How to Buy Australian Wine: Guide to Australian Sparkling Wines

by admin on August 10, 2011

Celebrations come alive with the fun and fizz of sparkling wines. These types come from the same grape varieties used in making Australian wine but possess distinctive bubbles that table wines don’t have. Winemaking regions in Australia offer various styles to choose from when you buy Australian sparkling wine.

Fruit variety, climate and winemaking process affect the colour, taste sensations, bubbles and texture of sparkling wines. Differences in these factors serve as guides for anyone who plans to buy Australian sparkling wine.

Grape variety

Sparkling reds are made primarily from Shiraz grape and are characterized by their sweet, fruit flavour and slight tannin content. Sparkling whites generally come from Chardonnay grapes and in various styles. Sparkling whites are produced in cooler regions of Australia such as Tasmania and Yarra Valley.

Process

The winemaking process starts with harvesting and pressing the grapes to extract the juice. Yeast is added to the juice which undergoes alcoholic fermentation to create the base wine which does not have bubbles. Initial fermentation typically takes place in a stainless steel container where it is later clarified and blended with other base wines or reserve wines. Reserve wines refer to base wines that have been stored for years. Bubbles are then added after the first fermentation through traditional, transfer or Charmat methods.

Traditional method: Also known as “Methode Champenoise”, the traditional method is the most time-consuming and expensive because it involves adding a sugar and yeast mixture into the blended base wine. The combination is then divided among individual bottles, sealed with an interim (temporary) crown seal and left to ferment a second time. Fermentation produces carbon dioxide which dissolves into the wine, resulting in bubbles. After the secondary fermentation, the wine is allowed to mature inside the bottle with the yeast lees. The yeast lees are later removed through “riddling” and some adjustments to sweetness is added before the fermented wine is corked, caged and foiled.

Transfer method: The base wine undergoes the same process but after secondary fermentation, the contents of the bottle are emptied into a tank where the wine is fined and filtered en masse before it is rebottled for shipping. This method is less expensive and time-consuming than the traditional method but the resulting wine does not possess additional characters that can come from the yeast lees of traditional sparkling wines.

Charmat: This is the least expensive and fastest production method for creating sparkling wine. After creating the base wine, the liquid is transferred into a specially designed pressure tank where it is fermented a second time, and then fined and filtered. This process can produce sparkling wines in only 3 months from the fruit harvest and ready to buy Australian sparkling wine for fun-filled celebrations.

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