James Halliday's Top 100 Wines of 2011 - Australian Sparkling

Australian Sparkling

80 wines submitted
8 selected

The same question comes up every year: are the points for the Champagnes comparable for those of the Australian sparkling wines, and the answer is no, they are not. Nor would points for great red Burgundies compare with those for Australian and New Zealand pinot noirs, First Growth Bordeauxs with Margaret River cabernet merlots. Points are as subjective as the words in the tasting notes, but are a separate way of expressing the taster’s opinion, to be assimilated along with the description of the wine in the context of the particular tasting. All this may frustrate some consumers, but the ultimate reality is that Australia can never make Champagne, a Burgundy or a Bordeaux, so direct points comparison is fraught with contradictions and qualifications. It’s the old apples versus oranges paradigm.

Dominique Portet Yarra Valley Brut Rose LD NV
94 points, $28, Cork, 13% alc
A blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grown in the Yarra Valley, and fermented in this bottle; bright pale pink, it has most attractive strawberry fruit flavours, with very good length; the LD signifies light dosage (ie lesser than normal sugar added to the wine after disgorgement). It all works perfectly to result in a wine for all seasons.

Yarrabank Cuvee 2007
95 points, $38, Cork, 13% alc
Pale straw; a complex blend of multi-regional pinot noir and chardonnay fermented in this bottle and given four years on yeast lees; pale bright straw, it is a very elegant and harmonious wine, with white peach and spice flavours and a hint of cashew on the very long palate, the aftertaste clean and fresh.

Domaine Chandon Brut Rose Vintage 2008
95 points, $39.95, Diam, 12.5% alc
A 55/45% Pinot Noir/Chardonnay, made from 40 different cuvees deriving from eight regions in four states. No traditional method sparkling wine made elsewhere in Australia or the world has such a massive range of terroir. It contains 8% pinot noir table wine, and spent 30 months on lees prior to disgorgement. It has a delicious strawberries and cream mid-palate, and a long, clean and crisp finish.

Jansz Tasmania Premium Vintage Cuvee 2006
95 points, $39.95, Cork, 12% alc
Bright straw-green; this is a traditional method blend of chardonnay and pinot noir that spent 48 months on yeast lees in this bottle resulting in a wine with abundant personality and character, its mix of brioche, citrus and stone fruit are framed by acidity only partially tamed by malolactic fermentation — which is as it should be with Tasmanian sparkling wine.

Petaluma Croser Late Disgorged Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2000
96 points, $50, Cork, 12.5% alc
A 63/37% Traditional Method blend that spent nine years on lees prior to disgorgement. In its youth, it was painfully tight and shy, the transformation quite remarkable; straw-green, its freshness is as outstanding as its complexity; citrus, honey and brioche are all there on the long, balanced palate.

Arras Brut Elite Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV
96 points, $55, Cork, 12.5% alc
Cuvee no. 401. A traditional method blend of multi-Tasmanian region pinot noir and chardonnay given many years on lees prior to disgorgement. Pale straw-green, it is at once intense yet fine, brioche and toast nuances in a creamy web, the acidity perfect, the palate long and harmonious.

Primo Estate Joseph Sparkling Red NV
95 points, $70, Cork, 13.5% alc
The base wine is a traditional method blend of Australian reds from the 1960s and '70s, the amount bottled each year (30 dozen) replaced by the same amount of current vintage Joseph Moda Cabernet Merlot; the liqueur for topping up the bottle after disgorgement is old Australian fortified. This is a very complex wine that invites the second glass as the multi-spice flavours run across the palate.

Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged 1999
97 points, $190, Cork, 12.3% alc
After 10 years on lees, it is still a bright yellow-gold, shot with green. As one would expect, this is a tremendously complex wine, with bready/nutty/toasty characters through the bouquet and palate; however, there is also an intense citrus/white peach fruit line running the length of the palate sustained by perfectly balanced acidity. Bollinger beware.

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