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Breakthrough year for sparkling wine

Edition 178 Tyson Stelzer... be more vocal

Tasmanian sparkling wine has had a breakthrough year in 2016 and it's time to take it to the wider world, award-winning wine critic Tyson Stelzer, told the 2016 Effervescence Festival.

“It’s time for Tasmania to be much more courageous about telling [its sparkling wine] story and to start pouring these wines around the world,” Mr Stelzer said.

During a grand tasting at Josef Chromy Wines in November, Mr Stelzer said Effervescence was a chance for Tasmania to showcase some of the best sparkling wines in the world.

“It's the best of the best. In Australia there are no sparkling wines that are better than what’s coming out of Tasmania … Tasmanian sparkling wine, by every measure, eclipses everything coming from the mainland,” he said.

“That coupled with the fact that they’re bringing in these wonderful chefs and showcasing amazing Tasmanian produce … this is about positioning sparkling wine among the premium brands of the world in the same way that Champagne does."

Mr Stelzer elaborated in a video interview with Robert Heazlewood: "This year has been a breakthrough year," he said.

"In the history of Australian wine shows, no sparkling wine has ever trumped the still and fortified wines to win the grand champion wine of a capital city show.

"This year, it’s happened and not just once, it’s happened four times at the National Wine Show in Canberra (the grand championship of all Australian wine shows) and then backed it up in Brisbane and then again in the Sydney Wine Show and finally in the National Cool Climate Wine Show.

"This is a breakthrough for Tasmanian sparkling ... this is the time when these wines are really stepping forward."

Mr Stelzer said there had been a 70 per cent rise in Tasmanian sparkling production this year, and volume was up 140 per cent over two vintages.

"These are significant statistics ... I suspect we might be entering a golden era for Tasmanian sparkling: a time when these wines are recognised as they should rightfully be recognised, as some of the greatest sparkling wines in the southern hemisphere," he said.

Jeremy Dineen, the Chief Winemaker at Josef Chromy Wines, said Effervescence had been founded three years ago to celebrate the uniqueness, the quality and the vibrancy of Tasmanian sparkling.

"With the support of some of the top Tasmanian sparkling producers, which essentially means some of the best sparkling wine makers and the best sparkling vineyards in the New World, we’ve been able to put together a festival which is now in its third year," he said.

"It’s ... not designed to showcase any one individual wine or winery. It’s about celebrating the best of Tasmania and for us that really is about purity, integrity, vibrancy of fruit, elegance and sparkling wines that will age for a very long time that have finesse and power."

"Different producers and different production methods give us an incredible range and array of textures, flavours, of styles of sparkling, which I think is one of the real strengths of Tasmanian sparkling wine."

Brand Ambassador Tetsuya Wakuda prepared a lavish degustation menu to complement the wines at the tasting.

Tetsuya had volunteered his own time and that of a four-person kitchen team from Tetsuya's in Sydney.

Tetsuya's fellow celebrity chef, Jacques Reymond, who also cooked at the festival, was generous in his praise of the State's produce, rating himself "the world's biggest fan of Tasmania".

“The produce is the best that you can find anywhere in the world," Reymond told The Examiner.

"They are valuable. They are so fresh, and all come from small, loving producers, so it’s an emotion every time you come here and there is such an abundance.

"You can do whatever you want and it’s fantastic.”

Reymond and Tetsuya had worked with students in the TasTAFE kitchens in Launceston to prepare ingredients.

“It’s all based on Tasmanian products, so we have what is grown locally here and we’re going to showcase that,” Reymond said.

“We’ve based our food on the season and what is readily available ... you are so blessed in this State that you have exceptional products.”

Tetsuya said: “It’s a very special region because it’s not so much affected by global warming and that’s what makes the wines special."

The third Effervescence included lunches, a recovery brunch, dinners and master classes.

The final Essence of Effervescence lunch was hosted by Porsche Centre Hobart at Quamby Estate and featured a display of luxury cars in the stunning surroundings of the colonial estate.

About 140 people gathered to experience fine wine and world-class food prepared by Reymond, with the assistance of a team of TasTAFE students.

Mr Dineen said the festival had been an immense success. “It’s been bigger and better than ever before ... We’re lucky enough to have some assistance with sponsorship from Events Tasmania and for the first time Porsche have come on [board]".

A serious side of the festival involved wine producers sampling and providing tasting notes on sparkling wines involved in a Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) research project.

TIA is analysing the impact of different vineyard treatments on sparkling wine characteristics.

TIA Research Fellow, Dr Fiona Kerslake, popped the cork of 18 sparkling wines produced as part of the project that was initiated in 2010.

“Today’s tasting represents almost six years of research which commenced with Tasmanian vineyard trials looking at the impact that isolated viticulture practices such as leaf removal, crop load and pruning techniques have on the characteristics of sparkling wine produced in the State,” Dr Kerslake told The Examiner.

Following the Effervescent tasting the wines were sent to the Australian Wine Research Institute, Metabolomics Australia and the University of Adelaide for further analysis of the compounds associated with texture, mouth feel, flavour and aroma.

"These results and the tasting notes from the technical day will contribute to the identification of compounds that influence the characteristics of aged sparkling wines,” Dr Kerslake said.

"Most wine producers apply a variety of vineyard treatments during the year which makes it difficult to pinpoint which treatment contributed to a particular characteristic in the sparkling wine," she said.

“By looking at the different treatments in isolation it is hoped that our findings will help wine producers manage their vines to produce the fruit needed to create a particular style of sparkling wine."

The next phase of the TIA project will be an investigation of technologies to shorten the process of ageing premium sparkling wines, while maintaining or improving the quality.

The $1.4 million project is funded by Wine Australia with in-kind support from TIA, Hill-Smith Family Vineyards (Jansz/Dalrymple/Yalumba), the University of Adelaide, Apogee Tasmania and Josef Chromy Wines.

Tyson Stelzer provided a key piece of take-home advice to Effervescence attendees.

“There's a need for Tasmania to be more vocal about the things it's doing," he said.

"Champagne has a great name around the world.

"Tasmanian sparkling wine doesn't, but it should have …. it has the potential!"

Footnote: TIA is a joint venture between the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania.

Image courtesy of Tyson Stelzer

29 November 2016, Edition 178

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