There’s one wine Australia makes that you won’t find anywhere else in the world: sparkling red. And it’s the perfect wine over a summer meal.
Yes, Italians make Lambrusco and Brachetto, but compared to the rock and roll of a Barossa sparkling shiraz, they’re mere boy bands aimed at screaming tweens.
Australian sparkling reds combine the best qualities of a good red: juicy berry flavours and tannins, with bubbles and chill, for a hot summer’s day; and it goes perfectly with any leftover turkey, ham and cheese.
The first sparkling burgundy, as it was known, was made in 1881 by the Victorian Champagne Company and just three years later, the Seppelt Great Western legend was born. For much of the century, this winery under Victoria’s Grampians had the race to itself.
Fans from the early ’70s would remember the lolly water days of Cold Duck.
We’ve come a long way since then, baby.
Winemaker Peter Rumball (see below) estimates there are 60 different sparkling red wines on the market, producing around 350,000 dozen cases.
Here are 10 Business Insider considers among the best.
The bottle is supermodel tall and thin, and the contents, from Joe Gilli of Primo Estate in McLaren Vale, is just as luxuriously elegant, yet surprisingly full-bodied. He makes it from shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend, using back vintages up to 40 years old, with a splash of old fortifieds to sweetly round things out. It tastes like a great old shiraz – all leathery, plum, spice and oak. An absolute treat.
Peter Rumball sparkling shiraz & merlot
This is the only wine Peter makes and he helped lead its resurgence 30 years ago, in the painstaking Methode Champenoise (fermented in the bottle, hand riddled and disgorged) style, releasing his first NV sparkling shiraz in 1988, then in 2001, a sparkling merlot using Coonawarra grapes. His style is fun, fruity and easygoing and if you’re a newbie, this is a fine, consistent and excellent value starting point, but he also released a 2002 vintage shiraz this year too.
2004 Seppelt Show Sparkling Shiraz
My lasting love affair for this genre began with this remarkable wine a few decades ago, although Southcorp’s marketing boffins nearly destroyed the brand in the mid ’90s. You can get the ‘original’ for under $20, but this is the bees knees, only made in years when its good enough, with delicious clove, liquorice, leather and pepper notes. Put it on the bucket list and put it down for another decade if you think you’ll make it too.
Best’s Great Western 2011 sparkling shiraz
Like Christmas pudding in a bottle, with a splash of liqueur muscat added for plummy, spicy, sweet notes amid the fresh red berries, this wine was released just in time for Christmas after 12 months on lees, it’s also worth putting away for a decade knowing the crown seal will keep it safe.
Like most Best’s wines, it’s seriously great value too.
David Franz Nicole 2010 Cabernet-Shiraz
David Lehmann, son of Peter and Margaret, is a quirky, experimental and simply bloody fun winemaker. Using 75% cabernet from multiple vintages demonstrates how he likes to zig when others zag. 2010 is the disgorgement date. It’s voluptuous, with typically cabernet eucalyptus and mint notes, with the sweetly smoky contribution of a little shiraz liqueur.
In Lehmann’s typically cheeky style he suggests you “savour the wine as much as I enjoy its namesake!” [his wife Nicole].
2009 Black Queen sparkling shiraz
David’s late father, the legendary Peter Lehmann, named this wine after the Queen of Sheba, made from low yielding, old Barossa vines. It brims with dark fruits: plum and cherry, with chocolate notes and if you can wait, is even better 20 years on.
2005 Anderson sparkling durif
Howard Anderson learnt his craft 40 years ago at Seppelt Great Western before striking out on his own in Rutherglen, producing his first sparkling red in 1992. Using durif, sometimes known as petite sirah, makes it even more interesting, because this big, tannic French hybrid, which ages well, is really only grown here and in the US. Anderson also makes a shiraz version, releasing both the current vintage, 2005 ($29) and cellar release, 2002 ($49).
Bleasdale NV sparkling shiraz
The Potts family from Langhorne Creek, near Lake Alexandrina at the Murray River’s mouth, make the nation’s best value sparkling red. It’s versatile too, suiting plum pudding as well as summer pudding with its mix of prune, cranberry, liquorice, spice and leather. Get a case and make every day like Christmas.
2011 Rockford Black sparkling shiraz
First, you have to find this cult wine from this cult Barossa winery, since it’s only generally available at cellar door, in very low volumes. But effort is rewarded, especially with the patience of ageing. The year on this multi-vintage blend once again heralds its disgorgement date.All dark cherries and berries, with smoky chocolate notes, it’s remarkably complex and deserving of its reputation.
2005 Leasingham Classic Clare Sparkling Shiraz
Some sparkling red buffs swear this wine really is Australia’s finest example of the style. I won’t fight them, especially because James Halliday thinks so too. Disgorged in 2011, it’s plum pudding in a glass, with a fine bead, smoky leather and tobacco and wonderful variety. And those who’ve long loved the Leasingham name will be delighted to see it still used.