The History of Australian Sparkling Wine

Wine / Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023

This weekend we’ll be hosting a bevvy of Jockey Club members, their friends and family at our Annual Champagne Shopping morning. 

And although we won’t officially be serving “Champagne”– nothing says celebration like a bottle of sparkling wine.

For a long time, the only kind of Sparkling wine that signified a very special occasion was made in Champagne.

But of course, we know better these days. 

Australia boasts a great diversity of sparkling wine and we are responsible for some of the world’s finest.

Prestige sparkling wines from cool-climate, high-altitude regions across Australia are taking their place as the celebratory wine of choice for occasions both big and small.

In recognition of the official start to the festive season (our Champagne shopping Morning kicks it off!) let’s take a look at the history of sparkling wine in Australia.


But first, a…


A standard bottle of sparkling wine contains around 49 million bubbles!




Australia has a rich history of sparkling winemaking that dates back to the 19th century.


As far back as 1881, the state of Victoria was home to the Victorian Champagne Company. It was an entrepreneurial endeavour between a Melbourne doctor and French winemaker Auguste D’Argent. The Victorian Champagne Company didn’t last long, but other winemakers soon followed suit and began experimenting with sparkling styles.

Another winemaker, Edmund Mazure, used Pinot Noir grapes to make sparkling reds at Auldana (interestingly, Rob worked at this winery for Penfolds in the early 70s!) before making the ground breaking choice to use Shiraz grapes for sparkling reds beginning in 1893.


Hans Irvine in Victoria’s Great Western also started making Sparkling Burgundy, with his winemaker, Charles Pierlot.

Benno Seppelt took ownership of the winery in 1918 and put Great Western on the map.

Legendary winemaker Colin Preece took over in 1932. Preece’s headily rich, evocative and long lived sparkling reds of the 1930s and ’40s have inspired many other producers to create their own take on this incomparable Australian style.

Great Western continued to make good quality sparkling wines in both white and red varieties, but it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that sparkling really became popular as a celebratory drink in Australia.

It started with Colin Gramp at the Barossa region’s renowned Orlando winery. The Gramps were great innovators, always on the lookout for the next big thing. Colin noted the phenomenal success of perlwein, or semi-sparkling wine, in Germany, and decided to try it out in Australia. He enlisted the help of Günter Prass, a German sparkling specialist, to create ‘Barossa Pearl’. This was a light sparkling made from Eden Valley Riesling, Barossa Semillon and Muscat. The result was a pretty, fruity, warm-climate sparkling that thrilled the wine-drinking public.

Many imitations followed, and it remained a popular choice for Australian wine drinkers for nearly 30 years.

Sparkling reds re-emerged in the 1980s due to a number of influences, including Australia’s shift to cooler climates and
higher-quality sparkling wines of finesse and style. It also helped that cellar hands at Seppelt Great Western had hidden
away a collection of Colin Preece’s iconic sparkling reds, showed them to the current winemaker and reinvigorated the style.

Also during this time, renowned Champagne producers Moët & Chandon scouted for a location in Australia to start making their own fine Australian sparkling wine. They enlisted the help of wine expert Tony Jordan, who ran a wine consultancy
business with Brian Croser, famed founder of Petaluma winery.

Jordan and the French eventually settled on Victoria’s beautiful Yarra Valley. It was a successful venture, and Domaine Chandon celebrated 30 years in Australia by winning the national trophy for Best Australian Sparkling Wine for its Chandon Prestige Cuvée 2005 at the 2016 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships.


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A shift in climate – and quality

The success of Domaine Chandon (and the considerably higher prices it could command for its quality product) inspired
wine producers across Victoria and around Australia to explore other regions that could produce quality sparkling wine. Smaller regions with high altitudes, including Tasmania, King Valley and (of course) the Adelaide Hills started to emerge.

Australian fizz today

Today, sparkling wine represents a small but significant proportion of the Australian grape and wine community’s total production. It’s a market niche for which there is excited consumer interest. Indeed, in the past few years, sparkling wine
consumption has seen considerable growth.


I’ve got plenty more to say about Sparkling wine, but how about we save that till next week?

Until then, if you’re not able to come along on Sunday (and by the way, tickets are now sold out), then make sure you join us in spirit with a glass of bubbles from home. After all, Christmas is only 32 sleep away!!!

4 Replies to “The History of Australian Sparkling Wine”

  1. Absolutely fantastic overview of the history of bubbles in Australia. Really well-written.

    Plenty there, but never too much.

    Loved it.



  2. A small snippet of wine history after a long day at work. Thank you for educating me about my fave tipple. No wonder I’ve been to all the places you mentioned 🥰🥂

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