Champagne is the spring racing season’s most loyal companion, bubbles and sunshine in a glass to celebrate victories and salve defeats. But how do you pick the best?
Kyla Kirkpatrick, better known as the Champagne Dame, is one of Australia’s foremost champagne authorities. She offers the following tips for choosing the best celebratory bubbles.
Firstly, always look for a champagne with a really fine bead that doesn’t foam up in your glass or on your palate.
Secondly, the best sparkling wines will still taste great even when they warm up in your glass and the bubbles start to dissipate.
Finally, the wine should balance roundness with acidic tension. “Acidity is not a negative attribute in wine, it gives the wine ageing potential and length on the palate.”
We asked Kyla and two of Melbourne’s top wine professionals to share their best sparkling buys for the season.
WHAT TO DRINK …
Kyla Kirkpatrick, The Champagne Dame
BEST FOR CELEBRATING
The house of Jacquart is getting more and more recognition in Australia. It’s one of the few houses of Champagne led by a woman. Their Brut Mosaique ($70) is good value and a beautiful, balanced champagne – a bit of a crowd-pleaser. If you want something a little bit more fun, get the rose.
LUXE FOR LESS
Arras Brut Elite Sparkling NV ($45) is the top of the pops for Australian sparkling wine. If you’re not going to drink champagne, this is a really good, sophisticated option. It’s made by Ed Carr in Tasmania – the only true cool-climate region in Australia. You need the cooler climate to give you acidity, structure, tension and all of the things that make sparkling wine amazing.
Philip Rich, General manager, wine, at The Lucas Group
If money is no object, then Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs ($299) has to be my pick. Expensive champagne isn’t always worth the money, but this one is. It’s 100 per cent chardonnay and a beautifully crafted, impeccably put-together wine with personality. It’s just a great wine.
LUXE FOR LESS
We’re making really good bubbles in Australia and, in my opinion, one of the best comes from Deviation Road. It’s made by Kate Laurie in the Adelaide Hills. She has worked in the Champagne region, so she just gets it. Her Deviation Road Loftia sparkling wine ($45) is made from 60 per cent pinot noir and 40 per cent chardonnay. It is excellent. I’m also not averse to spending $20 on a bottle of prosecco and just making Aperol spritzes to get the party started.
Liam O’Brien, Wine buyer for Cutler & Co. & Marion
I’ve just started enjoying the Piper-Heidsieck New Cuvee Essentiel ($85), which came out recently. It is a drier style but still has all of the richness and luxurious finish that you expect of champagne. It has generous, toasty, nutty notes and a lot of freshness as well – it’s really flavoursome. It’s got some flamboyance without going over the top.
LUXE FOR LESS
The one for me is a Delamere NV Cuvee ($35) from Tasmania. It just over delivers on complexity and balance. It’s delicious, but has a slightly serious side as well. With sparkling, you always want to think about how it will taste on the second and third glass. This one, along with the Delamere NV Sparkling Rose, are dry enough to be crisp, but also generous enough so you don’t feel like you’re stripping the enamel off your teeth.