“I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I’m not in a hurry and drink it when I am, otherwise I never touch the stuff unless I am thirsty.”
― Lily Bollinger
Oh wouldn’t we all like to live by this quote, especially the ladies who love their bubbly! But alas, most of us are not as fortunate as Lily Bollinger, a famous name in the male-dominated business of Champagne. She took over the Bollinger Champagne House after her husband’s death in 1941 & helped expand the business all over the world.
Earlier this week, a friend and I, attended a ‘Bubbly & Cake event hosted by the Savvy Sisters Wine Club and spent a very decadent evening in the company of some great bubbly (sparkling wine), delicious cakes and interesting women. In the course of the evening, we tasted 5 different sparkling wines, paired with not oysters, not salmon, but very inventively, with cakes! A combination many of us may not have imagined trying before.
Now the reason I am not referring to Champagne at all is because we didn’t have Champagne! Instead, we tried other sparkling wines. Not to forget, only the sparkling wine that comes from the French-region of Champagne can be called so. All other sparkling wines are – just sparkling wines (or bubbly)! However, region specific names are plentiful. The Italian bubbles are called Prosecco, Spanish ones are Cava which comes from Catalonia, the French sparkling wines from everywhere outside of Champagne are referred to as Cremant and so forth. While we usually have to pay a tidy sum for a bottle of French Champagne, its close counterparts – Prosecco & Cava can be bought at half the price and make for a happy occasion!
The evening began with a glass of the J C Le Roux Sauvignon Blanc – a dry yet fruity sparkling wine from the South African region of Stellenbosch. This was paired with some mini quiche and was the only non-sweet item that evening.
Next came the Italian Prosecco Brut, a very dry bubbly again. Our presenter, Junel Vermeulen, was really entertaining and kept us holding onto our stomachs with her witty anecdotes, had selected only the dry varieties as they would go best with the sweet sweet cakes. The Prosecco was paired with a French pistachio cake, layered with cream, with a hint of mint. Prosecco when mixed with some blue curacao makes for a lovely morning drink, on a hot summer day. And I tell you, its still really really hot in SA. Guess who needs to stock up the fridge!
Now as the evening progressed, with each successive glass of bubbly, the clamour of a room full of women increased manifold! Not to mention, the progressive decline of my mental capacity to listen AND remember the names of all the sparkles & cakes. So don’t hold it against me if the details on the rest of the wines are miniscule. After all, nothing should come between a woman and her bubbly.
The third bubbly was another South African sparkler called Paul René, from the Wonderfontein Wine Estate located outside Robertson. Paul René is a fairly young bubbly and just making its entry into the market. A little known secret is that its namesake, Paul René the baby, is also the newest addition to the Wonderfontein family, born in December 2013. Coming back to the wine, this was paired with not one, but two cakes because the presenter (ah darn the wine, I cannot remember her name!) could not decide which one was better suited. One was a poppy seed cake layered with cream and the other was a lemon cake. In my opinion, the lemon went better but the audience remained divided.
Then it was the turn of the Catalonian Cava. Another dry wine paired with a delicious red velvet cake. Now this is all I remember of this one! Except for the look of total horror on the face of a passing security guard, when he saw Junel and one of the other lady’s performing a ‘sabrage’ – which is the act of opening bottle of sparkling wine with a long saber or sword. And the bottle was pointing straight at him! It was a funny sight when the poor man ran for safety.
The last bubbly was the South African Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rose (woo hoo..I got the whole name…I wasn’t drunk after all!). This was paired with a decadent chocolate cake. Of the specific flavours I remember little – 2 hours of drinking can do this to most – other than the sweet taste of the cakes (to counter it I had to spend the night in bed with a box of Pringles) and the delicious bubbles, of which you can never get enough.