Champagne dominates the sparkling wine market the world over, not just in terms of production volume, but also in terms of quality. Yet, sparkling wine isn’t solely confined to Champagne and, as Simon says below, nor should it always need to be compared to Champagne.
There are unique sparkling wines made in different corners of the winemaking world that can surprise greatly, yet all have one thing in common: they are made in the Mèthode Champenoise. One only has to consider the success of the English sparkling wine scene to understand that latter point. At Atlas, we have championed a couple of English estates (including Nyetimber and Hambledon) and we have highlighted the quality of Franciacorta (more specifically the wines of Ca del Bosco) and now we want to highlight another highly individual producer, this time from the Southern hemisphere. ‘House of Arras’ is a small scale producer of sparkling wine in Tasmania with an unwavering focus on quality. Even if you think this sounds a little left-field, you should read on. If you had told me six years ago when I started Atlas that I would be offering a high-class Tasmanian sparkling wine today, I might have been surprised myself.
I was floored by the quality of the 2002 House of Arras and I have no idea what I would have said had I tasted it blind, partly due to the fact that it is aged for 10 years on its fine lees before being released. This enables the wine to pick up a great deal of complexity from the yeast deposit while ageing in bottle, as is the case with RD Champagne. Ed Carr has been making sparkling wines in Australia since 1986 and is regarded as being a pioneer as far as Tasmania sparkling wine production is concerned. He understands his craft very well indeed and is certainly one of the most lauded names in Australian sparkling wine. Ed sources fruit from the highest quality, cold climate, districts of Tasmania. The coastal influence and long growing season is well-suited to the cultivation of grapes for sparkling wine production as conditions allow for the gradual ripeness and retention of acidity.
It was our buyer, Victoria Stephens-Clarkson MW who drew this wine to my attention. Please see below for her tasting note:
2002 House of Arras, Late Disgorged, (E.J. Carr) at £240 per six bottle case in bond
Tasting note from Vicki Stephens-Clarkson MW:
House of Arras’ late-disgorged 2002 marries the elegant characters of Chardonnay (58% of the blend), particularly when grown in the relatively cool climate of Tasmania, with the broader, red fruits of Pinot Noir (42%). Aromas of brioche, shortbread and citrus mingle on the nose, all typical of extended ageing on lees and in bottle, followed by even greater complexity of buttered toast, lime, and pressed berries. The wine has the richness and mellow characters of a classic Champagne or sparkling wine when it has achieved a degree of development, underpinned by a finely-woven thread of acidity that keeps the wine fresh and enduring on the finish. The best example to date of the quality and longevity that great Tasmanian wines can attain. This is really rather special. Drink now till 2020. (VSC)
And we aren’t alone in recognising this as being rather special. It received 97 points in a review on James Suckling’s website, with the following note:
From the cool 2002 vintage, this has amassed an impressive 10 years on tirage and has the same chardonnay-dominant DNA as the Grand Vintage (60%). This shows a lot of saline plus oystery notes on the nose. It has retained amazing freshness and has a little of the dried flowers as well as a still-fresh core of citrus and stone fruit; grassy too, plus a really complex array of older and younger notes. The palate has smoothness and supple fleshy texture that really has knit together impressively. There's a seamlessness here, an arc of smooth tannin sitting around grapefruit, red fruits and grilled nut flavors. Superfine and super pure.
And it isn’t short of awards and endorsements, as the following list attests:
- Gold - The Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Champ 2015 (this is Champagne critic, Tom Stevenson’s competition)
- 95 points from Australian critic, James Halliday and classified as a ‘5* Halliday winery’. James Halliday’s comment in The Australian a few years ago: ‘Arras is made by a quietly spoken genius, Ed Carr, whose name should be known around the world. He is by some considerable distance Australia’s greatest sparkling winemaker’.
- Gold ‘Outstanding’ - Decanter World Wine Awards 2015
- Regional trophy (Australian sparkling above £15), Decanter World Wine Awards 2015
Convinced? This is a fascinatingly complex wine with a refined sense of purity. Moreover, it is a wine that is set to surprise. What is entirely clear is that, true to his word, Ed Carr has set out to produce a ‘best in class’ wine…
Please let us know of your interest – as you might expect we have a limited volume available.
To request a wine, please do not hesitate to contact any member of the Atlas team. We can be reached on +44 (0)20 3017 2299, firstname.lastname@example.org or by submitting the form below. Please note that stock may be limited and is always sold on a 'first come, first serve' basis.