Sparklers reach 'champagne level'
When sparkling wine expert Tyson Stelzer lined up Tasmanian offerings with champagne at an Effervescence dinner in November, he had an heroic tale to tell.
The previous month in New York he had orchestrated a similar comparative tasting.
World authority on fizz, Carol Duval-Leroy, head of the champagne house Duval-Leroy, was among the assembled industry professionals.
Ms Duval-Leroy exclaimed: "Thank you for introducing me to the best sparkling wines of Tasmania. I almost said ‘champagnes’! They are on that level!"
Respected American wine writer and judge, Chuck Hayward, wrote afterwards that House of Arras wines, which have won best sparkling awards at every major Australian wine show this year, were world-class and "easily rival what the French can do."
"What accolades for our talented sparkling wine producers; and what a boost for the Tasmanian brand," the Executive Director of Brand Tasmania, Robert Heazlewood, said.
"Brett Torossi, of the Brand Tasmania Transition Taskforce, recently spoke of the 'heroic work' that has been done to build the brand over recent years.
"In executing his New York events with the assistance of Andrew Pirie and other wine-makers, Mr Stelzer matched those other individual acts of brand heroism."
A year ago, at Effervescence 2016, Mr Stelzer, the 2015 Wine Communicator of the Year and a respected authority on all things fizzy, said Tasmanian sparkling wine had had a breakthrough year and it was time for it to be taken to the wider world.
“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,” the award-winning commentator said.
"Getting all the méthode tasmanoise wines through United States Customs was an heroic feat in itself.
"Tyson is a wonderful friend for Tasmania."
The exercise prompted many buyers and sommeliers to say the Tasmanian cuvées should be more widely available in the United States.
Mr Stelzer said: "In a month when New York City was inundated with tastings and events, we were delighted by the attendance of both our travel trade and lifestyle media tasting and our wine trade and wine media tasting the following day.
"Key commentators and sommeliers committed big chunks of time to fully getting their heads around each and every Tasmanian cuvée.
"Tasmanian sparkling pioneer Andrew Pirie greeted every guest with a taste of his Apogee cuvée and was actively engaged in conversations for the entirety of both events around the past, present and future of Tasmanian sparkling, in his own magnificently authoritative yet eloquently humble way."
Mr Stelzer said showcasing four of the top (and most expensive) champagnes from the latest edition of his The Champagne Guide alongside Tasmanian sparkling proved to be strategic and fortuitous.
"Far from casting the Tasmanian cuvées in an inferior light, in fact the opposite effect occurred," he said.
"The time is now ripe for estates not yet on the ground [in the United States] to make plans to establish U.S. distribution, and many of these conversations are already underway."
Carol Duval-Leroy's positive exclamation was the strongest endorsement of foreign sparkling wines Mr Stelzer had ever heard from a champenoise.
"Carol is never one to use superlatives lightly," Mr Stelzer added.
The influential Chuck Hayward was full of praise for Tasmanian sparkling wine, generally, and was especially impressed with Ed Carr's House of Arras cuvées.
"The House of Arras can legitimately be declared Australia’s best producer of sparkling wine. Indeed, their best wines are world-class and easily rival what the French can do," Hayward wrote.
"It’s the various late disgorged bottlings that comprise the peak of the portfolio that shock and delight the palate. They show the classic toasty and autolytic qualities that champagne enthusiasts crave, placed upon a notable yet finely hewn palate.
"Those characteristics, expansive and coiled, persist on the slowly expanding back palate and all these qualities came through in the 2003 Arras E.J. Carr Late Disgorged Brut, shown for the first time ever in the U.S."
To extend the influence of the New York events, Mr Stelzer arranged for four dozen leftover unopened bottles to be forwarded to key U.S. media people who had not been able to attend.
Mr Stelzer was again a central figure at November's Effervescence festival.
The fourth staging of Effervescence Tasmania – the annual celebration of méthode tasmanoise – began with a venture southward from its Launceston base for a food and fizz experience at the Frogmore Estate vineyard in the Coal River Valley.
Attendees had the opportunity to try the two side-by-side while enjoying a matched menu.
Organisers described the Grand Tasting as "a decadent garden party like no other".
Josef Chromy Wines Chief Winemaker and General Manager, Jeremy Dineen, told The Examiner that between 300 and 400 people had tested wine from 15 leading producers and enjoyed picnics in the gardens.
Vim Arts and Events founder Jane Forrest, whose business provides support to Effervescence, said about 10,000 polished glasses had been used at the various venues.
The festival wound up on a Sunday with a recovery brunch, a lunch by award-winning chef Jacques Reymond and a tasting tour of vineyards, dubbed the Tamar Experience.
As James Halliday wrote in The Australian's Weekend Magazine in November: "If you're serious about sparkling wine with similar complexity to champagne, Tasmania wins game, set and match."
Image courtesy of the South China Morning Post
5 December 2017, Edition 190