So impressed was Roger Jones with the sparkling wines of Tasmania’s House of Arras that, when he ran a Michelin-starred restaurant, he had the Arras Grand Vintage as his house pour. Ed Carr, winemaker at Arras, was awarded a lifetime achievement award at last year’s CSWWC awards, for which Jones is a judge, and for the new releases it was only natural that Carr took Jones through the new wines including a 13 year-old Rosé and the Arras Late Disgorged.
“This is what sparkling wine is all about and, my word!, if you have not tried the Late Disgorged it is a must,” writes Jones
Ed Carr, winemaker at House of Arras, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships for his contribution to the development and success of the sparkling wine industry, putting him on the same stage as Richard Geoffroy and Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon. Rather special for a lad from Yarmouth who now presides over one of the most lauded and awarded sparkling wine companies in the world with nearly 100 trophies and over 240 gold medals.
So you have not heard of Arras from that huge colony called Tasmania? Well there is a reason for that – 97% of it is sold in Australia. However, since The Carlyle Group took over in 2018 there are plans in place to bring Arras to the global market and increase production by 50% although, as you will read, Carr leaves his wines on lees for a rather long time, up to 13 years for his Late Disgorged so nothing will happen overnight.
I have been aware of Arras for many years and the Arras Grand Vintage (current vintage is the 07, the 08 was released first) was sold as our house pour at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn for many years. Retailing at just shy of £40 with seven years on lees before further ageing before release this has a distinct oyster/brioche nose, Carr attributes this to the cool breezes, with the Antarctic a nearby land mass, giving a cool maritime climate. The wine is complex and layered, honeyed, delicate tiny bubbles rock up from the base, hints of grapefruit pith, touch of Greek yoghurt and dried tea spices. 78% Chardonnay and 22% Pinot Noir.
However, back to the Zoom tasting where we kicked off with a new release; Arras Blanc de Blancs NV (RRP £23.99), mostly sourced from the 2016 and 2017 vintage with a touch of 2018, with the majority of the grapes sourced from Pipers River; although a Blanc de Blancs it does have other grapes (9%) including Pinot Noir in the mix. Limey citrus with a controlled status, almonds and restrained stone fruit, will like to see this evolve, however the Arras Museum Release Blanc de Blancs 2004 (Late Autumn release – but only 405 bottles were made with a price tag to match) is another level, I tried this earlier in the summer, with its restrained tropical pineapple nuances blending with meringue, straw, it is still youthful but is harmonious and complete.
Back to reality we then tried the ‘A’ BY Arras NV Premium Cuvée (RRP £19.99) this had the addition of 15% Pinot Meunier, a grape variety rarely used in Australian sparkling wine. Carr says that this grape is great for wines that do not need as much time to age and give it a lovely brightness and freshness. There is a hint of gunflint and tropical citrus, then red berries with a silky forest floor nuance. With time in the glass there is an air of complexity and depth that carries it well.
Arras Brut Elite NV (RRP £29.99) 95% of this wine is sourced from the 2015 vintage so technically it could be called vintage, noted by the Cuvée 1501 on the cap. red fruit driven, with a raspberry acidity, there is some use of oak on this giving it more of a texture, and hints of delicate summer truffles.
The final wine of the tasting certainly brought the audience to attention, as suddenly we moved up a notch and were presented with Arras Vintage Rosé 2007 (RRP £39.99), the colour says it all a delightful bronzed golden glow with a hint of rose, to be able to release a 13 year old Rosé is pretty clever, as is the wine. Hint of Turkish Delight, loganberries and roses, but its age has given it a masculine elegance. It is fresh and moreish, quite superb.
We can’t leave before mentioning the top cuvee from Arras, which is their Arras Late Disgorged (current vintage 2004), retailing at around £100 a bottle. The excitement from the rich but elegant style with heaps of freshness then as the wines open up a complex multi-layered experience, “mesmerising” according to James Halliday. This is what sparkling wine is about and, my word!, if you have not tried the Late Disgorged it is a must.