House of Arras represents the pinnacle of Accolade Wines’ sparkling wine programme, a totally Tasmanian bubbly brand created and nurtured by Aussie sparkling wine maestro, Ed Carr, the group sparkling winemaker for Accolade Wines.
The House of Arras only makes sparkling wines, and only from Tasmanian chardonnay and pinot noir. It grew out of a decision by Carr in 1995 to make a Tasmanian prestige cuvee. Tasmania is cool climate, and has thus rapidly become the place to source fruit of sufficient (erring to minimal) ripeness and fresh natural acidity for traditional method sparklers of high quality.
It is a chardonnay-preference house, apart from the more forward Brut Elite which has more pinot noir for a fleshier wine, and with just six years on tirage, is made for younger drinking. There are not many Champagne houses that give their ‘entry level’ non-vintage bubbly this length of maturation on lees, where the legal minimum requirement is just 15 months.
Brut Elite is the only non-vintage made by Arras. Grand Vintage usually has at least six years on tirage lees, and Late Disgorged, is in the same style as Grand Vintage, with another three years on lees.
The tasting was conducted by assistant winemaker Karl Schultz, who revealed that Ed Carr (among others) had had an eventful flight to the mainland the previous night, the airplane being struck by lightning. “No perceivable damage to the ‘plane”, Carr reported.
Particular house style is generally no oak for the first fermentation (but see tasting notes below for the EJ Carr, Late Disgorged).
But it is the dosage liqueur that’s pretty special. It is aged in oak barrels “for a bit of tannin structure” said Schultz, and includes brandy spirit, aged wine and the dosage sugar. Schultz said “the spirit gives all that aged character in a concentrated package.” And it’s a tiny package at that, the dosage liqueur is maybe 10ml, Schultz added.
After dosage, Arras wines are left on cork for six months before being dressed and shipped.
Tasting notes, in situ at Bay of Fires, February 2012
House of Arras, Brut Elite, Pinot noir, Chardonnay NV AU$55
Pinot noir 58%, chardonnay 42%. 12.5%, 3.06pH, 6.8 g/l TA, 11g/l RS. Malolactic on primary fermentation lees. Six years on tirage. NV, but is 98% the 2004 vintage.
Aromatic lemon citrus nose, pure fruit. Gentle fine mousse on palate attack creating fine texture. Soft, creamy, implosive froth, bright lemon, citrus fruit. All very clean and focused with minimal savoury and toastiness, just a fine brioche. Nice fresh balance.
House of Arras, Grand Vintage, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir 2003, AU$75
Chardonnay 61%, pinot noir 39%; 12.5%, 3.1pH, 7.8 g/l TA, 12.2 g/l RS. Seven years on tirage.
Clear lemon colour, some notable autolysis here – brioche, hint of almond on nose, gentle, then round and generous. Toasted lemon curdy things going on, implosive frothy mousse, creamy, with a nice tingle of freshness amid rich primary fruit core amid attractive, well balanced complexity. Vg
House of Arras, Grand Vintage, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir 2004, AU$75
The current release. Chardonnay 66%, Pinot Noir 34%; 12.5%, 3.18pH, 6.6 g/l TA, 9.3 g/l RS. Six years on tirage. Cooler than average growing season.
Honey citrus nose, quite full body (relatively) here. Fine mousse, all good. Good fruit concentration. Leaner and fresher than 2003, tastes fresher with despite lower acidity numbers, lower dosage may aid the perception. More linearity and precision here (I prefer it over the 2003). Upright, with some tautness and with fine concentration of flavour and long finish. Vg.
House of Arras, Blanc de Blanc 2001.
Released in May 2012. Disgorged November 2011. Nine years on tirage.
Rich, savoury, attack, very fresh, and youthful, lemon, big mouthful. Fine mousse, persistent in mouth. Yet to meld together after disgorgement I suspect. Savoury note could well be barrel-aged liqueur and only two months post disgorgement bottle-age.
House of Arras, EJ Carr, Late Disgorged 2000, AU$190
Chardonnay 58%; pinot noir 42%; 12.5%, 2.95pH, 8.1 g/l TA, 11.3 g/l RS. Ten years on tirage.
Vintage 2000 is the third release of this wine. Full malo. A small proportion of base wine is fermented in new French oak.
Lemon/pale gold colour. Hugely leesy, autolytic character – dry toast, brioche, sweet pastries. Lovely perfumed nose, then juicy lemon citrus fruit on the attack. Full and rich body, with rich fruit core, and those toasty characters that carry through. Huge wine in rich, plush, velvety style with big fruit and big toastiness. Vg.
House of Arras, EJ Carr, Late Disgorged 1999, AU$190
Chardonnay 57%, pinot noir 43%; 12.5%, 3pH, 7.3 g/l TA, 12.3 g/l RS. Ten years on tirage. The second vintage of this wine, and the first shift to fruit from Tasmania’s southern regions. Full malo. A bit of French oak fermentation of base wine.
Clean, fresh citrus nose, restrained honey almond, nougat palate attack. Fine mousse, less plush lines, less ebullient than the 2000, more restrained, upright, steely. Significantly different style more restrained and good for that. Vg.
House of Arras, EJ Carr Late Disgored 1998
Chardonnay 62%, pinot noir 38%; 12.5%, 3.08pH, 7.4 g/l TA, 9 g/l RS. First vintage of this wine, disgorged about a month previously specifically for this tasting. Must make it about 13 years on lees.
Back to rich, fresh brioche, honeyed toastiness, round and fleshy, with good freshness. Simply lovely.
My visit to Australia was sponsored by Wine Australia.