Sittella: Sparkling Wine Review
Barry Weinman: 16th September 2018
The Berns family were inspired to plant a vineyard and start a winery by several visits to the Loire Valley in France. Given the Loire influence, it is no surprise that sparkling wine was part of the plan.
The first vintage of Sittella’s Sparkling Chenin was in 2001, and the wine has proved to be very popular ever since. And is the biggest selling wine in their range. The style has evolved over time, becoming gradually drier and more refined. One thing that has remained however, is the vibrancy and freshness that makes this such an easy drink.
Like all the sparkling wines in the range, the sparkling Chenin is made in the traditional method used in Champagne, with secondary fermentation occurring in bottle.
The real interest for the winemakers however, is in the wines made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery is dedicated to producing the best possible sparkling wines, made from grapes grown in Pemberton (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and the Porongurups (Chardonnay). All wines are made at the winery in the Swan Valley.
Given that Western Australia is not known for its sparkling wines, the quality of the wines produced is nothing short of astounding. And based on what we tasted and heard, they are only going to get better over the next few years.
In conjunction with investments in the vineyards and winemaking equipment, the winery has started a reserve wine program. Small quantities of the base wines are being matured in oak casks for a number of years, allowing the winery to use older material when blending, to make more complex and elegant wines that have a consistent style from year to year.
The benefits of this can be seen in the yet to be released 2014 Grand Vintage, where the extra complexity provided by reserve wine adds to the impact of what is a brilliant value sparkling wine.
But there are even more exciting things to come. The first wine in the reserve program is the Avante Garde. Due for release in late September, this is a brilliant wine that will easily hold its own against some of the best French NV champagnes. At $45 and with only 500 bottles made, this is likely to sell out in weeks, so I suggest joining the wineries mailing list and get hold of a few bottles.
Sittella – Sparkling Chenin – NV. ($22). This was first produced in 2001 and is made for 100% Swan Valley fruit. The wine spends between 18 & 24 months on lees to gain complexity. Dosage is a modest 8g/l. Aromas of fresh fruit and citrus on the nose lead to a palate that is fresh and vibrant. The gentle mousse adds to the mouth-feel, and there is decent length and good acidity to add life. A delicious afternoon quaff.
Sittella – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Cuvee Blanc – NV. ($29). The first release of this wine. The handpicked fruit comes from Pemberton, is whole bunch pressed and includes 15% reserve wine from 2014 & 2015. Fragrant, with apple, spice and citrus notes. The palate is fresh, yet there is excellent complexity and depth to the palate. A touch of autolysis, and lemony acid adds to the finish. A more serious wine with focus and precision, the team see this as their new house style.
Sittella – Pinot/Chardonnay – Grand Vintage – 2009. Deeper straw colour. Complex and developed with brioche and nutty citrus aromas. The palate is rich and mature, with chardonnay-like vinosity to close. Chewy and textured, with a touch of phenolic astringency on the finish, this is complex and powerful enough to pair with food. Spent 6 years on lees and a further 3 years under cork, the dosage is a low 5g/l.
Sittella – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Grand Vintage – Marie Christien Lugten – 2012. The first vintage produced since 2009, this is a serious wine that reminds me of vintage Champagne. Rich and creamy, there are hints of red fruits and fresh apple and excellent persistence. The mouth-feel is silky, and the finish is very long, clean and fresh, with racy acidity to close. The balance and persistence is a feature. Dosage is 5.5g and the wine spent 5 years on lees.
Sittella – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Grand Vintage – Marie Christien Lugten – 2013. ($36). Really shows just how good these wines are, with the density of fruit a feature. The Chardonnay adds drive and finesse, whilst the Pinot provides generosity and depth. From 2013 onwards, the amount of reserve wine used in the Grand Vintage has increased, adding depth and complexity. The richness of this wine allows for a slightly higher dosage of 7.33g/l.
Sittella – Pinot Noir/Chardonnay – Grand Vintage – Marie Christien Lugten – 2014. (Pre-Release). This really is very good, with ripe fruit expressing citrus, strawberry and green apple characters. The palate is creamy and supple, with excellent length and texture. The very fine acid builds on the finish. Will gain depth and complexity with time in the bottle, though this is already very good indeed.
Sittella – Chardonnay – Avant Garde – Blanc de Blanc – NV. ($45). Surprisingly restrained on the nose initially, and the palate is where this wine shines. Rich, powerful, polished and supple. The depth of the Chardonnay fruit is a highlight, with apple, lemon/citrus and gentle stone fruit characters that finish with slate-like minerality. There is tremendous length of flavours to close. A brilliant wine that will hold its own against many higher priced wines.
The Avant Garde is the first wine from the reserve program and also the first to introduces Chardonnay from the Porongurups. Made from reserve wines from 2012 – 2014, the wine spent 4 years on lees. Released in late September, only 500 bottles were made.
Sittella – Pinot/Chardonnay – Cuvee Rose – NV ($32). Very pretty, pale copper/bronze colour resulting from the addition of 10% still wine which was made from the same vineyard as the base wine. Complex and textured, red berry fruit is in the strawberry spectrum. This is quite vinous, with the high-quality fruit a feature. 30 months on lees and a modest 6.5g/l dosage adds depth and mouth-feel.