Monday, 07 November 2016 15:38

Celebrating premium champagnes

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Presenting the dessert table Presenting the dessert table Pictures provided by The Aleit Group

The names trip lovingly off the tongue like effervescent bubbles ... Drappier, Besserat, Armand de Brignac, Nicolas Feuillatte, Larmandier Bernier ... only some of the 25 premium champagne houses presented at this year's 15th Absa Champagne Festival.

Private bank clients and members of the public were invited to "celebrate the exceptional" at the only festival of its kind in South Africa. 

While the big boys like Mumm, Laurent Perrier, Ruinart and Pol Roger were attracting the crowds the smaller more boutique styles were getting a look in, showing that South African tastes are becoming much more sophisticated and knowledgeable. 

Most of the stands had a selection ranging from Brut to rose to very special vintages and the pourers were generous, so that there was a decent amount of champagne in the flutes provided for us at the foor.

The flutes were unpoular with some of the stands who would have preferred a more modern style of glass, but there were not too purists among the crowd.

The Aleit Group had provided a magnificent spread of charcuterie, cheeses, sushi and meats/salads as well as a billowing white canopy to sit under, outside the Inanda Club's venue space.

The flowers were aligned with a pink theme and were magnificent.

One of the highlights of the evening was the chance to join the Javelin Champagne Club, which organises art evenings and a possible trip to the Champagne region later in the year.

The head of the Javelin Group, Shaun Anderson, introduced the champagne festival, sponsored by a bank, 15 years ago, and has longstanding relationships with many of the fine wine distribution companies like the Meridian Group, which has brought Barons de Rothschild into South Africa, Reciprocal (Louis Roederer) and Great Domaines.

Meridian also brings in Billecart-Salmon which is the official champagne of the Hyatt Regency in Johannesburg, 

Great Domaines is bringing many of the top fine wines and champagnes into the country including Lanson, Pol Roger and Larmandier-Bernier.

But enough of that ... what about the bubbles? Of course, my personal favourite was the Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d'Or Brut in its bubbly bottle but I also enjoyed tasting the Baron de Rothschild Rose Majeur and the Comtessa Alexia Brut NV and a special mention goes to Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Extra Brut.

The waiters were a little over zealous in their clearing operations because about five glasses disappeared from under my nose during the course of the evening and the pourers must have been a little suspicious when I kept reappearing asking for "just a bit more".

The networking is always marvellous and the Melrose Arch Mini dealership had arranged for me to drive their new Clubman to the party. With its snazzy black body adorned with white stripes the Mini got a lot of media attention.

Shaun always manages to inject a little magic into the evening - last year it was a projection of Versailles against the buildings of Summer Place - and this year a troupe of pink-clad white gloved young chefs marched into the centre of the room where a long trestle table awaited their artistic endeavours. They "painted" the tables with streaks of chocolate before arranging an "installation" of tiny little puddings and showering the whole affair with sugar, sprinkles, sugared popcorn and anything else that took our fancy. It was pure dessert theatre and certainly got our attention!

 

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