want to produce, which is a wine with the purity, the piercing bril-
liance, of the best Champagne.”
With his latest vintages, notably the 2011 Wiston South Downs
Rosé, which retails for about $45, he has achieved it. The pinpoint
crispness marks it as a serious wine that would entice a fan of
austere Champagnes, such as Pommery’s classic Cuvée Louise.
“We naturally produce fruit with the characteristics to make very
age-worthy wines with finesse and elegance,” Sugrue says. “The
growing season is long, so you get this beautiful expression.”
The English wine industry is young, but Wiston isn’t a one-off.
Producers such as Ridgeview and Nyetimber are making compa-
rable wines. That seems to point the way for the region to become
one of the world’s prime sources for sparkling wine, a develop-
ment Sugrue believes is “almost inevitable.”
Ed Carr’s journey has been longer. He began searching for
sites around Australia to make premium sparkling wine in 1988.
By 1995, he’d found Tasmania. “We realized the farther south
we could get, the better we’d be,” he said. These days, he keeps
his House of Arras wines aging on their yeasty deposits, or lees,
for as long as 10 years, far longer than even vintage Champagne.
That helps make their lifespan gloriously long. His current vintage
releases are from 2005. His top cuvée in the market, the Late
Disgorged Vintage, is the 2002.
Over time, the exuberance in his wines mellows into an elegant
middle age. “We always get compared to Champagne,” says
Carr. “I take it as a compliment. But we’re growing on ancient
soil, at 42 degrees south, and on an island. Our wines are rich,
with bright ripe fruit. They reflect Tasmania, where they’re from.
I believe the quality is comparable, but this is decidedly not
Champagne. It’s a different style.”
FRANCE’S OTHER REGION
Albert Boxler isn’t known as a sparkling wine company. Since
just after World War II, it has been commercializing table wines,
notably Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer, from land that
has been family-held for more than three centuries.
But Alsace is also France’s second region for sparkling wine;
its Crémants are made using the identical methodology that
Champagne houses use. Boxler’s are made from specific vineyard
parcels of the Chardonnay sibling Pinot Auxerrois, blended with
Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. The result, paradoxically, tastes less
like Champagne than most other sparkling wines. The 2012 I
tasted recently was delightfully crisp, like dry cider.
In most countries, Crémant d’Alsace costs no more than the
equivalent of $35. It’s typically aged on its lees only a few years
and is meant to be drunk soon after release. “We make so little, so
we bottle it after three or four years because there’s a great desire
for it,” Boxler says. “But my ambition in the coming years is to
keep it on the lees longer, especially considering the quality of the
wine we make now. Aging on the lees is the way to make a great
sparkling wine, just as in Champagne. And as in Champagne, we
now know that we have the grapes to do it.” p
“OUR WINES ARE RICH, WITH
BRIGHT RIPE FRUIT. THEY REFLECT
TASMANIA, WHERE THEY’RE
FROM. I BELIEVE THE QUALITY
IS COMPARABLE, BUT THIS IS
DECIDEDLY NOT CHAMPAGNE. IT’S
A DIFFERENT STYLE.”
—ED CARR OF HOUSE OF ARRAS