusiastic cork popping as we get down to the business end of the bubbles this festive season.
Christmas and sparkling wine simply go together - like turkey and stuffing or Christmas pudding and brandy. One cannot be without the other; they go hand in hand. But not all sparkling wines are Champagne, and not all sparkling wines are made the same way.
First of all, Champagne is a regionally protected name and can only be produced in the Champagne region of France. It can only be produced in one way, and that is in a bottle using natural fermentation known as the Traditional Method (or Méthode Traditionnelle) and using only three grape varieties - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
Sparkling wine is simply wine with significant carbon dioxide levels in it, making it fizzy. The carbon dioxide may result from natural fermentation - either in a bottle, as with the Traditional Method, in a large tank designed to withstand the pressures involved (as in the Charmat process), or as a result of carbon dioxide injection. The sweetness of sparkling wine can range from very dry "brut" styles to sweeter "doux" varieties.
Australia produces a diverse range of sparkling wines and has a history well steeped in great bubbly. Sparkling wine is usually white or rosé, but there are many examples of sparkling red wines as well. In Australia, most sparkling wine is produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but an Australian speciality is Sparkling Shiraz - a sparkling red wine made from Shiraz grapes. Young examples are usually refreshing, rich, fruity and juicy with a touch of sweetness. Older examples are typically rich and lush in style, and some high-quality bottles are suitable for cellaring and ageing.
Most Australian sparkling wine producers will make a Non-Vintage wine each year that is blended across vintages to produce a consistent product. In favourable years a Vintage wine may be produced. These wines tend to be more expensive and refined, offering a good expression of the region, variety, year and style. In the Hunter Valley, you may often
see a Blanc de Blanc style that is produced entirely from Chardonnay or a Blanc de Noir style made entirely from Pinot Noir. The use of Semillon in Sparkling Wine is also becoming popular in the Hunter.
Although excellent on its own, when it comes to food, sparkling wines can be enjoyed with just about any meal. An ideal match for Sparkling White and also Sparkling Rosé wines are canapes and entrées like fresh oysters, scallops, sushi and mains featuring salmon, duck, mushrooms, and cheeses. Sparkling Reds are ideal with classic roasts, glazed ham, roast turkey, barbequed ribs, roast duck and chocolate desserts.
Whether you prefer the classic Champagne-style qualities of an Australian Sparkling White, the vibrant deliciousness of Sparkling Rosé or the opulence of Australian Sparkling Reds, there's a sparkling style to suit your taste.
Take a look at our Sparkling Dozen.