Cold-weather sparkling – is it ever too chilly for bubbly?

In our interview with Ed Carr – head winemaker of renown House of Arras from Tasmania, we look at weather-appropriate bubbles and what a to eat with a fine glass of sparkling.

House of Arras - sparkling wine in winter

As Australia and the southern hemisphere shifts into winter mode, temptation is to fall back on things like rich reds and warming whiskies.

However, there are other drinks that lend themselves perfectly to cooler days and chilly evenings that you might not have thought of.

We speak to House of Arras’ Ed Carr – Australia’s most awarded sparkling wine-maker, to find out whether sparkling wine works whilst festooned in blankets and snuggling down for the winter.

Chilled sparkling for chilly weather

Ed Carr House of Arras

1. Is it ok to drink sparkling wine in winter?

Sparkling wine is a refreshing style and hence I think suited to all seasons. Although the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and sunshine is much less of a possibility, there are still many reasons to celebrate or simply enjoy the wines themselves, or by pairing them with a broad spectrum of foods throughout all seasons!

2. What’s the best style of sparkling to drink as the weather cools down – and what food would you pair with it?

Sparkling wines are often separated into two broad styles being:

Aperitif – generally lighter and fresher. For Arras, the multi-vintage Brut Elite is a perfect fit for this category.

House of Arras - Blanc de Blanc

Mature and complex – aged styles with considerably more richness and depth. The Arras vintage wines ( Blanc de blancs, Grand Vintage, Late Disgorged Vintage and Rosé) are exemplary examples of this wine style.

Aperitif styles will always remain a great way to commence an event where their lively character is a great introduction to other wine styles and they complement lighter food types such as oysters and fresh, light seafood.

The richer vintage wines (Arras Blanc de blancs and Grand Vintage and Late Disgorged Vintage) are very suited to many foods of greater intensity and may be paired well with poultry, game and lighter meat dishes such as pork, lamb or venison.

The Rosé, with the extra mouthfeel and tannin of the red grape component, is very adaptable from moderate savoury dishes through to desserts. I’d personally recommend the latter where there can be an exquisite match to fresh fruit influences.

As a sparkling winemaker, you are crafting a base wine that will change significantly over its maturation time before release.

In summary the natural acidity of sparkling wine, combined with the richness or the more mature wines has a great ‘cut through’ effect and they may be successfully paired with many richer foods than is generally considered.

House of Arras - sparkling wine in winter

3. Tasmania is not only one of the Australia’s most beautiful states but also the coldest.

What difference does this make to your wine?

To produce House of Arras’ world quality sparkling wines, the first critical stage is to grow the grapes in a cold climate where ripening proceeds at a moderate rate, enabling the fruit to retain a high natural acidity and restrained characters.

Tasmania is further south of the Australian land masses and its cold maritime climate and ancient soils have proven the prefect environment for sparkling wine viticulture.

The House of Arras wines have shown remarkable ageing potential, evolving into beautifully complex and elegant wines that retain a fantastic vibrancy.

Ed Carr - head winemaker at House of Arras

4. Is making sparkling wine harder than making non-sparkling wine?

Unlike still wines, there are three distinct stages for premium sparkling wine making:

1. Making of the base wine; that is harvesting and pressing the grapes and taking the juice through fermentation to wine – this is call the primary fermentation.

2. Making a sparkling wine; this the fermentation of the base wine – called secondary fermentation. For premium sparkling wine styles, this is done in a sealed bottle where the carbon dioxide produced by the fermentation cannot escape and it dissolves into the wine, turning it into sparkling.

This is the stage where premium sparkling wines are matured, often for many years, to develop complexity of aroma and flavour.

3. Finishing the final wine; the yeast from the second fermentation is removed, resulting in a clear wine. But this wine is very dry, so a special liqueur is used to adjust the wine to the perfect balance for enjoyment.

Still wines are completed at stage one above whereas a sparkling wine will need to be nurtured through the second and third steps to be ready for market.

As a sparkling winemaker, you are crafting a base wine that will change significantly over its maturation time before release. Hence, it is critical to understand the maturation process to ensure you achieve the desired style of finished wine.

5. What’s your favourite from the Arras range?

The Grand Vintage has to be favourite of the House of Arras wines for me. It was the initial wine of the range and lead the evolution from a single wine to a world-recognised brand since its inception in 1995.

House of Arras - Grand Vintage sparkling wine

Thank you Ed Carr for such fascinating insight into the world of sparkling wine and the reassurance that bubbly in winter is entirely justified.

You can buy House of Arras sparkling wine from any good bottleshop around the country at a range of prices.

Speaking of which, the Arras Brut Elite is probably the best value high-quality bottle of bubbly you’ll find. We’ve also been lucky enough to taste the flagship Arras Grand Vintage with Ed and I tell you what, it’s a drink to remember.

Check out some of our other wine stories here:

Sparkling wine from around the world
10 secrets to matching wine with food
Our wine and winery review library

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