Champagne and sparkling wines are synonymous with Christmas and New Year festivities, and Australia is no shrinking violet when it comes to enjoying first-class fizz.
Over 307 million bottles of Champagne were sold globally in the 2017 calendar year, with Australia the world's seventh-largest market – and the fifth if calculated per capita.
That's remarkable given the strength of the domestic sparkling wine market. Tasmania and Victoria, in particular, are making world-class sparkling wines from labels including Domaine Chandon, Jansz, House of Arras, Kreglinger and Clover Hill. Small producers including Stefano Lubiana, Radenti and Mitchell Harris Sabre also shine.
(In Tasmania alone, vineyard area has grown by more than 400 hectares over the past five years, representing more than 25% growth.)
Meanwhile, French Champagne is still highly competitive: all the leading Champagne Houses produce reliably good non-vintage wines (blends of fruit from different years), which can be found for between $50-$120 a bottle depending on where you shop and how many bottles you're buying.
Here are half-a-dozen high-quality Champagnes and Australian sparkling wines to ensure your end of year celebrations go off with a pop.
Lanson Black Label Brut NV Champagne
Founded in 1760, the Lanson house-style blends pinot noir and chardonnay grapes with a small percentage of pinot Meunier. This house is known for its fresh and lively style, and at around $60 it's reliably good value.
Bellebonne 2016 Sparkling Rosé
Bellbonne is a new Tasmanian sparkling range from former Jansz sparkling winemaker Nat Fryar. Made from 100% Tasmanian pinot noir, this underlines why she is called the “Queen of Bubbles”. Think strawberry and cream aromas, salmon blush colour and a balance of sweet fruit and complex textures ($65).
Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Reserve
Billecart-Salmon is a medium-sized Champagne house founded in 1818 with the marriage of Nicolas François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon, it is one of the few to remain family owned and is known for the vibrancy and purity of fruit in its NV blends. Also produces a stunning rosé ($75).
Louis Pommery NV England Traditional Method
Vranken-Pommery has become the first of the big Champagne houses to release an English sparkling wine, having launched its debut release from the south coast under its new Louis Pommery label. Made from fruit grown in Hampshire, this is very fresh and lively. It is imported into Australia and is available through Qantas Wines ($99).
Egly Ouriet NV Grand Cru Brut Tradition
Fourth-generation vigneron Francis Egly makes Champagnes that are revered through the global wine industry. This is a blend of 70% pinot, 30% chardonnay from three different vintages, released after 51 months on lees to add character and complexity. One of the great “grower” producers, along with along with Selosse and Larmandier-Bernier ($170).
Taittinger 2007 Comtes de Champagne Blancs de Blanc
A great wine from a terrific Champagne vintage, and favourite with Australian winemakers, too. Made from 100% chardonnay grapes, this aged prestige cuvee boasts fine, delicate bubbles, sweet and sour notes on the palate, along with buttery hints and tremendous length ($300).
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