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Australia’s Sparkling Wines

Sparkling WineSparkling wines come from all over the world, but not all of them can be called champagne. That name has been protected since 1891 and can be used only by wines produced in the Champagne region of France in compliance with the process prescribed by the Comité Interprofessional du vin de Champagne. Even if other wines are made from the same grape variety and use the same process as champagne, they can only be referred to as sparkling wines. Fortunately, as the saying goes, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

A New World “Sparkler”

Along with the United States, Chile, and South Africa, Australian champagne is sometimes referred to as a New World sparkler. However, Australian wine historians will insist that the country has produced sparkling wine since the 1890s. The only thing is the Australian’s bubbly was not made with grapes classified as classic Champagne varieties. It was only n 1960 that the Hawke Bay’s Mission Vineyard produced sparkling wine – wine using Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris, and Folle Blanche, and produced according to the “classic” champagne method. Today, there are more than two dozen Australian producers of good sparkling wines.

Australia’s Sparkling Shiraz

Australia’s contribution to the world of sparkling wines is sparkling Shiraz, a sparkling red wine made from Shiraz Shirazgrapes. Sparkling Shirz is traditionally sweet, but some wineries produce full-bodied, dry sparkling Shiraz, such as d’Arenberg’s Sparkling Chambourcin, Seppelt Sparkling Shiraz Vintage, Morris Sparkling Shiraz Durif, and Peter Rumball.

In RED FIZZ / Australian-Style Red Bubbly Is A Grown-Up Pleasure, W. Blake Gray says, “The best Australian sparkling red wines can be astonishing to Americans who expect grape soda pop. First of all, they’re dry. And they’re not frothy lightweights. They have the character of the varietal from which they’re made — most often Shiraz — and also the terroir where they’re grown. They can be earthy, rich and complex, with long finishes, yet the bubbles make them more food-friendly than a still wine made from the same grapes.

“The good ones are not cheap. Serious sparkling reds take more work and time to make than still red wines, and they’re scarce enough — most are made in lots of less than 500 cases — that fans seek them out. I love a number of these wines, but only one that I really like costs less than $30.

“Still, it’s a whole category of fun, delicious, food-friendly wines of which most Americans are completely unaware…”

Simon Thomsen writes about Australian sparkling reds in10 Australian Sparkling Red Wines To Drink This Summer”.  He says, “There’s one wine Australia makes that you won’t find anywhere else in the world: sparkling red. And it’s the perfect wine over a summer meal.

“Yes, Italians make Lambrusco and Brachetto, but compared to the rock and roll of a Barossa sparkling Shiraz, they’re mere boy bands aimed at screaming tweens.

“Australian sparkling reds combine the best qualities of a good red: juicy berry flavours and tannins, with bubbles and chill, for a hot summer’s day; and it goes perfectly with any leftover turkey, ham and cheese…”

Choosing and Pairing Your Sparkling Shiraz

Good quality sparkling Shiraz should not be overly sweet, but it should be not leave an astringent aftertaste. Sparkling Shiraz has a fruity undertone, but this should be subtle, and it should not overpower the taste of Shiraz. The bubbles should be fine, not coarse.

In Sparkling Shiraz: A Confession, Jordan Mackay says, “like other sparkling reds such as Lambrusco, there’s no better match for a plate of cured meat. It’s also considered that elusive good match for Thanksgiving turkey…”

If you’re ready to explore new wines, try a bottle of sparkling Australian Shiraz the next time your serve ham or turkey. The fullness of red wine combined with the effervescence of champagne will show you that beyond being good, wine can be fun, invigorating, and refreshing.

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