What is Sparkling Red Wine?
Mention Sparkling or Champagne and the image that comes to mind for most people is not pink wine – and hardly ever red. Sparkling Rosé, and to an even greater extent Sparkling red, have always played second fiddle to sparkling white wine’s overwhelming popularity.
The reason? The popularity of Champagne and the desire of other regions to capitalise, copy, honour and in some cases challenge the ’wine of kings and the king of wines.’ But the times are a changing. Some Australian winemakers have caused eyebrows to be raised in international wine markets with Sparkling Shiraz. Following on from this is the growing popularity, as well as increasing consumer curiosity, of other sparkling reds including Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chambourcin.
The craft and dedication of Australian winemakers in making such a success of Sparkling red wines comes at a time when many maligned wine styles are being revived. Owing to a combination of the overenthusiasm of commercial winemakers and the snobbery that was once prevalent among wine lovers, some styles were seen as cheap and tacky. However, hard word and high standards have been clawing back reputations for such wines including sparkling Rosé or Pink Champagne.
Common Sparkling Red Wine style
Sparkling Shiraz is somewhat of an Australian icon. Entry-level examples of this Australian Shiraz style can be sweet but it is with a bit of age, care and restraint the potential of this style of wine can be realised. Australian Sparkling Shiraz has a cult like following in the domestic market. It should not simply be considered a quirky, experimental wine as some wine producers reserve their finest grapes for this uniquely Australian Shiraz style.
Pairing food with Sparkling Red Wine
Sparkling Rosé is an incredibly versatile wine. It’s light, crisp and refreshing, so it’s perfect as an aperitif. Pair it with foods like oysters, char-grilled salmon or a mushroom risotto and the combination reaches new unimagined heights.
Sparkling reds – Australian Sparkling Shiraz in particular – is a much richer proposition and really comes into its own with a classic Christmas feast. Think glazed ham, turkey and rare roast beef. Of course you can serve it all year round, just be careful to match it with food that has the richness and weight to stand up to its power (you can even try dark chocolate or desserts).
Notable Sparkling Red Wine regions
Although sparkling red wine is produced in other parts of the world, notably the Loire Valley in France and Emilia-Romagna in Italy (home of Lambrusco), there is nothing quite like the way in which Australians have interpreted sparkling red wine.
In the final years of the 19th century, enterprising winemakers in the Great Western region of Victoria decided that some of the ripe, rich, full bodied Shiraz – grown in a region already famous for its sparkling wines – should be directed towards méthode champenoise (where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle, producing wonderfully delicate bubbles). Seppelt Great Western was one of the first producers to use its Shiraz grapes and give sparkling red a go, and they’ve been one of the driving forces in its recent revival. Other notable Sparkling Shiraz regions include the Barossa, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and the Hunter.
The popularity of Sparkling Rosé is also on the rise, with those from Champagne in France leading the charge. Typically the wines contain a higher proportion of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with just enough skin contact to impart the delicate blush colour that is the wine’s trademark. All over the world sparkling winemakers seek to emulate the style, and the cool climate regions of Tasmania, the Adelaide Hills, the Limestone Coast and Victoria are all good places to find classic Sparkling Rosé styles.
Future of Sparkling Red Wine
With surging popularity and ever more adventurous winemakers looking to push boundaries, the future of sparkling red and Rosé looks bright. The number of wines to choose from (and the number of varieties being used to make them) are both expanding, giving wine lovers an embarrassment of riches to choose from.
- Pinot Noir