If you had said 20 years ago that a bottle of sparkling wine from Tasmania would sell for $350 a bottle and be snapped up by aficionados, you would have been regarded as completely bonkers.
Such great strides has the Tasmanian sparkling wine industry made, however, that the new-release Arras 20th Anniversary 1998 EJ Carr Late Disgorged will sellout within weeks.
I caught up with chief winemaker Ed Carr while he was en route to the weekend's Effervescence celebrations in Launceston and he told me was delighted by the quality of the wine, which has spent 16 years on lees and is marvellously honeyed and toasty without having lost its fruit elements.
The new release is a fresh disgorgement of the first wine produced by Australia’s most awarded sparkling winemaker 17 years ago. Only 300 bottles have been produced, making the 1998 release the most exclusive (and expensive) sparkling wine in Australia.
The wine is made of 62% chardonnay and 38% pinot noir from the Tamar Valley, Lower Derwent and Coal River valleys. It comes in a special wooden presentation box.
The Effervescence festival, and wines of this quality, serve to underline the huge strides made by sparkling winemakers in Tasmania, including Josef Chromy, Clover Hill, Jansz, Arras, Stefano Lubiana, Freycinet, Pirie Tasmania, Delamere, Moorilla, Ghost Rock. Pipers Brook, Frogmore Creek, Barringwood, Spring Vale and Apogee.
Tasmania is now known as "little Champagne", with sparkling wine representing around a third of the total wine production.
The first-known Australian sparkling wine was produced in Tasmania from the 1826 harvest, but it was a long time before Tasmania's outstanding sparkling potential would be further explored after this brave early start.
Vineyards had all but disappeared by the late 1800s and it wasn't until 1956 that the modern revival commenced.
Tasmania’s sparkling future was set on a new course in 1989, when Heemskerk and the French Champagne house, Louis Roederer, introduced renowned sparkling wine brand Jansz. Since then the strides have been extraordinary.
# UPDATE: The House of Arras 2006 Blanc de Blancs won the Len Evans Memorial Trophy for Champion Wine of the Show at The National Wine Show of Australia in Canberra - the first sparkling wine to do so.