Sparkling toast to spring
Chandon 2016 Blanc de Blancs; $39; 5 stars (out of six)
COVID-19 has cast a pall over life but at least we can take comfort from the arrival of spring. It's a good excuse to drink a toast to better days with two classy Australian bubblies. This 2016 vintage chardonnay-based sparkler is largely from Whitlands Plateau vineyard, at an elevation of 800 metres and one of Victoria's highest and coolest. It has straw hues, tiny, persistent bubbles and orange blossom scents. The front palate features crisp grapefruit flavour, the middle palate Granny Smith apple, quince, mineral and macadamia nut characters and the finish refreshes with flinty acid. At chandon.com.au, wine stores and, as lockdowns end, the Yarra Valley Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, winery. Enjoy with antipasto and cellar seven years.
Tassie's immaculate merit
Clover Hill Tasmanian Cuvee Rose; $34; 5 stars (out of six)
FROM Taltarni Wines' Clover Hill arm, this vivacious non-vintage sparkler is salmon pink and has medium-fine bubbles and rose petal scents. The front palate shows lifted strawberry flavour and the middle palate pomegranate, nashi pear and cinnamon elements. Steely acid zips in at the finish. At cloverhillwines.com.au, bottle shops and, when lockdowns end, the Lebrina, winery. It will go well with smoked salmon blinis and cellar for three years. Taltarni was founded in 1972 in the Victorian Pyrenees area by US businessman and descendant of the French Guestier wine merchant family John Goelet. In 1986 it boosted its output of bubblies of immaculate quality by establishing Clover Hill in Northern Tasmania's Pipers River area.
A fine alternative
Patron Anejo; 40% ABV; 700ml; $125.
Tequila, at least in this country, has become synonymous with wild parties and shots at the bar. But, first and foremost, the spirit is intended for sipping and Patron Anejo is an example of a tequila perfect for just that. An ageing process - taken place in a combination of French oak, Hungarian oak and used American whiskey barrels for at least 12 months - sees the spirit take on the flavours of the oak, with notes of vanilla and honey, before leaving a smokey caramel after taste. It's very smooth and if you're a whiskey drinker, it's worth a try. As for cocktail lovers, this would go great in something like an Old Fashioned, again, as a substitute for whiskey.
Bevvy with bite
Snakebite #3; Two Metre Tall; Derwent Valley, TAS; 6.5%; $40 (750ml)
And there I was, living in London, circa. 2011 - free as a bird without a care in the world for anything untoward. I'd convinced my UK friends to join me at the Walkabout in Shepherds Bush for a drink. Snakebite: A facetious name for a cheap drink, drunk by Aussies in the UK, typically made from the poorest lager and sweetest cider; served in jugs, with complete abandon as to the well-being of those lucky enough to be consuming it. Not so this: Blend #3 is a decade spanning mix of wild pear and apple cider blended to a wild farmhouse ale, with each ingredient picked, fermented and brewed on the banks of the Derwent at Two Metre Tall; sour pear and apple scented with enough funk and acid to make Eddie Hazel blush.