Some champagne festivals are more equal than others. That’s the message coming out of the 16 years old Absa Champagne Festival set to take place in Johannesburg, at the Inanda Club from October 31 to November 2.
The Absa Champagne Festival showcases only French wine – and not South Africa’s Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines- an important distinction to make. Shaun Anderson, rights owner of the Absa Champagne Festival and chairman of the Champagne Importers Association, explains: “There are other ‘bubbly’ festivals around, but none which exclusively serve Champagne – meaning sparkling wine made in the Champagne region in France.
“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.”
Johannesburg has been home to the Absa Champagne Festival since 2002. Festival attendees will have the privilege of being able to taste more than 100 champagnes all under one roof, including the popular premium names like Bollinger, Marilyn Monroe and Dom Perignon. “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.
And what is champagne without good food. Remember that 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.”
As such 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.
The festival organisers state close to R1-million worth of champagne is sold over the three nights of the festival. That’s equals an average of 250 cases which are delivered after the event to guests’ homes.