Who is the G.O.A.T? The Greatest Of All Time? Whether sport, business, wine or the arts the debate is fascinating. Roger Federer versus Serena Williams in tennis. Steve Jobs versus Bill Gates in technology. Marlon Brando versus Meryl Streep in acting. Max Schubert versus Maurice O’Shea in Australian red wine. Each one has a legitimate claim to the title.
We do have one clear winner. Australian sparkling winemaking has contenders but the one true G.O.A.T is clear. He has changed the way the world views Australian wine. The brand he built from scratch is the epitome of our sparkling wines. All rise for Australia's King of sparkling wine from the House of Arras, Ed Carr.
"It's been a learning curve and we were hoping for success. But we didn't expect this for the House of Arras. It's exceeded our wildest dreams... the support, the quality, the endorsements... it's been brilliant."
From humble migrant beginnings
Australia's first people arrived somewhere between 40,000 to 70,000 years ago. From that moment Australia has been a country of migrants. Wolf Blass, Johann Henschke, Edward Tyrrell. All migrants with significant Australian wine legacies. Add another one to the list in Ed Carr. He arrived in 1964 as a Ten Pound Pom, settling in Adelaide's northern suburbs.
From a young age Ed loved science. The flora and fauna of his new home. Chemistry lessons at school. As he grew older he added a passion for engineering. No surprise with his home so close to one of Australia's manufacturing hubs! By the time Ed was finishing High School he had a tough decision to make. Should he follow his first love in science? Or did his future lie with engineering? In good news for wine lover's science won the day. Without him knowing it Ed's wine journey was underway.
A life in a lab coat?
On completing his studies Ed Carr's first job was in a dairy testing lab. This job didn't fire his passion for anything, let alone science. He started looking for a role that had better pay and job satisfaction. He found a role close to home at the Glenloth Winery near McLaren Vale. His timing was impeccable. Australian sparkling wine was exploding. Ed was at the right place at the right time.
At the time the Glenloth Winery was part of the Wynn Winegrowers group. It was home to the burgeoning Seaview Sparkling and to winemaker Norman Walker. Norm was the first big influence on Ed's career in wine. Norm's father Hurtle had trained under Frenchman Edmond Mazure in the 1800s. He learnt the traditional, hand crafted method of making sparkling wine. He passed it on to his son who passed it on to Ed.
"...it was so basic. No technology, all manual. But inspiring in a way, something different from other winemaking."
But Norm didn't pass his knowledge on without getting something in return. Norm needed help with secondary fermentation issues. Ed was the man employed to help. Ed did a great job despite having little knowledge on the matter! In no time Ed Carr was an Assistant Winemaker. A whole new world was opening for him...
Over the years Ed learned how to make premium sparkling wine. It was a challenging time though, with little access to superb fruit. It was hard get the varieties to make traditional method sparkling in Australia. Chardonnay appeared in volume in Australia in the 1970s. Pinot Noir started to appear on the scene in the 1980s. At first these varieties were only available from warmer climate regions. But before too long Ed started to understand the wines he wanted to make. Get the right grape varieties in the right regions. Do that and the potential was limitless.
Tasmania: Australian wine’s outsider comes in from the cold
Australian wine gets cooler and cooler
Today Australian wine and diversity go hand in hand. In no small way this is thanks to pioneers across Australia who saw potential in cooler regions. Names like Brian Croser at Petaluma, Dr John Middleton at Mount Mary and Dr Tom Cullity at Vasse Felix. Australia's historic regions are brilliant at what they do. But fine and elegant sparkling wine from the Barossa Valley?
Grapes for this style of wine needed to come from other places. In the 1960s and 1970s the hunt was on for the cool. Tasmania and Yarra Valley showed huge potential, making superb wines in the 1800s. The movement was on to revive these regions. And Ed Carr was centre stage for the evolution of Australian wine.
"I remember a cool climate tour in 1988 of regions that we take for granted. We visited Tasmania, 46 hectares of vines in 1988. Today, over 2000 hectares of vines. And that's pretty inspiring. We visited Yarra Valley, Tumbarumba... These are key parts of the Australian wine story. It's so recent that this all happened. This is all young and has a lot to go."
By the 1990s Australia's cool climate regions were starting to mature. Sparkling wine pioneers were showing that they were right. Dr Tony Jordan at Chandon in the Yarra Valley. Dr Andrew Pirie at his eponymous winery in Tasmania. At the same time Ed's skills and knowledge were flourishing. He'd grown to become Senior Sparkling Winemaker for the Penfolds group. His reputation preceded him and in 1993 he had a choice to make.
Should he stay with Penfolds as they moved sparkling production to Victoria? Or take an offer from Hardys, another great name in Australian wine. It was time to twist and see how good Australian sparkling wine could be. Please welcome the new Group Sparkling Winemaker for Hardys Wines, Mr. Ed Carr.
A new dawn, a new day...
Hardys was one of Australia's top sparkling wine producers. But with Ed at the helm they wanted to take things to another level. With his technical background Ed and his team were meticulous in their quest. They looked at wines they loved, they looked at wines they loathed. "What characters do we like? How are we going to get them in? What character we don't want? How are we going to keep them out?"
They broke the complex winemaking process into a myriad of steps. They learnt. Each year they studied the vineyards they sourced fruit from. They gained insight. In 1995 they sourced their first grapes from Tasmania. They tasted potential.
Today Tasmania is one of the hottest names in the world of wine. To some it may seem like an overnight success story. But it's a success 200 years in the making. Vines first arrived in 1788, struggling at first but were successful over time. No surprise that in a penal colony the pioneer was an ex-convict. Bartholomew Broughton established Prospect Farm in 1820s. And it's also no surprise sparkling wines featured from the beginning.
The rebirth of Tasmanian wine
Like many of Australia's first wine regions Tasmania burned bright. Huge potential, excellent wines and an exciting future. All until a confluence of factors changed everything. Economic depression, changing wine tastes, to name but a couple. It sent Tasmanian wine into dormancy for decades. Until Jean Miguet replanted vines in 1956, sparking a new dawn for Tasmania.
In the beginning of the second coming it was a slow burn. In 1958 Claudio Alcorso started Moorilla Estate. In 1966 the Heemskerk pilot vineyard commenced planting. Dr Andrew Pirie established the Pipers Brook Vineyard in 1973. George and Priscilla Park established Stoney Vineyard in 1973. This signalled the rebirth of the vibrant Coal River Valley.
The Pooley family planted in 1985. Steven Lubiana moved his five generations of winemaking knowledge to Tasmania in 1990. This list goes on and on. Influential people like Ed Carr were beginning to notice Tasmania. And start to think of grand plans for fruit from this idyllic place.
"It's a beautiful place. Being an island, the maritime climate influence is so strong. It's new. It's pristine. And it has a positive winemaking culture. Tasmania wants to be the cutting edge of global cold-climate styles."
The House that Ed built
Ed and his team started from scratch with the House of Arras. No brand, no home existed for the premium sparkling wine they wanted to make. They started with the right varieties. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. They started with fruit from cool climates. Yarra Valley and Tasmania to begin with. They used classic sparkling wine making techniques. Traditional method, whole bunch pressing, oak, all the bells and whistles. The wines they made were good. Real good. But they identified two key factors that would help achieve their long term goals.
One factor was Tasmania. Tasmania produced the fruit they loved the best. For Ed, "...it was wow, this is pretty good!" The second factor was time. The first House of Arras wine spent four years on lees. An eternity for Australian sparkling wine in 1999. But a mere blip compared to the Arras wines today.
Chardonnay: The Making of an Australian Legend
All good things take time
Ed Carr believes that if you want to play at the top end of town age is essential. Each year build complexity and depth in the wines. So how do things look today? For the Brut Elite Non-Vintage the target age is four years on lees. The Rose and Grand Vintage is seven. The Blanc de Blancs' eight. The EJ Carr Late-Disgorged vintage is over ten. These are wines that need meticulous planning. Wines that need patience and an amazing eye for detail. These are remarkable wines that many believed Australia couldn't make.
Ed Carr is the humble hand that crafts these wines with his dedicated team. He has a huge sense of pride in what he's with the House of Arras. Twenty years old, Ed wants the brand to last for 120 years. Given everything achieved to date who'd bet against him!
The future's bright, the future's sparkling!
Ed Carr is the "Godfather of Australian Sparkling". He has been responsible for many great Australian sparkling wines. He has influenced generations of Australian winemakers. His wines compete with the world's best. But this isn't the reason he is the Greatest Of All Time. Michael Jordan won six NBA Championship rings. Ed Carr has won countless trophies and awards. Michael Jordan is the G.O.A.T in basketball. How come? He dazzled with prolific scoring but worked harder than anyone else.
Ed Carr is the G.O.A.T of Australian sparkling wine. How come? He dazzles us with the House of Arras. He oversees all Accolade's sparkling wine production. He works hard to ensure he's "very, very proud" of every wine produced at every price point. He instills this pride and work ethic into every person he works with. His passion, knowledge and dedication will influence generations.
One day Ed Carr will take off his winemaking hi-vis one last time. He'll jump on his bike and ride off into the sunset. He'll do so leaving Australian sparkling wine at the top of it's game. And the world will raise a glass to Ed Carr, Australia's Sparkling King!
This information is presented in good faith and on the basis that Wine Australia, nor their agents or employees, are liable (whether by reason of error, omission, negligence, lack of care or otherwise) to any person for any damage or loss whatsoever which has occurred or may occur in relation to that person taking or not taking (as the case may be) action in respect of any statement, information or advice given via this channel.