Sparkling red wine is a distinctly Aussie thing. I don’t claim we invented it of course, I’m a big fan of Emilia-Romagna’s delicious Lambruscos and have enjoyed red espumante in Portugal, but sparkling reds have been part of our wine industry since the late 1800s (when they were called sparkling Burgundy). Aussie sparkling reds tend to be big, fruity, rich wines that often take pride of place on the Christmas table alongside ham, turkey, seafood, and even the Christmas pud. Shiraz is popular, but other grape varieties certainly work well. Here are five of my favourite Australian sparkling red wines, grab a few bottles, chill them well and enjoy anytime you’re feeling festive (see below for definitions of some sparkling wine terms).
Castagna Sparkling Genesis Beechworth Vic
Arguably Australia’s best red fizz, biodynamic shiraz with a splash of viognier fermented with wild yeasts spends 20 months in French oak and 2 years on lees. Minimal dosage means it’s dry with intriguing flavours and aromas of spice, raisin, tea leaves and juniper.
Fox Creek Vixen McLaren Vale, SA
Cab sav adds tannic structure, and cab franc some herbal notes, to fruity McLaren Vale shiraz. The result is a luscious, cherry-red wine full of red berry and cherry flavours, musky-vanilla-cinnamon aromas and a smooth palate finishing with gingerbread and toasted almonds.
Peter Lehmann Black Queen Barossa, SA
Pure old-vine Barossa shiraz, from one of Australia’s most iconic winemakers, spends a year in barrel then at least 2 more on lees. This rich, deep purple-red wine is full of spicy dark fruit flavours, with notes of cinnamon, dark chocolate and leather, and a long savoury finish.
Pfeiffer Red Pfizz Rutherglen, Vic
This sparkling pinot noir, from 50-year-old Rutherglen vines, spends 6 months in French oak and at least another 6 on lees before a dosage of Pfeiffer’s chocolatey-blackberry port-like Christopher’s VP. It’s elegant, with cherry, red berry flavours, soft tannins and plenty of length.
Hollick Sparkling Merlot Coonawarra, SA
Merlot doesn’t often feature in sparkling reds, but perhaps it should. This bright ruby-red wine is in French oak for 18 months and has a dosage of vintage port. Velvety tannins and ripe raspberry-confectionary flavours make it a natural with ham and turkey as well as fruit desserts.
Sparkling Wine Speak: it helps to know a bit of the jargon when discussing sparkling wines. Dosage is the sweet wine added after the dead yeast cells (lees) have been removed from the bottle (called disgorgement).