I haven’t been opening anywhere near enough fizz lately.
Maybe it’s because I’ve taken my eye off the bubbles train. Or maybe it’s a lack of celebrations/excuses to open fizz. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Whatever, the sample cupboard has been overrun with bubbles recently, and it was time to solve the problem.
Now, on the last day of summer, and after sloshing through this backlog of fizz, here are ten of the choice Australian highlights (plus an interloper and a sparkling red for balance) that are worth your attention.
Clover Hill Cuvée Exceptionnelle Blanc de Blancs 2015
The top of the Clover Hill tree (hence the name), and it’s a super wine. From the original Clover Hill vineyard, and spends 5 years on lees. Golden toast and brioche leesy overtones, but underneath, it’s pure and citrusy and limey. Just a lovely Australian fizz. Purity, that push of richness and pull of acidity. Maybe a smidgen broad to finish, but there’s not much in it. And the layers of flavour? I left half a glass alone for a few hours and came back to find it still so fresh and lively and together. That’s rare. A top-class sparkling – and I enjoyed this as a more complete drink over the 2010 Dom Perignon on my birthday.
Clover Hill Cuvée Exceptionnelle Blanc de Blancs 2015. Best drinking: now. no hurry. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12%, $70. Clover Hill website. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Daosa Blanc de Blancs 2017
On the topic of Champagne comparisons, I had this not long after the always-sublime Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Blanc de Blancs, and this didn’t come off as inferior. Different shapes, sure, but the quality was on a par. And for background, Larmandier Bernier is my favourite Champagne house.
This is 100% Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay fruit, fermented in old oak, that spends 42 months on lees. Bottled with 5g/L dosage.
This is a round mouthful of a wine closer to the worked, mod grower Champagne styles than most anything Big House. Porridge, white flowers, lemon citrus, the palate notably dry yet full – more ripe Chardonnay than trying to be Champagne – and every sip gives a different take. Lovely mealy nose. The acidity is a surprise, too – you underestimate it and just assume that this will be a bit broad. But it’s balanced, and all works. Lots of expressive, non-fruit flavour makes this, and I enjoyed every sip.
High-quality Australian sparkling.
Daosa Blanc de Blancs 2017. Best drinking: good now, and not going anywhere. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.2%, $90. Daosa website. Would I buy it? Well worth a bottle.
Clover Hill Vintage Brut 2016
Super to find a widely available, local bubbly that is just so good. Over 4 years on lees, some barrel ferment, 59% Chard, 38% Pinot Noir, 3% Meunier. That’s superstar treatment. It’s condensed, powerful with layers of nutty winemaking complexity and yet fresh fruit too. I thought it had more Pinot given the palate weight. Maybe a bit too grunty with less of the top end delicacy (that the Jansz below has)? But seriously, it is a complete wine, at a great price. All this for sub $50 on spec? It’s a buy from me.
Clover Hill Vintage Brut 2016. Best drinking: good now and will probably be even better next year. 18/20, 93/100. 12.5%, $55. Clover Hill website. Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Jansz Late Disgorged Vintage Cuvée 2013
The best from Jansz, and it’s a sparkling of real delicacy. Arguably too pretty and refined even, despite the eight years on lees. 53% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir. Light green straw coloured (still) with some white flowers, lemon citrus, and waxy grapefruit. Great, effortless purity here, even if I want a bit more complexity. Such a different wine to the power-packed Clover Hill above (and yet similar quality).
Jansz Late Disgorged Vintage Cuvée 2013. Best drinking: ready now. No hurry – it will live for years. 18/20, 93/100. 12.5%, $60. Jansz website. Would I buy it? Well worth a few glasses.
Daosa Natural Reserve NV
By contrast to the top Daosa above, this is 72% Pinot Noir & 28% Chardonnay, all based on the 2019 vintage, disgorged in June 2021. The 4th release of this wine, it’s all lovely creamy custard apple and breezy citrus and aftershave creamy lees. What a nose. Maybe the acidity is a bit tart, but a lovely, complex sparkling.
Daosa Natural Reserve NV. Best drinking: now. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.9%, $50. Daosa website. Would I buy it? A few glasses for sure.
Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvée NV
While this is a noticeable step down from the Vintage Brut, I had this alongside the Pommery, and it was a cut above – so much fresher and more interesting. However, the acidity is what marks a different point, with more lemon citrusy and tangy, rather than the understated grapefruit ease of the Pommery. Defined by nutty aftershave leesy notes, the palate has subtle creaminess and some gumball funk. This is really good entry-level fizz. Has this creamy nutty mouthfeel that is very welcome, even if the acidity is a bit jangly.
Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvée NV. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%, $36. Clover Hill website. Would I buy it? A glass is good.
Howard Park Jeté Brut NV
Chardonnay & Pinot based fizz from the Great Southern. Aged in French oak and stainless steel. It’s a table wine with bubbles, all nutty funk and oatmeal citrus over a broad-brushed (for fizz) and generous palate before citrusy acidity. The nutty funk gives this genuine interest, but Champagne lite it’s not. I quite liked the style, though – there is plenty of attraction with the mealy edges, yet it still feels fresh.
Howard Park Jeté Brut NV. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12%, $38. Howard Park website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Jansz Rosé NV
Dependably pink with smart packaging. Creamed apple pie nose is open and flattering. Sherbety pink fruit on the nose and palate is very pleasant and fun. I think I like this more than the 2017 vintage. It’s soft pink creamy fruit very easy going. Gentle strawberry cream edges and a little sweetness. A good easy drink.
Jansz Rosé NV. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12%, $26. Jansz website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Pommery Apanage Blanc de Blancs NV
After all the fresh and lively sparkling wines in this lineup, the Pommery looked just off the pace. Poor storage? An older bottle? L10339028 is the code on the back label, which I can’t decipher about disgorgement dates. Anyway, a plump and generous sort of style, acidity stamps its feet, but the fruit isn’t quite up to the task. Pleasant but pedestrian in its length and vitality. Not a bad wine – and that’s still a bronze medal score – but I expected more.
Pommery Blanc de Blancs NV. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%, $110. Pommery website. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Sparkling Shiraz 2017
By the book, generous sparkling red. Creamy plum and pink grapefruit, the dosage irons out the edges making this rich and heartwarming. It’s not tannic, though – more caramelised and plump. Easy drink, if somewhat sweet and straightforward for greatness.
Taltarni Sparkling Shiraz 2017. 16.8/20, 89/100. 14.5%, $26. Taltarni website. Would I buy it? No.
Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvée Rosé NV
A fraction behind the other Clover Hill releases. Pink sherbety fruit and dosage on a foamy palate. Acid sweetness balance isn’t perfect. Fresh enough, though.
Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvée Rosé NV. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $34. Clover Hill website. Would I buy it? No.
Taltarni Blanc de Blancs 2017
A little stink on the nose. Indeed it’s initially quite cheesy and leesy. Yet that’s a misnomer as the palate feels a little green edged. It just needs a bit more width on the palate to go with that promise.
Taltarni Blanc de Blancs 2017. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12%, $26. Taltarni website. Would I buy it? No.