SYNONYMOUS WITH quality, luxury and opulence, champagne has been shorthand for celebration since the seventeenth century.
The lively bubbly, served in elegant flutes, has carved its reputation into popular culture, be it James Bond ordering a Bollinger or Marilyn Monroe sipping a Dom Perignon.
Johannesburg has been home to the Absa Champagne Festival since 2002, enthralling invited clients and members of the public alike at the only festival of its kind in the country.
“There are other ‘bubbly’ festivals around, but none which exclusively serve Champagne – meaning sparkling wine made in the Champagne region in France,” said Shaun Anderson, rights owner of the Absa Champagne Festival and chairman of the Champagne Importers Association.
Festival attendees will have the privilege of being able to taste more than 100 champagnes all under one roof. “This is a real highlight and an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and find new favourites.
We started with 17 champagne houses and now have close to 40, including a new generation of independent growers such as Valentin Leflaive and Hugues Godme,” Anderson said.
“While South Africa’s Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines are made in the same manner as champagne, the warmer climate in South Africa results in grapes with a higher sugar level that have to be picked very early.
In France, the cold northerly vineyards have chalky soils and produce grapes that make a wine which is bone dry, offering a crisp, steely freshness that is classically champagne. They also have a relatively low alcohol content, meaning you can drink it with breakfast, lunch or dinner.”
Different champagnes are best suited to specific foods. “Those made with pinot meunier and pinot noir cultivars are more fitting with game and red meat, while those made with chardonnay are ideal with white meat and fish.”
Guests at the festival will be served food tailored to compliment the champagnes on offer.
Designer canapés, including smoked salmon roll-ups or mini tacos with BBQ chicken and mango chilli salsa, will be served as guests arrive. Buckets of freshly-shucked oysters on crushed ice will have a variety of toppings including lemon, chilli or soy pearls, beetroot or Kimchi salt.
Champagne will heighten the evening’s culinary delights, “offering a stimulation of the senses, from hearing the cork pop, to seeing the magic of the bubbles rising in a glass to tasting the fine mousse,” said Anderson.
Over three nights, close to R1-million worth of champagne is sold – an average of 250 cases which are delivered after the event to guests’ homes.
The event takes place at the Inanda Club from October 31 to November 2.
Tickets, at R995 per person, can be purchased from www.absachampagnefest.co.za/