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Taste Champagne: 160 champagnes, one evening

Amanda Whitley

When I think of champagne I think of luxury.

I think of elegant coupe glasses raised in toasts, weddings, bon voyages and Leo in The Great Gatsby.

LeoGatsby

But the reality is a little different. Unless you’re a 21st-century real life Gatsby, chances are your actual instances of champagne indulgence (we’re talking actual champagne here people, not sparkling wine) are limited to a few special occasions when you decide to splurge.

Taste Champagne, coming to Canberra this August, is set to change that, and you better be prepared. Over one evening, you’ll have the chance to taste over 160 cuvées (different types of champagne) from more than 60 champagne houses*.

Yes. 160. One hundred and sixty.

Hosted by International Wine and Spirit Communicator of the Year Tyson Stelzer in conjunction with BlackEvents, Taste Champagne will be an evening of indulgence in one of our most elegant buildings, Old Parliament House.

I caught up with Tyson ahead of the event to discuss how Taste Champagne came about.

“Taste Champagne was inspired years ago by some very limited tastings that we ran with a very restricted guest list,” he explains. “Word came back to me that champagne was really in demand – especially an opportunity for Australians to experience a wide variety of champagnes, not just one at a time, and the opportunity to do that didn’t exist.”

“So we created Taste Champagne as an opportunity to really show that champagne is doing – not only in the bigger houses but also with some of the smaller growers and lesser known names.”

Tyson

Tyson Stelzer. Image supplied

Tyson says that Australia’s growing interest in champagne has been unprecedented, but welcomed by experts like himself. 

“It’s actually been quite phenomenal and surprising, the extent to which that’s been the case,” he says. “In 2015, Australia was the fastest growing champagne market on the planet. We went from seven to more than eight million bottles of champagne overnight, which puts us – apart from the key countries of Europe, obviously France and so forth – number five by per head population in the world, which is just incredible.”

Tyson puts this down to Australians’ shift towards more quality wines and beverages in general.

“There’s a trend to drink less but drink better,” he explains. “People are looking for wines of celebration that really epitomise the calibre of the great wines of the world, and champagne is the quintessential example. It is the wine of celebration.”

Tyson adds that pairing champagne and food can sometimes actually be a lighter option than pairing with heavier wines.

“We do dinner sometimes where we drink paired champagne right through to the end and we finish thinking, ‘we’re actually quite refreshed; we don’t feel quite a burn as we might have if we did that course on heavy red wine’. So I think people’s tastes are moving towards more elegant styles of wine, and that’s where champagne come in; it’s very subtle and elegant.”

But Tyson is quick to point out that real champagne – champagne created in the eponymous district in France – isn’t the same as sparkling wine.

“The whole level of difference is not only in the champagne itself; it’s in the name of the place. The rigour with which champagne is grown and made is such that you can’t cut corners.”

“The shortcuts that are made all around the world in sparkling wine production in cheaper styles are not permitted in Champagne, France.”

“So you can certainly buy much cheaper sparkling that’s fermented in a large tank as opposed to fermented in a bottle; it takes more effort to ferment in the bottle. That’s why it’s always done in Champagne; to preserve quality first and foremost.”

Tyson says that Taste Champagne is the ideal way to bring these carefully created and curated champagnes into one room so patrons can broaden their bubbly horizons.

“We have found a way to put, literally, hundreds of champagnes into one room from dozens of different houses, and giving our guests the flexibility to taste whatever they’d like to,” he says.

“Guests have the opportunity to walk from one table to the next and meet the people that make the wine. So they’re able to not only taste the wines and see the bottles but also have conversations and hear stories what makes each house unique.”

But this won’t be anything like a bustling beer hall.

“It’s not a crowded tasting,” Tyson says, “it’s a premium opportunity where people can really discover the right wines so they can then add to their buying lists for the rest of the year.”

If you’re a champagne beginner or even a real champagne virgin, Tyson assures me that there will be no snobbery on the night.

“There will be none of this egotistical approach that can sometimes be perceived around wine, particularly premium wine. The agents are very knowledgeable but very obliging and kind in the way that they serve their guests.” 

So does Tyson have a favourite from the 160 cuvées that will be there? Or is that like asking him to pick a favourite child?

“Well, it is in many ways, and a favorite shirt as well,” he says, laughing. “It depends on many other things but we’ve been privileged to have wonderful houses like Champagne Krug showcasing at Taste Champagne and the more accessible houses like Champagne Bollinger and Pol Roger are always there. Even some of the smaller growers which are lesser known – they’re difficult to access sometimes in the market but I really like to showcase them in this context, great growers like Larmandier Bernier and Agrapart.”

However, Tyson notes that because of the sheer number of houses there on the day, numbers for the evening are strictly limited.

So if you’re excited to live like Gatsby for one night only, gather your fellow bubble buddies and book your tickets now.

the essentials 

What: Taste Champagne Canberra
When: Wednesday 9 August from 6-9pm
Where: Old Parliament House, Parkes
Tickets: $115 per person, includes a hot fork dish
Find more information and purchase tickets: tastechampagne.com.au

*Please note that not all 60 champagne houses will show in all states.

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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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