We’re in the thick of a champagne shortage and while there’s a lot of discussion around why this is the case, industry experts say there are several factors at play.
Kyla Kirkpatrick, CEO of Emperor Champagne, says mass domestic consumption and supply issues have created the perfect storm.
“You’ve got slow production from two years of Covid-19 affecting the workforce in France, and that has impacted everything from printing labels to producing corks,” Kirkpatrick says. “And people haven’t been travelling or going to restaurants. They’ve been purchasing consumer goods rather than having experiences.”
Shipping costs have also skyrocketed as desperate companies pay premium rates to transport their goods. “And even if you do manage to get a shipping container, which has gone from an average of of $4,000 for a 20ft container to $11,000 in a 12-month period, you can’t get it in off the water,” Kirkpatrick says.
“There are so many boats sitting off the coast of Sydney and Queensland and they just can’t dock.”
It’s also been a difficult year for growers. Boutique champagne importer Ryan Larkin, of Larkin Imports, says volatile weather patterns have affected producers, with 2021 especially problematic for champagne.
“This will most certainly create a shortage in years to come, and we will most definitely see a price increase as smaller-scale growers struggle to make ends meet,” Larkin said.
So, while our love affair with champagne will remain, there has never been a better time to pop a bottle of Australian sparkling. From prosecco to pet nat and traditional-method sparkling, here are my top picks for the festive season.
Ninth Island, Sparkling Rosé NV, Tamar Valley, Tasmania (RRP: $25)
Bang for your buck. Strawberries smothered in cream, like what your nan used to serve up to you as a kid, backed by layers of zippy acidity, zest and a rounded finish thanks to ageing on lees (basically a technique that adds texture, body and a lovely creaminess to the wine). Tasmania is synonymous with sparkling in Australia, and this little number offers up everything you need for a good time.
Elan Vineyard, Blanc De Blancs, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria (RRP: $40)
Dry, crisp and consistent. Made using chardonnay grapes, this traditional-method sparkling carries all the hallmarks of an easy drinking champagne. I’ve been knocking this wine back, vintage after vintage, for years and it’s an absolute cracker for its price point. Elan is a small, low-yield, family-run affair and winemaker Selma Lowther is around most weekends, so you’ll get all the info you need straight from the horse’s mouth.
Vasse Felix, Idée Fixe Premier Brut, Margaret River, Western Australia (RRP: $48)
I tend to gravitate towards blanc de blancs (a fancy way of describing a wine made exclusively from white grapes, in this case chardonnay). For me, they’re everything you want in a bubbles. Elegant and expressive, Vasse offer up the goods with this refined drop that greets you with a luscious, toasty, biscuity-ness on the nose, and layers of citrus and creamy texture on the palate. I know that sounds a little wanky, but you catch my drift.
Andrew Buller Wines, Cannobie Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay NV, Rutherglen, Victoria (RRP: $29)
Served aboard the jet that brought Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Australia a few years back, this sparkling punches well above its weight. Stone fruit, citrus and a whiff of yeast dominate the nose, with vibrant acidity following through on the palate. Made with traditional method, it is a bright, fresh bubbles at a ridiculous price point. It’s an absolute steal.
Dal Zotto, Col Fondo Prosecco, King Valley, Victoria (RRP: $30)
Don’t be turned off by the sediment dancing about the punt, this wine has undergone a secondary fermentation in bottle rather than being mass produced in stainless steel tank. This offers complexity, with flavours of lemon sorbet, green fruits and blossom, and ultimately a wine that’s far too easy to drink … particularly on a Friday. If you’re going to drink a prosecco, get a decent one. And for 30 bucks, I reckon this one nails the brief.
Peregrine Ridge, NV Sparkling Shiraz, Heathcote, Victoria (RRP: $42)
Plums, cherries and spice – if you’re looking for a sparkling red, give this baby a shot. Matured in oak, before being fermented in bottle, this medium-weighted wine is best served straight from the fridge. I guess you could cellar it; I never do. My mate is a Heathcote shiraz fiend, and got me on to this wine a number of years back. I find we mostly drink it around Christmas, as it pairs well with plum pudding and cheese, however it would stand up to your savoury mains with ease.
Brash Higgins, ‘Crystal’ Sparkling White, McLaren Vale, South Australia (RRP: $37)
Pet nat lovers, let’s chat. This wine is wild and unfiltered. A blend of chenin blanc and organic crystal grapes (google the story behind the latter, it’s an interesting one) this wine has a beer-esque vibe going on, with plenty of fruit, apples and pears predominately. But it really must be served cold. I love the way Brad and Nicole, the duo behind Brash, experiment with obscure varietals and playful techniques. So if you’re feeling brave this festive season, give their wine a burl.
Parkside Estate, 2015 Chardonnay Pinot Noir, Macedon Ranges, Victoria (RRP: $65)
Buy a dozen oysters and kickstart your evening with this vibrant, easy-drinking bottle of fizz. Citrus notes dominate the palate, with a well-rounded creamy brioche texture that’ll have you coming back for more. This is one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” type scenarios. It’ll evaporate before your eyes.
Deviation Road, Beltana Blanc De Blancs, Adelaide Hills, South Australia (RRP: $105)
Winemaker Kate Laurie has just dropped her 2015 vintage after a killer year with her 14. This woman can do no wrong, her sparkling wines are sensational. I had the privilege of interviewing Kate for the Halliday podcast and she is a wealth of knowledge. With creamy, luscious, roasted almond, preserved lemon and green fruit, her Beltanas have this minerality I adore. A lot of work goes into these wines, so don’t be put off by the price point.
House of Arras, 2006 EJ Carr Late Disgorged, Tamar Valley, Tasmania (RRP: $200)
OK, this wine is not cheap. And no, I don’t drink wine of this calibre often. But when I do, I’m blown away by what some Australian producers are doing. As good as any quality champagne, there’s texture, complexity, layers of biscuit, honey, curd, dried and fresh fruit and acidity. And my gosh, does it have length (a wanky term to describe how long the flavours linger in your mouth). What a wine.