There is champagne and there is sparkling wine.
The Champenois fiercely and rightly guard their name and their traditions; centuries of meticulous development give them that right.
But there are many other sparklers around the globe. Most are everyday bubbly fun but some are serious. Not many are more seriously admired by the world’s commentators than the latest wines coming from Tasmania.
The man behind these is Ed Carr, Group Sparkling Winemaker at Accolade Wines.
His influence on Australia sparkling wine is unmatchable.
Over 27 years he has tickled the public palate with bubbles great and small. He has elevated Seaview, Killawarra, Hardy’s Sir James, Omni, Banrock Station and Yarra Burn … all notable wines in their own category. He and his team have won cupboards full of trophies and awards.
In the early nineties with the generous backing of his then employer BRL Hardys he pledged to make the Great Australian Sparkler.
The grapes evaluated would be chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, the classic combination from Champagne, acknowledging hundreds of years of successful French winemaking.
But how did they perform in various regions across this country? They would have to be cool climate grown for the necessary acidity and delicacy. But high altitude or coastal? Shortlisted were Macedon, Tumburumba, Adelaide Hills, Yarra and Pemberton but Tasmania won. In Ed’s words he found: elegance, structure, minerality, longevity and suppleness.
The first all-Tassie fruit from 1998 made its debut in the 2002 wine labeled House of Arras.
Arras? Those of you who can recall Shakespeare’s Hamlet will know that an arras is an intricate tapestry, originally woven in the region of Arras in France.
Intricate? You bet.
At a recent tasting Ed took TML through his current offerings.First a new release, A by Arras, 3-4 years on lees, (the time-honouring process by which sparkling wines gather structure and complexity). The first door to the Arras House, pure clean fruit, very fine but approachable soft and fresh.
Next the Brut Elite, predominately pinot noir, 5 years on lees, yeasty and plush but dry, with a soft backbone of acid and a long finish.
2005 Rosé, 7 years on lees. One word. Yum. A whoosh of pink pinot noir on the nose, confident and sophisticated. As Ed says: “Persistence and presence showing that elegance can still have power.”
2004 Blanc de Blancs. 8 years lees. 100% chardonnay showing a powerful nose of rich citrus and truffles. Toasty and tasty. A confident and important wine.
2004 Grand Vintage. This is Ed’s favourite of the day. It’s all there. Classic flavours including toast and mushrooms. Magnificent length balanced perfectly.
2002 Ed Carr, this wine has been held back for 10 years and offers sublime elegance. All the flavour you demand from such a fine wine but presented with an immaculate restraint. If the 2004 was Ed in a superbly tailored suit, this is him in a tuxedo.
Ed’s bottles encapsulate the long and loving attention to detail through the myriad phases of a wine’s development. As he says: “What we make is all cumulative. Can you make a great wine by chance; you have a better chance of winning lotto.”
The top wines of the Arras range are much more expensive than modest level champagnes, but way below what the French deem fair for their top level wines.
As with all luxury items you must make up your own mind what is ‘value’ but you will not find too many more rewarding mouthfuls than the wines of Arras.
Open some bubbly at www.houseofarras.com.au