In peak fizzicle form

, from Issue #106. November 17, 2022
Hand pouring glass of sparkling wine

With its long days and sunny evenings, summer is made for sparkling sips. Our judges round up the best of New Zealand and Australian fizz.

As far as being able to produce beautiful bubbles, we clearly punch above our weight. And let’s get one thing straight out the gate, New Zealand, we are absolutely swimming in a sea of the most superb sparkling wines right now. Speaking of seas, we recently sent an invitation across the Tasman to see how our cobbers in the lucky country stacked up in the fizz stakes. Now we're chuffed to reveal the results of our first-ever dish trans-Tasman sparkling wine challenge!

New Zealanders are huge fans of fizz and we’re one of the highest per capita sparkling wine-consuming nations in the world. We love the stuff. No matter where it’s from, if it’s tasty, Kiwis are sipping it. Happily we’re able to access a huge selection of sparkling from around the globe right here in Godzone and extra happily, the rest of the world loves what we make here too. According to the latest report from NZ Winegrowers, New Zealand exported just over 2.2 million litres of the stuff as at June 2022 – double what we were exporting prior to the pandemic.

We’ve definitely needed a pick-me-up since then, and sparkling wine is a guaranteed mood-booster. “I’d drink it all day if I could,” laughs judge Simon Fell, Operations Winemaker at Trinity Hill. “For me sparkling wine always equals a good time!” adds fellow judge Sara Macdonald, sparkling specialist and Winemaker at Monowai Estate. “Once that cork pops, you know something special is happening."

So what were our judges looking for in fine sparkling wine? “No matter what the style, it should have a persistence of bubbles,” says Simon. “They contribute to aromas and flavour, and yeast autolysis can also be beneficial by adding complexity and creaminess to the mouthfeel.”

For Sara, lemon meringue pie is her favourite thing to find in sparkling wine. “It’s the style I like the most. Cleansing lemony acidity, biscuity and buttery yeast autolysis notes, and something simply delicious that makes you want to go back for more. That’s the complete package for me.”

In addition to some extremely classy traditional sparklings, the Australian entries showed some delicious sparkling shiraz styles and some very promising proseccos.

“The prosecco class was exciting, with super-fresh examples grown from great-quality glera grapes,” notes Simon. And proseccos resonate with Kiwi consumers, who love their fresh aromatic styles, like sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot gris.

It was also easy for our judges to state their favourite fizz and food preferences.

“On Christmas Day, it’s a family tradition to have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with lashings of butter on toast for breakfast, along with a lovely bottle of bubbles, so I’ll always go with that or any sort of smoked salmon canapé,” offers Sara. And for Simon? “Oysters. Always oysters,” he grins.

One thing’s for sure, tastings like this reinforce how spoiled for choice we are for great sparkling wine here in New Zealand, with styles aplenty and loads available at eye-poppingly excellent prices.

“I loved the huge range of styles entered, and there were lots I would have loved to spend a bit more time on and have more glasses of,” adds Sara. Her highlights were our winners, and she was pleasantly surprised to find out they included the likes of Lindauer. “It’s very easy to instantly gravitate to the more expensive brands and there’s definitely plenty of snobbery around sparkling wines, but I’ll definitely be buying more Special Reserve Lindauer from now on… they were both delicious and friendly on the wallet!”

And with that – welcome to our winners!

Top of the Tasting

1. First Equal Lindauer Special Reserve Rosé ($18.99) Gold Medal

 Lindauer Special Reserve Rosé

With its ultra-pretty, pale coral colour and generous mouthfeel, this rosé crafted from pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinotage wowed our judges from the first sip. “Supremely elegant and showing charming red fruits and delicate, Shrewsbury biscuit characters,” noted Yvonne, while Sara and Simon admired its vibrant acidity, creamy complexity and beautiful balance.

First Equal Lindauer Special Reserve Brut Cuvée ($18.99) Gold Medal

Lindauer Special Reserve Brut Cuvée

All of our judges experienced an 'aaaah' moment with this delicious wine. “Rich and creamy, it’s a full, lush style,” said Sara, adding that she felt it would also be perfect with food. Simon loved its tension and tautness in the mouth. Notes of soft apple, lemon, rising dough and almonds got Yvonne’s vote. It’s stunning value for money.

2. Verde Brut NV ($19.99) Gold Medal

Verde Brut NV

A classically structured, lemon-gold sparkler with super-fresh citrus, beautiful biscuity layers and personality for days, this wine was an instant hit. “Apple and custard tart aromas lead to classic, creamy textures on the palate supported by lovely bright acidity,” commented Simon, while Sara enjoyed its toasted brioche and nutty, mealy mouthfeel. Blended from Gisborne-grown chardonnay and pinot noir, it’s impressive value.

3. Jansz Tasmania Premium Cuvée NV ($29.95) Gold Medal

Jansz Tasmania Premium Cuvée NV

With its complex array of citrus, apple-laced, slightly smoky, biscuity characters, this wine made a huge impression. The mid-palate has bright, zesty acidity, a persistent mousse and excellent length of flavour. Classic and classy, this blend of chardonnay and pinot noir is chock full of character and a lovely thing indeed.

4. Mumm Marlborough Brut Prestige NV ($37.99)Gold Medal

Mumm Marlborough Brut Prestige NV

46% pinot noir, 45% chardonnay and 9% pinot meunier made up the base wine blend of this collaboration between the famous French champagne house and local Jamie Marfell, and he has, excuse the pun, crushed it. “Youthful", "generous", "balanced" and "bold" were just some of our judges’ comments. Soothing citrus aromas merge with toasty, biscuity notes, pinprick beading, vibrant acidity and a long, creamy, cloud-like finish.

5. Tohu Rewa Méthode Traditionnelle Blanc de Blancs 2016 ($40) Gold Medal

Tohu Rewa Méthode Traditionnelle Blanc de Blancs 2016

Made exclusively from chardonnay grown in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley, this fizz offers complex toasted brioche characters on the nose and absolutely wowed Sara. “It makes me salivate with its delicate, chalky, citrus-laced style,” she said. Yvonne loved its marshmallow and peachy layers and textural length of flavour. Delicious.

6. Allan Scott Cecilia Marlborough Brut NV ($24) Gold Medal

Allan Scott Cecilia Marlborough Brut NV

“Brioche and baking spices complemented by a creamy, lemony brulée palate,” noted Simon, while Sara enjoyed the gentle balance of this classic blend of chardonnay and pinot noir and Yvonne loved its citrus pith and seamless mouthfeel. The team at Allan Scott are clearly at the top of the tree for sparkling wine skills.

7. Tiki Hariata Marlborough Méthode Traditionnelle NV ($45) Gold Medal

Tiki Hariata Marlborough Méthode Traditionnelle NV

Dedicated to Hariata McKean, the much-loved matriarch of the Tiki family, this wine wowed our judges with its perfect little necklaces of bubbles, pillowy foam, lemony litheness, soft biscuity layers and crisp-yet-creamy finish. Crafted from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, it’s pretty and intriguing, with a vibrant mouthfeel and delicious length of flavour.

8. Trentham Estate The Family Murray Darling Prosecco NV ($22.50) Silver Medal

Trentham Estate The Family Murray Darling Prosecco NV

Crafted from traditional glera grapes, it’s easy to see why prosecco is one of the fastest growing wine categories in the country. “Clean, bright fruit, lovely intensity and magical mouthfeel,” commented Simon, while Sara announced, “It’s pretty and delicate and dances on the tongue.” With musky florals and a crisp, zesty finish, it’s a superstar.

9. De Bortoli King Valley Prosecco NV ($18.99) Silver Medal

De Bortoli King Valley Prosecco NV

Boasting classic pear drop characters, this prosecco was an instant hit. “Citrus blossom, fresh acidity, lingering length,” noted Sarah, while Yvonne was wowed by its zesty, dry textures and lifted apple and peach complexity. “Love it!” she said. Refined and sublime, it’s got sunny day sipping written all over it.

10. Oak Estate Hawke’s Bay Méthode Traditionelle NV ($45) Silver Medal

Oak Estate Hawke’s Bay Méthode Traditionelle NV

With its soft, creamy aromatics and green apple and lemon layers, this ultra-fresh fizz has delicious tension and tautness, according to Yvonne. Sara salivated over its classic brioche and biscuity notes, while Simon saw a lick of lemon meringue pie on the finish of this lovely example.

11. Peregrine Central Otago Méthode Traditionelle NV ($50) Silver Medal

Peregrine Central Otago Méthode Traditionelle NV

Aromas of freshly-baled hay combine with delicacy, subtlety and soft, lemony layers on the nose – yet it’s a different story once you sip. Juicy citrus and nutty textures, a creamy, pillowy finish and deliciously biscuity length of flavour make this a stunning example with personality plus!