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In Conservation of Champagne
  • Author Joshua Elias
  • Photographer Julian Kingma

October 25th is a new date to add to your annual wine calendar. Internationally celebrated as World Champagne Day, the concept is an initiative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (“Comité”). The Comité protects and regulates the rights of the champagne region — it’s growers, houses and product. The success and allure of brand ‘champagne’ transcends wine as a category. As such the approach taken to the marketing and enjoyment of champagne are also quite unique.

Over the past thirty years the Comité has done an excellent job of proliferating knowledge around champagne — its production method, grape varieties and unique climate. The battle to ensure the term champagne is used correctly on wine labels continues and for the most part it is proving to be a success. Nevertheless, the increase in sparkling wine production from cool climate regions such as the United Kingdom, South Africa and Tasmania has shifted the education focus from the label back into the vineyard and winery. Though it is now commonplace for New World sparkling wines to be produced from the same method as champagne — a secondary fermentation in the bottle — the unique soils, climate and unparalleled stock of reserve wines continues to differentiate champagne from its new world counterparts.

The trade structure in champagne echoes that of movie production. There are the big houses — meticulously marketed, fastidiously manufactured and spectacularly iconic. There are the independent small growers — humble and earthy, eccentric in their winemaking and overwhelming in their generosity. There are the people in between — the importers, wholesalers, auctioneers and passionate personalities that dedicate their cellars, portfolios and knowledge to a complex wine from the French country-side.

In celebration of World Champagne Day Alquimie visited Hamilton Island for a Vogue Living dinner at Qualia luxury resort. The stunning lawns were styled by Megan Morton and complimented by the decorations of talented artist James Gordon. A truly unique sensory experience, the dinner was set on the waters edge — a stage that features the Australian Ballet amongst other high-profile events throughout the year. The clean flavours of executive chef Alastair Waddell played host to four champagnes of increasing intensity. The bracket of wines displayed diversity, intensity and complexity. A rewarding indulgence in surrounds befitting of the celebration — a celebration of champagne’s history, culture and quality.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve
A crisp and fresh start with notes of granny smith apple, lemon zest and green almond. There is a strong mineral backbone with a powerful and round shape to the acidity on the finish. Drink now –> 3 years.

Bollinger La Grande Annee 2004
A vinous wine that leads with notes of honeycomb, toffee, marmalade and orange zest. Rich autolytic notes of brioche are freshened by black berry fruit toward the finish. There are subtle gamey and smokey notes. Drink now–>5 years.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Millesime 2000*
The most developed wine of the line-up. Sugar frosting, marzipan and nougat aromas can be attributed to the time spent aging in bottle. The palate was surprisingly lively with notes of white peach and meyer lemon. Drink now –> 2 years.   

Piper-Heidsieck Rose’ Sauvage Brut NV*
The vibrant fuchsia colour of the wine alludes to a fuller bodied style of rose’ champagne. Heady spice such as musk and potpourri form part of an exotic aromatic profile. The sweeter notes of maraschino cherries and red liquorice are balanced by the chalky grip of tannin in the wine. Drink Now –> 5 years.

* The owner of Qualia Resort, Robert Oatley, is also the Australian importer of Charles Heidsieck and Piper-Heidsieck Champagnes.

This article was commissioned by the Hamilton Island Tourism.

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