After all that 2020 has brought us, this year's New Year's Eve toast deserves to be a special one. Few of us will pop the cork on a $265 House of Arras E.J. Carr Late Disgorged 2004, recently named the world's top sparkling by Decanter magazine in the UK, but the win shows how Australian sparkling wines are challenging France's finest – and, increasingly, have price tags to match.
Wine writer and publisher Tyson Stelzer is the author of a series of internationally acclaimed champagne and sparkling guides. For his Australian Sparkling Report 2020 he reviewed more than 240 wines, finding, as in previous editions, that Tasmania rules the roost when it comes to Champagne-style sparklings.
That said, Australian winemakers across the country are skilled in other bubbly styles, from party-starting prosecco to classically Australian sparkling shiraz. Whether you plan to welcome the new year quietly or with friends, here are 10 recommendations from wine professionals for Australian fizz of all shades to ring in 2021.
1. Best bang for buck on a budget
Ninth Island Sparkling Rosé NV, $25
"Hands-down the best bargain fizz on the shelves this year," says Stelzer. "This is a delightfully refined expression of Tasmanian pinot noir, with all the bells and whistles of the full traditional method of bottle fermentation."
2. Best bang for buck at $30 or more
Kreglinger Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2016, $75
Most classic champagnes, including white versions, contain some pinot noir juice. Blanc de blancs sparklings are made entirely from white grapes. This Tasmanian example may not come cheap but it's the most affordable inclusion in Stelzer's top 10 Australian sparklings of the year; he says it's "breathtakingly elegant and refined".
3. Best for rusted-on Champagne purists
Bellebonne Vintage Rosé 2017, $75
For Champagne-region diehards who "only drink French", Stelzer suggests pouring the latest release from "Australia's queen of rosé", Natalie Fryar. "Encapsulates the fragrant personality of pinot noir from Piper's River, Tasmania's finest sparkling district."
4. Best for a prosecco princess
Dal Zotto L'Immigrante Prosecco 2018, $37
Melissa Brauer runs the Prosecco Queen prosecco education and events company. For those who usually drink top-of-the-range Italian prosecco but want to buy Australian this year, she suggests King Valley winery Dal Zotto.
"L'Immigrante is their premium offering, made in a Champagne style, so it's full of yeasty, toasty notes, with pear, almond and a beautiful minerality on the palate that makes it your special-occasion popper when the clock strikes 12."
5. Best for a prosecco pauper
DeBortoli Cartolina King Valley Prosecco, $14
For a prosecco party on a tighter budget, Brauer says DeBortoli's latest King Valley prosecco sports "the most irresistible label featuring the Grand Canal in Venice".
"Within this price range you're looking at a simple, fresh style, with lots of citrus on the nose and palate, making it the perfect prosecco for an Aperol spritz or two.
6. Best for naturalistas
I'll Fly Away Lambruso Rosé 2020, $25
Pet nat – short for petillant naturel – is the natural wine movement's sparkling of choice. Mike Bennie, wine writer and co-owner at Sydney liquor store P&V, says this style is a rising star for its kaleidoscopic nature – it can be yellow, orange, light pink, dark red and anything in between.
"Tim Ward, the winemaker behind I'll Fly Away's range of pet nats, is one of Australia's keenest talents on the tricky-to-make (well) wine style," says Bennie. "This wine celebrates the often-maligned lambrusco wines, usually seen as sweet, foamy muck best left in the 1970s. Tim's Lambrusco is like biting into a fresh cherry, and scintillating in its tight, fresh bubbles."
7. Best for sparkling rosé fans
Stefano Lubiana Brut Rosé 2015, $55
"Stefano Lubiana has been making wines that treat the environment with respect almost longer than anyone else in Australia," says Anthony D'Anna, chief executive at Melbourne's Boccaccio Group. "This wine is pure and fragrant and shows the skilled hands of Stefano and a pristine vineyard site."
8. Best for the sparkling shiraz squad
Majella Sparkling Shiraz 2019, $37
Sparkling shiraz might not be everyone's glass of fizz but it's a signature Australian style with a substantial cult following. "Brian Lynne, winemaker and owner at Majella in the heart of Coonawarra, makes one of Australia's greatest," says D'Anna. "Buy a couple of extra bottles to stash away and drink with a decade of age on it."
9. Best to drink throughout a summer meal
Ghost Rock 'Zoe' 2016, $38
Kyla Kirkpatrick, presenter at The Champagne Dame and founder of online retailer Fizztopia, believes sparkling rosé is the most versatile food wine of all: "not just the most versatile sparkling – but of all wines"."
"You have acidity which cleanses the palate whilst you eat but the addition of some red fruit, often in the way of a still red wine, adds character and oomph that will stand up to a multitude of dishes," she says.
"This cuvee is edgy and has the cool factor that some more traditional winemakers don't have. Every glass will leave you wanting one more, all the way through to the wee hours of January 1."
10. Best for a sweet finale
Angas Moscato NV, $12
Moscato is often lower in alcohol than some other sparklings, which is no bad thing at midnight. Ben Richards, store manager at Melbourne's McCoppins Hawthorn East, recommends this fragrant and affordable Australian-made moscato – its residual sugar is balanced by lovely acid and it's a winner with desserts.
Tyson Stelzer's Australian Sparkling Report 2020 is available as an ebook at tysonstelzer.com