Charles Melton Sparkling Red, Barossa Valley, Australia. No vintage statement, but bottled in 2005. Im a big fan of Charlies wines, his shiraz is some of the best Aussie red Ive ever tasted and despite its absence on the label this wine is 100% shiraz. Taken from some of his best plots, which feature gnarly old vines that are dry-farmed (no irrigation), with an average age over fifty years old. The grapes are picked at optimum ripeness, mostly by hand, before being made into red wine in the normal manner. Once the wine has been made and has spend nearly a year in oak (mostly French, 25% new), before being bottled. It then spends about another year in bottle before having the liqueur d'expidition added. This is a dose of unfermented grape must, often sweetened with sugar and sometimes dosed with yeast to kickstart the secondary fermentation. This is the same method used to produce champagne. The only difference is the geography, and of course the colour.
It is strangely surreal to pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly and pour out a deep red wine, with a fizzy vimto mousse. Thats kind of what it reminds me of, Welchs fizzy grape juice. If youve ever seen the ferment on a vat of red wine, when the yeast is bubbling up over the vat, thats what the mousse is like on this.
On the nose its quite weird too, but good weird, its a bit of a mindf*^k having a deliberately sparkling red. Once you get over the bubbles, you can tell its a Barossa Shiraz. It has the distinctive menthol, black fruit aromas, and there are hints of peppercorns in there too. On the palate it is again a bit surprising. There is a touch of residual sugar there, hardly surprising after all, but again its a challenge getting your head round the idea of a sweetish sparkling red. There is more raspberry on the palate than on the nose, it really reminded me of a "beverage" from my childhood - Cremola Foam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creamola_Foam). Ive been serving this tonight as an accompanyment to a dark chocolate fondant with sauce suzette and sorbet. I think it went rather well, even if the dessert had all sorts of random flavours there.
Charlies wines dont come cheap, they are labours of love, hand crafted from old vines, and so I wouldnt consider this an everyday kind of purchase. Apparently the Aussies glug this stuff down as an aperitif, but to my palate it is a bit too sweet for that. I think this works really well paired with dark chocolate, served with a bit of a chill on it. Charlie recommends cellaring it for about 10 years or more. I might stash a bottle or two and give it a shot, but Im not too sure that I will still be here to give them a bash. Who knows what the future holds eh? Anyway, forget the crappy red sparklers that you get down in Tesco's, this is the real deal, as I said it aint cheap, but its worth it.
Thanks to Culinary Fool for hosting this edition and I cant wait for the New Year to see whats in store.