Rules of sparkling wine tasting
ADVERTORIAL FEATURE – Thanks to its cool climate and altitude, vineyards in the Macedon Ranges wine region possess ideal conditions for producing outstanding sparkling wines, some of which can rival the great champagnes of France.
Straddling The Great Dividing Range, the Macedon Ranges wine region has vineyards ranging in elevation from 400 to 800 meters. It is this altitude and southerly latitude that makes this region so special in terms of wine production. It is generally regarded as the coolest on mainland Australia, with even more cool, elevated sites than much of Tasmania.
"This region shares some key climate similarities with Reims in Champagne, France," explains Pauline Russell of Kyneton Ridge Estate. "The cold climate results in late ripening of fruit and a high retention of natural acid within the grape at harvest, which is essential for quality sparkling production."
These factors, combined with the expertise of growers in the region, some of whom have been producing sparkling wines for generations, have made the area justifiably renowned for its bubbly.
"Sparklings produced here typically have bready notes from yeast contact, yet are lively and fresh due to a strong acid backbone. They are usually made by the traditional method of secondary fermentation of the base wine in the bottle, allowing it to age for a minimum of nine months and then disgorging (removing the yeast lees) and sweetening with a liqueur," explains Russell.
"By sparkling wine, we mean anything that is similar to Champagne. In Australia there are only a few regions that can claim this. Ours, Tasmania and around Tumbarumba in southern NSW," says John Ellis of Hanging Rock (www.hangingrock.com.au). His personal preference is for rich, complex, aged styles. "The best from Champagne are Krug and Bollinger. Our own Macedon Cuvee follows this model, which relies on oak aging of the base wines."
Cameron Leith of Passing Clouds (www.passingclouds.com.au) nominates Mount Williams as his pick of the region's finest. "They make a Blanc de Blanc of superb depth and have the patience to leave it on lees for several years, adding complexity," he says.
How to Taste Sparkling Wines
When it comes to properly appreciating sparkling wine, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind. For starters, the choice of glass used during tasting is important, with a champagne flute or tulip-mouthed glass being ideal.
"The wine must be chilled, but not too cold, about 4°C," explains Leith. "Don't swirl the wine, just allow the effervescence to settle a bit, then gently sniff, with your nose near, not in, the glass mouth."
"Note the headiness of freshly baked bread, brioche or even vegemite, which comes from the yeast. It won't be fruity, although age may give honeyed notes. All of these are good characters, which add up to complexity – the more complex the better."
"Next, take a sip. The instant feel on the mouth should be a creamy, bubbly sensation. We call it the 'mousse'. It has to persist to the last drop poured, and it has to be fine. If it is like soda water, and explodes in the mouth, then it probably hasn't been bottled for very long. The flavour should be much as the nose suggests. Then, there is the finish; it must be crisp and clean."
Sparklings often are described as having flavours of citrus, stone fruit or strawberry and aromas of bread, green apple, grapefruit, spice and strawberry.
Published On: Tuesday, June 5, 2012, 12:00 AM AEDST