Petit Feast Masthead

Put some sparkle in your Saturday with the Champagne Dame

Amanda Whitley

champagne dameI have a bit of a champagne obsession. There’s something about the those little bubbles that seems a perfect accompaniment to any occasion. And now, I have a new career aspiration. You see, until recently, I did not realise that ‘Champagne Dame’ was an actual profession… I mean, could there be a more fabulous occupation!?

Unfortunately for me, there is only room for one bubbly personality in this job description, and that’s The Champagne Dame, Kyla Kirkpatrick. Usually based in Melbourne, Kyla is winging her way to the Canberra Centre on Saturday 23 May to host a new Champagne Masterclass, Magnums and Maisons, which tells the story of some of the most powerful and inspirational women of Champagne. Kyla will explore their history and stories through their champagnes, showcasing five fabulous maisons and the women that changed their course forever, from the pioneering Madame Clicquot to the charismatic Madame Lily Bollinger. We caught up with Kyla to talk all things bubbles.

Tell us about this particular workshop and what we should expect?

There is so much rich history throughout champagne. What most people don’t know is that some of the biggest innovations in the champagne industry came from women. The creator of the clicquot champagne, Madame Clicquot, actually came up with the idea to make champagne clear instead of cloudy. That really boosted its popularity around the world. Madame Pompadour was a pioneer also, because she was the first person to say “why on earth are we making sweet champagne? Why not make it dry so we can drink throughout the dinner and not just dessert.” So some of the biggest changes and innovations were driven by women. In this workshop, we will take a look at five women who really changed the industry. We’ll taste five different champagnes and take a journey back in time.

How does one become a ‘Champagne Dame’? Where did your ‘obsession’ with champagne begin and how did you get to this point?

Believe it or not, my obsession with champagne didn’t start with the wine….it started with the region of Champagne! In 2005 I read an article on Napoleon Bonaparte – first emperor of France and protector of Paris and how he used to ride his cavalry through the region collecting a little ‘dutch courage’ on his way into war and I become fascinated with the history of this region. I read every book there was to read on Champagne and when I ran out of books I wrote a letter to an author who had written my favourite book and he wrote back inviting me to Champagne so he could teach me everything he knew. I quit my job in finance, bought a one way ticket and NEVER looked back.

What is it about champagne that’s so fascinating?

Champagne is an incredible region and an incredible wine. Dating back to the days of Marie Antoinette, Dom Pierre Perignon and beyond there are so many wonderful stories. Not to mention the story behind every house. We forget, being in Australia and so many hundreds of miles from France that behind each champagne brand is a story – a family, trials, tribulations, heart ache and success. I don’t think we can simply enjoy the wine without knowing the history of the house. I share these stories and insights in my champagne masterclasses. You will leave feeling a connection to champagne that you never felt possible.

You’ve done significant research into champagne, including travelling to its birthplace – tell us about that.

I arrived in Champagne for the first time in 2005. I was treated to an incredibly lunch at a restaurant housed in a grand chateau called Les Crayeres by the author who had written my favourite book on champagne. He then took me into the vineyards where an afternoon tea had been organised with a bunch of local growers. I met the families, drank champagne simply not available to the rest of the world and experienced a life in champagne that you don’t know being on the other side of the world. It’s all about family. Generation after generation passing their knowledge and passion down to the next. I love this region and I love this wine! I travel to Champagne four times per year and I never tire of its beauty.

Why is champagne more than just a drink to you?

You can’t simply take champagne as a wine alone. It is so much more than that. There is a rich history in every single flute. It’s a labour of love. It’s a families heritage. It’s a families pride. It should be sipped slowly and savoured.

What’s the difference between champagne and sparkling wine?

Champagne (with a small ‘c’) is a sparkling wine which  can only come from Champagne (with a Capital ‘C’) which is a region in France located 90 miles North East of Paris. Any other sparkling wine even if it is produced exactly the same way, using the same grapes cannot by law be called a champagne. It is a sparkling wine. There is something unique about the terroir, the climate and terrain – what’s under the rolling vineyards that allow champagne a complexity that cannot be replicated anywhere in the world.

Do you have a favourite drop? Or is that like asking a mother to choose a favourite child?

Yes it’s like asking a mother about her favourite child (but she still knows the answer!!). Between you and I I love all the wines from Pol Roger but if I want something super special I will drink a Dom Ruinart Vintage champagne – it is simply amazing!

the essentials

What: Champagne Master Class hosted by Kyla Kirkpatrick, the Champagne Dame
When: 1pm – 3pm Saturday 23 May 2015
Where: Canberra Centre, in between Country Road and Jigsaw, Level 1
How much: $50 per person, includes a style bag to take home. 

Tickets: Tickets can be purchased from the Customer Service Lounge on Level 1, call 02 6276 4222 for more information. Bookings essential. 
Fine print: Attendees must be over 18.


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

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