Ask Doctor Drinks: Essential Bubbles

Published on 3 December 2021

Photo: Matching your celebration with the perfect bottle of bubbles (illustration: Ben Checkley).

Doctor Drinks, the agony aunt of the beverage world, is here to answer your refreshment questions.

“Dear Doctor Drinks:

It isn’t the holidays at our place without corks popping. What are your best picks for bubbles right now?”

-- Dom, East Melbourne

I’m so glad we’re getting this column started with a bang – or at least a very loud pop. Bubbles very definitely signal a party atmosphere, so I guess the next question has to be, what kind of bubbles do you feel like? Are you looking for something rich and complex, crunchy and bright or light and fun?

Broadly speaking, fizz can be broken down into three categories: wines made with the classic or traditional method (which is how Champagne is made) wines made with the tank method (common to lambrusco and prosecco), and pét-nats (the lo-fi, lightly sparkling “pétillant naturel” bottlings popular with the natural wine crowd). 

But at this time of the year it might be even more useful to think of matching styles of sparkling wines – the way they taste and feel in your mouth – to occasions. Let’s get into it.

Rich and creamy fizz
These wines are rich and full, and when you see them described you’ll often find lots of bakery and dessert words in the mix – toasted almonds, brioche, crème brûlée, that sort of thing. They also go really well with a dozen oysters. Check out Chandon, Stewart & Prentice, the Nadeson Collis Coda brut nature, or, if you’re after a rosé (and who isn’t?) the pink wines from Deeds Not Words and Dominique Portet.

Fun and no-frills fizz 
You’re after a bottle that’s good to pop at an orphans’ Christmas or camping or at the beach? Something unfussy but still flavoursome? Something that tastes like candied watermelon, fresh herbs, lemon peel and happiness? Hit a pét-nat. Everything Jamsheed does in the sparkling department is going to make you happy here (Kitty Flip, Candy Flip, Moscato Giallo, Lemon Haze), as will the pét-nats from Combes, Terrason and Between Five Bells, not to mention Fin Wines’ Fizzy Boi pét-nat in a can

Zippy and crisp fizz
And then there’s those occasions where you’re looking for pure refreshment – the mercury is rising, the sun is blasting and you want a sparkling wine that’s straight-up freshness to quench that thirst. Prosecco is your friend here, whether it’s the big guns like Dal Zotto and Pizzini, or lesser-known lights such as Vino Aperto, Billy Button or the col fondo from The Story. You want chilled, lemon-lime-and-bitters, green-apple-and-baking-spice goodness, and these guys have got your back.

Red fizz
Not all sparkling wines are white of course, and Australia’s tradition of sparkling reds is proud. Best’s Great Western Sparkling Shiraz is one of the all-time greats, and Craiglee is definitely worth your time if you want a walk on the blackcurrant/Fruit Tingles side of life.

Sweet fizz
Panettone and light, sweeter styles like moscato are a no-brainer, but when these wines bring flavours of strawberries and cream, ripe peaches and orange blossom, they’re also great with savoury things at the table that lean towards the rich, the fatty or the spicy. The moscato made by Zonzo and Santé Wines’ Santa & D’Sas are perfect places to start.

Alternative fizz
Fun fact: fizzy drinks made from grapes aren’t the only way to announce the good times. Ciders do double-duty as stand-up drinks and as refreshing accompaniments to lunch and dinner. Three of my favourites happen to be made by winemakers: Adams Evening, made by the Bobar team in the Yarra Valley; the cider made by Heathcote’s Momento Mori with apples from the Hazeldean orchard in Gippsland; and anything from Dixons Creek “fermentation collective” Fin.

By Claire Adey

Got a question for Doctor Drinks? Hit her up at claire@foodanddrinkvic.com.au

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