By Zachary Phillips - Winner of 2020 Wine Communicators of Australia New Wine Writer Award
Champagne is the most famous type of wine in the world. It's a household name and goes hand in hand with any celebration you can think of. It's also replicated in almost every wine-producing nation on earth.
There is a reason for this. While Champagne is a protected term - Champagne wine can only come from Champagne - there is no protection for its style. You may have noticed methode traditionelle ('traditional method') on some bottles. This is a term that means that the wine has been made using the same specifications as Champagne, and they can come from anywhere Ã???Ã??Ã?Â¢?? other regions of France, Italy and even Australia.
And we make some absolute stunners. Australian fizz is world-class.
What is Australian sparkling wine?
Australian sparkling wine covers any and all styles of bubbly wine, and there is a wide range. Methode traditionelle, or Champagne style, is the most common, but you can also find Italianate Prosecco here, sweeter Moscato, our unique sparkling Shiraz and the increasingly popular pet-nat. They all go pop!
Is Australian sparkling wine better than Champagne?
This depends on your point of view. But we say yes! Aside from being a bit biased and wanting to support the local industry, there are two things that Australian sparkling has over Champagne.
First, versatility. There are strict rules about what Champagne can and can't do. Anything which doesn't fit regulations cannot legally be sold as Champagne. It's great for consistency, but not brilliant for innovation. For example, Champagne has to be made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Don't like those grapes? Tough luck.
In Australia, though, we're open to having a little fun. Want a sparkling wine made that's red rather than white? Sure. In the mood for something which is made with more cost-effective processes? Don't let us stop you. The lack of regulations means there is a lot more that Australian fizz can offer.
Secondly, value for money. Champagne is a relatively small region and it is full. It can't expand, otherwise, it would go beyond its borders and couldn't be called Champagne. Limited resources plus high demand is a recipe for extreme pricing, never mind the additional cost of shipping it to Australia. So, Champagne, as much we love you, we simply cannot afford to drink you all the time.
Australian made sparkling doesn't suffer from this, meaning you can consistently find great value. Even better, there are great options at every price point. This means that there are bottles of Aussie bubbles for everyday drinking as well as truly remarkable wine for those special occasions. With all these factors, it's little wonder why $50 is considered cheap for Champagne while that same $50 gets you a top tier local fizz.
How do I choose the best Australian sparkling wine for me?
A great way to learn is to explore and remember what styles you like and what didn't work for you. Labels are important too - it's okay to judge a bottle by its cover, here. If it looks traditional, chances are it's going to be made traditionally. If you're a die-hard Champagne fan, though, don't forget to look for the words methode traditionelle on the label.
The best thing, though, is to ask for recommendations. We love our wine and we love helping our customers find some good drinks. Here are some of our favourites to help you narrow things down.
Sparkling Shiraz is an Aussie icon. And if you want bang-for-buck, this is the perfect bottle. Dark berry flavours with a sweet liqueur richness. The textbook pairing is ham or turkey, but this also goes beautifully with teriyaki, oysters kilpatrick and a good ol' B&E roll. Serve chilled.
A marriage between the old and the new, Yarrabank is a collaboration between Yering Wines in Victoria and the Champagne house Devaux. As you'd expect, this sparkling rosé is all class, with delicate strawberries, dried rose petals and a cleansing finish.
Arras recently won World's Best Sparkling with the EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2004. The Brut Elite, though, is an excellent entry point for this quality-focused producer from Tasmania. Elegant toasty notes, with rich white fruits and nutty complexity.
Jansz has pulled out all the stops with this. From a single vineyard and made entirely from Chardonnay, this is all about aged complexity and charm. There are flavours of sea spray, lemon zest, brioche and honeycomb with a creamy texture and a limestone minerality. Stunning.