Drinks News

A sommelier's guide to the best sparkling wines for this entertaining season

How to get the party started, according to sommelier Samantha Payne.

By Samantha Payne
Bubbles. Fizz. "Champers". No matter what you call it, there's no doubting the excitement that comes with hearing the gentle hiss of a bottle being opened. With a resurgence of the traditional ways of making sparkling, now's a good time to enter into the world of fizz, from classic French styles to lively left-of-centre drops. Here are our picks for the coming entertaining season.
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2006 Arras 'E.J. Carr' Late Disgorged, Tasmania, $200
This is the ninth consecutive release of this extraordinary wine, named after the "Godfather" of sparkling wine in Australia, Ed Carr. It seems almost impossible that a 15-year-old sparkling wine could be fresh and vibrant, but that is the magic of this Tasmanian bottle from what is easily Australia's best house of sparkling.
NV Jo Landron Brut 'Atmosphères' Muscadet, France, $51
A blend of 75 per cent folle blanche and pinot noir grapes from vineyards that are up to 30-years-old, and made in the traditional Champagne method, this sparkling wine is consistently delicious year after year. Its fragrant floral nose and bright citrus notes would pair wonderfully with a combination of summertime salads.
2021 Usher Tinkler 'La Volpe' Prosecco, Hunter Valley, NSW, $35
Sometimes you need a sparkling wine filled with tropical fruit notes alongside a lively bubble that's perfect for cheese and salumi grazing boards. This high quality, reasonably priced prosecco comes from the effortlessly cool Usher Tinkler – buy a dozen and have it ready for any occasion.
2015 Howard Park 'Grand Jeté', Margaret River, WA, $50
This premium wine from well-established Margaret River winery Howard Park truly showcases what can be crafted from exceptional fruit. Not to be outdone by sparkling from cool-climate regions across Australia, the Grand Jeté presents layers of stone fruit intermixed with brioche and a hint of salinity.
2013 Levantine Hill Blanc de Blanc, Yarra Valley, Vic, $90
For those seeking a savoury style of fizz that would pair perfectly at the end of a meal with an array of soft washed rind cheeses, this 100 per cent chardonnay sparkling from Levantine Hill is the pick of the bunch. A developed palate of nougat, hazelnuts and lemon rind is met with a rich creaminess on the finish.
Sparkling wines, (left to right): 2006 Arras 'E.J. Carr' Late Disgorged; NV Jo Landron Brut 'Atmosphères' Muscadet; 2021 Usher Tinkler 'La Volpe' Prosecco, Hunter Valley; 2015 Howard Park 'Grand Jeté'; 2013 Levantine Hill Blanc de Blanc.


NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, Reims, France, $150
This is a workhorse of a Champagne that embodies the purity and white florals you expect in a solely chardonnay-based wine. Displaying a delicate acidity and notes of white stone fruit, it makes the perfect accompaniment to various dishes, from a creamy lobster thermidor to an upside-down pineapple cake.
NV André Clouet 'Silver' Brut Nature Blanc de Noir, Bouzy, France, 1500ml, $165
Those yet to experience the magic of a Champagne made solely from pinot noir grapes need look no further than this. The Silver is profoundly complex and expressive from a winemaking dynasty that stretches back more than two centuries and specialises in pinot noir. Pair with a dozen fresh oysters and mignonette to enhance your drinking experience
2017 Frédéric Savart 'Le Mont Benoit' Extra Brut Nature Premier Cru, Écueil, France, $250
One of the harder Champagnes to find upon its release, as thirsty sommeliers around the country readily devour it. And with good reason. This pinot noir dominant cuvée from Frédéric Savart ticks all the boxes – the complexity of flavour, an elegant structure that works wonderfully on any dinner table and a fine acid line that shows the longevity of the wine (and will cellar excellently, too).
For more information, see realwines.com.au
NV Louis Roederer 'Collection 242', Reims, France, $85
In what has been considered an audacious move, this newest wine from Louis Roederer is replacing the well-known Brut Premier. A Champagne chasing freshness over ripeness to reflect the changing vintages each year – rather than a 'house style' – and with Roederer accumulating the most extensive holdings of reserve wines to be used in their NV blends, this wine is spectacular value for money.
2014 Champagne Larmandier-Bernier 1er Cru Terre de Vertus Blanc de Blancs, Vertus, France, $188
As one of three terroir-driven wines from this much loved Champagne grower and producer, this drop is made with minimal winemaking artifice to show the most genuine expression of the estate. The result is a distinctive and mineral-driven Champagne that would be an outstanding addition to any celebration.
Champagne (left to right): NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs; NV André Clouet 'Silver' Brut Nature Blanc de Noir 750ml; 2017 Frédéric Savart 'Le Mont Benoit' Extra Brut Nature Premier Cru; NV Louis Roederer 'Collection 242'; 2014 Champagne Larmandier-Bernier 1er Cru Terre de Vertus Blanc de Blancs.


NV Perrier-Jouët 'Blason Rosé' Champagne, Épernay, France, $109
A wine so beloved that as other wines in the Blason collection were culled from Perrier-Jouët's range, it was the only one to remain. This is a classic example of the delicacy of rosé Champagne that is often overlooked, with subtle hints of strawberries and cream weaving their way onto the palate.
2016 Dal Zotto 'La Nebbia' Col Fondo Nebbiolo Sparkling, King Valley, Vic, $69
This is a fizz from the family who planted the first prosecco vines in the King Valley, so it's safe to say they know a thing or two about the traditional Italian way to make sparkling or, as they call it, "col fondo". It smells like rum-soaked Christmas cake and tastes like Aperol and blood orange. What's Italian for "keep the glasses filled"?
NV Vinden Estate Alicante Bouschet Sparkling, Hunter Valley, NSW, $35
This is the ultimate example of a "breakfast wine" – low alcohol but full-on juicy fruit flavour, with just the right amount of bubbles. Those familiar with the sickly sweet versions of alicante from decades ago will be pleasantly surprised by the dry finish in Angus Vinden's modern expression of this oft-maligned grape.
2021 Nick Spencer Pétillant Naturel, Hilltops, NSW, $28
A grenache-dominant (with a hint of sangiovese) pét-nat that manages to avoid the yeasty after taste that many wines of this style have. Pure red currant and raspberry fruit meets musk sticks and a touch of pomelo peel, just the flavour and freshness you need for a lazy Friday night in with takeaway and a good movie.
Sparkling rosé (left to right): NV Perrier-Jouët 'Blason Rosé' Champagne; 2016 Dal Zotto 'La Nebbia' Col Fondo Nebbiolo Sparkling; NV Vinden Estate Alicante Bouschet Sparkling; 2021 Nick Spencer Pétillant Naturel.


2021 Travis Tausend 'Ari', Adelaide Hills, SA, $35
Fermented using pinot noir and chardonnay from Peramangk Country (Hope Forest in the Adelaide Hills), this wine is crafted with the utmost care and love. From hand-pruned vines to hand-picked fruit, fermented together as whole bunches, this is a cohesive, lightly fizzed sparkling that unwinds to leave lemon verbena and chamomile notes on the tongue.
2021 Dr Ongo, Tasmania, $35
The doctor is in, and he's brought a pét-nat that will cure what ails you; made with pinot noir and a small part of fermented riesling for a fresh and floral kick. Usually there is never enough of this drop to go around, but with increased production in the 2021 vintage, we can finally shout from the rooftops about just how fantastic this wine is.
2021 Vino Volta 'Methode Ancestrale' Chenin Blanc, Swan Valley, WA, $35
From Australia's spiritual home of chenin blanc, the Swan Valley, comes a benchmark example of how exciting and diverse this grape variety can be. Notes of green apple, sweet nectarines and just a hint of lemon pith followed by a clean, bright finish will have you reaching for a second glass in no time.
2021 Fin Wines 'On My Way', Yarra Valley, Vic, $30
With a texture and finesse rarely seen in wines of this style, new label Fin lives up to its motto of "fun drinks with an emphasis on drinkability". This pét-nat is made with vermentino and viognier from Taungurung Country, and chardonnay and riesling from Wurundjeri Country, with flavours of pickled pear, lemon barley
and honeycomb leaping out of the glass.
2019 Renardat-Fache 'En Blanc Aussi', Cerdon, France, $43
Crafted in a little known region just south of Jura and a stone's throw from the Swiss Alps comes one of the most crowd-pleasing wines seen in 2021. Using organically grown chardonnay for a wine that's fruitier than a Champagne, with a nervy line of citrus-driven acidity.
Pétillant Naturel (left to right): 2021 Travis Tausend 'Ari'; 2021 Dr Ongo; 2021 Vino Volta 'Methode Ancestrale' Chenin Blanc; 2021 Fin Wines 'On My Way'; 2019 Renardat-Fache 'En Blanc Aussi'.