TASTING NOTES: A sparkling end of year

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Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer, authors of Taste Food and Wine

Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer, authors of Taste Food and Wine

Choose the right wine every time - Taste Food and Wine 2008 by Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer

VisitVineyards.com is delighted to bring you the first in an ongoing series of tasting notes from lads responsible for Taste Food and Wine 2008, an invaluable tome of tasting notes and tips on choosing, drinking and matching great wine and food from the 2008 release. We start with 10 great sparkling wines - it's the end of the financial year, and whether it's been a good year or a bad one, these will help you celebrate or commiserate.

Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Rosé, NV
$9.50 (but you'll often see it for $8)
We have had a lot of fun serving this wine at weddings recently. After delighting the palates of guests last year, it was again first on the list for a friend’s wedding this year. We were well prepared, having ordered twice as much this time, and it kept the room grinning all the way from canapés to speeches and toasts. Don’t look anywhere else for an inexpensive rosé because none of them work. We have trawled Australia and the world in search of a rival and given up because it simply doesn’t exist. JC at least has the integrity to finish dry. It’s as good as ever, unwavering in its single-minded mission to blow your mind with its fresh red berry aroma and cherry blossom. Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses for a toast to JC!

Wolf Blass Red Label Chardonnay Pinot Noir, NV
$13 (and you can get it for $10)
Whether you’re partying like crazy or reclining in splendour, Wolfy’s cheapie bubbles is the thing you need in your hand. Its fresh apple and stone fruit flavours will wash over you and its creamy finish will get your palate set for whatever comes up next. Hopefully another glass of this little beauty!

Preece NV Sparkling, NV
This wine is a surprise, and a welcome one, neatly slotting into the gap between cheapies and more serious fizz specialist wines. It’s honeyed and clean with a lick of sweetness and a refreshing finish. This is a cheeky, happy-go-lucky bubbly that perks up the palate and lifts the mood in equal measure.

Seppelt Original Sparkling Shiraz, 2005
$19 (and it comes up for $15)
If you are new to sparkling Shiraz, this is the place to start the race, because this wine is downright delicious and not remotely scary. Unlike virtually all of the competition, this wine is notable for its lack of raw tannin and harsh flavours. Served cold, as you would Champagne, the nose leaps from the glass like a pole vaulter and provides an excellent foil to ribs, chicken wings, pork balls and other macho party food. You will almost certainly need a backup bottle to satiate the palates of your guests. Seppelt has been the master of Sparkling Shiraz since the 1940s, and it’s remarkable that you can tap into this esteemed bloodline for less than $20 (and often $15).

Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz, NV
This wine shot into our list last year and it will make it every year if the standard of pruney, plummy fruit is as high as this. There is a level of complexity of flavour here that is remarkable for the money. It shone in a very large line-up of wines that simply couldn’t match its verve and dashing style. Seppelts first-timers (above) should dip a toe in this wine whenever they feel ready to graduate to a higher plane. It’s a hell of a lot more wine for an extra fifty cents!

Taltarni Brut, 2005 - $20.00
Taltarni Brut Taché, 2005
Taché means stained, and this wine is literally stained with the skins of the Pinot Noir grapes to give it its faintest pink blush. It tastes as elegant as it looks. If you’re feeling like a classy little number, give her a ring and open this bottle. You’re guaranteed a beautifully relaxed, cherry blossom and rose-petal-kissed experience. (We can guarantee a fantastic drink, but we can’t work miracles! Over to you….) The wine will work its magic with everything from canapés to starters. If you want to hone in on a more dedicated aperitif style, lock into the lemony tang of Taltarni Brut 2005 ($20).

Jansz Tasmania Premium Non Vintage Cuvée, NV
$23 (but it comes up for $19)
Year in, year out, this wine is fast becoming our favourite and the most reliable of the larger-named sparklers. It always tastes good, whether you’re on the beach or getting dressed up for a smart night out. The Tassie fruit has the grip and vivacity needed for that palate-tingling freshness that is so essential in top-quality sparkling wine. It’s topped off with an ultra-bubbly, creamy mousse. Last year the Rosé was also a highlight, but this year we’ve found that too many bottles taste corky. Crown caps please, Jansz.

Domaine Chandon NV Brut, NV
$24 (but you'll find it for $19)
Dr Tony Jordan and his band of merry men unerringly hit the spot with this plush, juicy fizz, and it gets better from one year to the next. It’s a chunkier style than the lively Jansz, but no less impressive. If you favour creamy, ripe and yet refreshing sparkling wine, then you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck here.

Pelorus Sparkling NV, NV
$31 (but you can pick it up for $20)
Made by the superstar team at Cloudy Bay, it is not surprising that this is an incredibly neat piece of work. It’s always been one of the best Kiwi sparklers and we prefer it to its more expensive vintage sibling. Its fresh meadow flower aromas and dream-like finish will transport you to faraway places in a trance.

Ashton Hills Salmon Brut Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir, 2005 - $32.00
Ashton Hills Sparkling Shiraz, 2001
We are unashamed rosé Champagne snobs, so we don’t expect to come across an Aussie rosé with such breeding and distinction at this price. Shock, surprise! The bouquet is unbelievably ethereal. The palate is as beautiful as a Pinot Noir has ever been - elegant, totally complex and utterly fresh. Drink it with roast chicken – or salmon, of course. And if you can get your hands on it, the Ashton Hills Sparkling Shiraz 2001 ($35) is made from fruit from 115 year old vines and it ranks among the best sparkling reds ever made. Ph 08 8390 1243


Reproduced with permission. © Copyright Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer 2007

Taste Food & Wine 2008 is available from book retailers, department stores and wine outlets. Taste 2009 is available from October 3, 2008. For more information go to www.tastefoodandwine.com.au

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