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When there’s nothing like the sound of bubbly

An image of a champagne cork popping out

“One of the distinctly pleasing parts of opening a bottle of sparkling wine is the sounds that are generated: the pop of the cork, the sizzle of the bubbles as your glass is filled and the clink and cheers,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER.

ONOMATOPOEIA is the formation of a word from the sound associated with what it is named. It is a word that sounds so foreign… like xenophobia. 

Richard Calver.

But its use is everywhere, even at breakfast. That childhood moment where I awaited a plate of Rice Bubbles with milk and yearned for Snap, Crackle and Pop to start singing remains the epitome of onomatopoeia being used commercially in my world, and where to this day the pouring of that powder-puff cereal is both evocative and compelling.  

In the realm of wine, one of the distinctly pleasing parts of opening a bottle of sparkling wine is the sounds that are generated: the pop of the cork, the sizzle of the bubbles as your glass is filled and the clink and cheers when you celebrate with family or friends. 

And therefore, the recent ABC Business report that revealed there is a champagne shortage currently hitting Australia felt like another blow dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sounded like a hammer through all of our lives. This feeling was confirmed when I spoke with Kyri Christodoulou, the import manager for Emperor Champagne.  

“There’s definitely a shortage,” he said. “I call it the hangover from covid. What’s happened is that production relies on supply chain parties to be ready and with covid everything slowed down or stopped for a time. As well, there’s been a terrible harvest in 2021. There’s a bigger reliance on reserve wine so the champagne houses are releasing wines from 2016, 2017 and 2018.” 

“Has that affected prices, Kyri?” I asked.

“Definitely, but we are still the biggest per capita consumer of champagne in the world. It’s just that our market is small compared to the US and Europe. During covid we didn’t use our quota and for the next year you get a reduced quota sent. There’s also the increased pressure on prices caused by shipping where people are wanting more consumer goods. Pre-covid, a 20-foot container cost around $4500 to ship. It’s now $11,000 for the same container with slower delivery times. There are production issues and a shortage of shipping that’s affecting supply.” 

To cope, Emperor is moving clients away from the houses that are the most well-known, such as Bollinger, Billecart Salmon, Veuve Clicquot, Moet et Chandon, Ruinart and Krug, to lesser-known brands like Pol Roger, Louis Roederer and Nicolas Feuillatte. But Kyri foreshadowed more price increases as demand increases with the economy returning to a more even keel.  

The prestige of champagne will ensure that demand remains high in this country, even though Australian sparkling wine can compete against the French in terms of quality but especially price. 

Tasmania produces some of the world’s best sparkling wines, with the House of Arras a stand out. 

I have acquired a Kreglinger Vintage Brut 2016 that, for around $60 a bottle, is as brioche is to bread, rich and remarkable but with a clean flinty finish. 

In 2000, Kreglinger Australia (which has historical connections with Belgium) diversified into wine production with the acquisition of the majority ownership of Pipers Brook Vineyard, a Halliday five-star winery that controls the Ninth Island, Pipers Brook and Kreglinger labels. 

I can’t wait to hear the pop of the cork and feel the frisson of delight that is the anticipation the sound of a fine sparkling wine delivers (even when it’s not champagne!).

A man walks into a magic forest. He proceeds to where he can hear trees talking and takes out his axe. “You can’t cut me down, I’m a talking tree” the chosen tree exclaims. The lumberjack replies: “You may be a talking tree but you will dialogue.”

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Ian Meikle, editor

Richard Calver

Richard Calver

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