Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Sparkling Shiraz
Question of the Day on my Wine Lovers Calendar is When was the first sparkling shiraz made in Australia? Answer. 1890! Wonder what it was, and if there is any left?

Additional information provided is that it is an Australian specialty, some 70 wineries make a sparkler and that Peter Rumball winery makes only Sparkling Shiraz.

All interesting stuff. BUT if you go to Peter Rumball's web site he has some history of sparkling shiraz. A rose style was made in 1881 called Sparkling Burgundy by the Victorian Champage Company. But Rumball's site directs you to The Wilson Vineyard at Polish Hill and this Classic Clipping where you can find. There can be little doubt that Edmond Mazure deserves the honour of being the creator of the Australian sparkling burgundy style. One other acknowledgment is due, and that is to Ernest Whittington of the Adelaide Observer.

From Whittingtons 1898 report: This year he (Mazure) intends making about 50,000 gallons of principally the celebrated St. Henri claret. He is also hopeful of turning out about 2,000 dozen of his famous sparkling Burgundy. Last year Auldana produced 1,500 dozen of this brand... .. A feature of the new cellars connected with the vineyard is a tunnel which is driven under the Magill Hill to a distance of 50 feet and in which the temperature has never been known to exceed 600. This cool retreat is utilized for storing "Sparkling Burgundy" and other wines in course of maturing.

Most references to Auldana quote 1895 as the year that sparkling wine production commenced at Auldana, although that date more correctly would apply to the extension works of the cellars. But clearly, Mazure was making sparkling wine before 1895. To have the Sparkling Cup available in mid 1894, would suggest that the wine was put down in 1893. Given that the facilities for sparkling wine production were in place then, and the above hint that Sparkling Burgundy needed some maturation, we can reasonably assume that the wine that Whittington tasted in 1895, was put down in '93.

The critical question arises as to whether Mazure's early wines more closely approximated the lighter bodied French wines, or whether the now-familiar "Keatsian" shiraz-based style was produced right from the onset.

On the evidence available it would appear that the wines were big from the start. At Auldana, Mazure worked with a young Hurtle Walker. Hurtle's son Norm later joined his father making sparkling wines at the Romalo Cellars. Norm Walket is still involved in the wine industry, and is in no doubt that the style of sparkling burgundy produced at Romalo was always "big and gutsy". "Most of the base wine for those sparkling burgundies was shiraz that came from A. P. Birks in Clare, and their wines were always big, so big that sometimes they had to be broken down first."

Fascinating stuff! Sparkling Burgundy is one thing, but 1898 Auldana Cellars St Henri Claret. Now that's a wine I'd like to try!

1 comment:

jens at cincinnati wine said...

Great stuff that Sparkling Shiraz! The Fox Creek Vixen is a show stopper around here!

jens at cincinnati wine garage