Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODDRINKING - MYRNA ROBINS

YOUR an­nual op­por­tu­nity to sip, sam­ple and com­pare more than 20 French Cham­pagnes un­der one roof is less than a week away – and three cou­ples can en­joy free en­try.

No mat­ter how good the bub­blies flow­ing from wine-pro­duc­ing coun­tries are, the French prod­ucts re­main aloof, main­tain­ing that air of lux­ury, magic and glam­our at which Gal­lic mar­keters ex­cel.

And many would agree that at its glo­ri­ous best, only Cham­pagne of­fers such a mix of vi­vac­ity, rich­ness and com­plex­ity, pre­ceded by an ar­ray of tan­ta­lis­ing aro­mas – while few other wines of­fer such a lift to the spir­its.

In or­der to be la­belled and sold as Cham­pagne, the con­tents of the bot­tle has to come from the north­ern prov­ince of that name, from where some 300 mil­lion bot­tles are pro­duced a year. More than 19 000 grow­ers over­see the pinot noir, pinot me­u­nier and chardon­nay vine­yards that make the clas­sic blend, of­ten drawn from more than one har­vest.

Of course, the French have had plenty of prac­tice – more than three- and- a- half cen­turies, ever since Bene­dic­tine monk Dom Pérignon, in charge of the cel­lars at Hautvil­lier Abbey, found a way to con­trol the sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion in the bot­tle. His sup­posed ex­cla­ma­tion – “Come quickly brothers, I am tast­ing stars” – makes an en­dur­ing and ap­peal­ing leg­end.

Wine Con­cepts is hold­ing its 12th Finer Things in Life Cham­pagne fes­ti­val on Fri­day at the Vine­yard Ho­tel in New­lands. Cu­vées from pre­mium and bou­tique Cham­pagne houses will be lined up and the la­bels will in­clude Tait­tinger, Lau­rent Per­rier, Pol Roger, Bollinger, Gos­set, Louis Roed­erer, Guy Chabaut, Bil­le­cart-Salmon and Ni­co­las Feuilatte. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing fare of oys­ters, sushi, rare cheese and fine choco­lates will be on sale. French mu­sic and clas­sic cars will add to the Gal­lic am­bi­ence. Dis­counted prices on sales will op­er­ate for the evening, and there are nu­mer­ous prizes to be won. Among th­ese is a prize for best-dressed cou­ple or per­son, with the theme of Moulin Rouge dic­tat­ing the cou­ture style. There is also a spe­cial deal for visi­tors opt­ing for din­ner, bed and break­fast at the ho­tel.

● Tick­ets cost R400 and can be bought from Wine Con­cepts stores, www.webtick­ or at the door. E- mail new­land­shop@ winecon­ for more in­for­ma­tion.

● There are three pairs of tick­ets wait­ing to be won by Weekend Ar­gus read­ers. To be in line to win a pair, send an e-mail to cor­lien@winecon­ by close of busi­ness on Tues­day. In­clude a day­time con­tact num­ber and put TGW/Cham­pagne fest in the sub­ject line. Win­ners will be phoned and their prize tick­ets will be at the door.

PER­FECT PAIR­ING: Rosy bub­bles and smoked salmon, a heavenly match.

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