Champagne – The Grande Dame

And what a woman she is –She only gets better with age and until her cork is popped she never loses her bubbles – 150,000 of them in fact (per bottle). But don’t mess with her; under pressure…she has the pressure of three car tyres.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than tasting and learning all about some of the best from Champagne. So when the invitation came through Social Butterfly Girlfriends to attend an afternoon all about French fizz at one of Sydney’s best restaurants, Rockpool, I was on the phone to book my ticket.

Presented by Kyla Kirkpatrick we learnt all about the making and the history of this Grand Dame herself – Champagne.

She’s over 400 years old. Her creator born in 1638 and the Godfather of Champagne, Dom Perignon; was a monk. Like the monks of that time, he was a wine maker. Of course making wine for religious consumption and for the monarchy. But Dom Perignon’s wine was considered unsuccessful. Wine was exploding in the bottles before they were opened. He had heard about beer in Germany being bottled in heavier glass, so he imported heavier glass bottles. And our first bottles of Champagne immerged.

These first bottles were certainly not what we drink today. Merkey in colour, and visually unappealing, they were not sought after and certainly not the delicate drop we savour today. It took a woman to give Champagne its clear colour and elegance. A woman by the name of Barb-Nicole. She was a widow and her father in-law; Mr Cliquot.

Barb-Nicole took over from where Dom Perignon left off and discovered “Riddling”. A process where-by twisting the bottle brings about a snaking of the yeast of the champagne to give the liquid its clear colour. So it’s now the late 1600s/early 1700s and the God Father and God Mother of Champagne have well and truly left their mark. But it was actually Ruinart that was the first registered champagne trading house, opening its doors in 1729.

Champagne can be made from 3 grape varieties; Chardonnay, Pinot and Pinot Meunier.

Chardonnay gives the Champagne its elegance and softness, Pinot its strength and backbone and Pinot Meunier its floral characteristics.

I knew before I attended, that Champagne is like art. Your taste for it is “subjective” and very much individual. So if you enjoy a sweeter champagne, you like a higher dosage” (sugar content) and you most likely enjoy a Brut, which is a dosage” (sugar content) of anywhere between 6 & 15 grams. If you prefer dry champagne, the dosage” is less than 3 grams. Some vintages have no dosage”.

Girlfriends, an afternoon on the town with Veuve (2005), Bollinger, Pol Roger (Brut) & Pol Roger (Rose 2002) and Laurent Perrier for this social butterfly, was a lot of fun and left me feeling pleased I’d donned my “Sunday…Oops I mean my Saturday Best”, the jewels & high heels and luxuriated in the esteemed company of this Great Grande Dame we all know as Champagne.

According to our presenter, Kyla; “she should sigh like a lady, not scream like a whore”. I agree…the taste of this magnificent drop was elegant; not brash.

Thank you Social Butterfly Girlfriends!

Thank you Champagne – May you continue to impress us for many 100s of years to come!!!

By Jane-Maree Hurley


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