In the late 1970s, Ed Carr was a microbiologist testing dairy products. Then he gave up cows for grapes, switching to winemaking in South Australia’s McLaren Vale region, and for the past 35 years he’s specialised in sparkling wines.
These days he makes sparklings for House of Arras, based in Pipers River, from grapes grown throughout Tasmania. He has twice been named Australian Winemaker of the Year and, in 2020, House of Arras’ 2004 E.J. Carr Late Disgorged was named the world’s best sparkling wine at Decanter‘s Wine of the Year awards.
Here are Carr’s insider tips for a sparkling journey through Tasmania.
Tasmanian sparkling takes it right up to French champagne... Our maritime cool climate favours fine and elegant sparkling wine that ages well. We use the same grapes as they do in Champagne – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – but it’s really our climate that drives it.
Over the years, House of Arras and other premium sparkling-wine producers have developed their house styles and, as a result, there is now a great selection of top Tasmanian wines from which to choose. The wines are not Champagne – and neither can they be – but they are distinctly Tasmanian and world class in quality.
The moment I knew the potential for Tasmania’s sparkling greatness…was when House of Arras bought its first fruit in 1995. The minute we picked it and started to make wine from it, we realised how strong it could be. Since then, we’ve expanded our resources because we now source fruit from all over Tasmania. We discovered how strong Tasmania could be in sparkling wine, but also how the different subregions had their own terroir and produce their own individual styles that we could put together in the blend to make a more complete wine.
My favourite wine road trip… is through the Coal River Valley because of its proximity to Hobart – these are the closest vineyards to any Australian capital city – and the number of wineries through the valley. There are the likes of Frogmore Creek, Clemens Hill and Craigow. For pure scenery, I like a drive along the east coast, where the wineries are spaced out and the views over Great Oyster Bay to Freycinet Peninsula are spectacular.
There are so many little wine gems around Tasmania… Pooley Wines in the Coal River Valley and Stefano Lubiana Wines in the Derwent Valley are two of my favourites. I really love the style of Pooley’s wines, and Stefano Lubiana is a self-made success story. From tough beginnings, they’ve built this beautiful place with a fantastic range of wines and a great restaurant. I think it says a lot about the people there.
Wine goes best with food… and there are so many Tasmanian restaurants matching good food with good wine. Fico in Hobart is brilliant for its quality and diversity of food. The individual courses it serves are so strong and slightly quirky. Blue Eye in Salamanca has great seafood – it’s simple and expresses the character of the food. I love fresh Asian food, and the dishes at nearby Suzie Luck’s have such a fresh tang to them.
When I want to indulge… I go to Stillwater in Launceston. I get blown away here by being on the water. It puts you in a good mood right from the start. It’s got a very classic feel on a serene bit of riverfront.
Some of the most exciting places to drink in Tasmania at the moment… include the Glass House, which sits out over the water in Hobart. And for something completely different, I really like the old-fashioned pub vibe of The Whaler in Salamanca. Bonus points that it has a great wine list. In Launceston, I like Mudbar, where the outlook over the water is amazing.
I like to take a bottle to… the east coast, where the stretch of coast from Saltworks to Swansea is brilliant. I recently had my honeymoon and we went to some beautiful places around Tasmania. We stayed at Quamby Estate – just one of the many amazing old estates across the island – and I loved Strahan, which is very relaxed and seriously beautiful.