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Bubbly border hopping – delivering The Bubbles Festival during a pandemic!

My name is Natalie Pickett, and many of you will know me as the Founder of The Bubbles Review and Creator of The Bubbles Festival. Recently, I have had the honour of being interviewed about The Bubbles Review in major publications in the USA (the links to the articles are at the end of this post), and I thought it would be a great idea to share some insight with you about where the idea for The Bubbles Review came from and a behind the scenes look at what it took to deliver the recent sold-out Bubbles Festivals across Australia in the middle of a global pandemic!

As a serial entrepreneur, I have founded multiple businesses, with both 6 and 7 figure success stories. I have had my share of triumphs and so called ‘failures’. After closing my travel company during the GFC, I established a successful consulting, mentoring and speaking business. I like to operate from my core values, one of which is ‘fun’, which we can forget to make a priority in business. I love being able to share this knowledge with others, to help them to take their business, and daily life, from surviving to thriving.

The Bubbles Review is my passion business. The ‘Aha!’ moment was a culmination of two things. The first was that I had always loved champagne and sparkling wine. For my 18th birthday I had a champagne luncheon. I love the stories, the romance, the glamour of it. 

The other ‘Aha!’ moment came to me at a marketing seminar when the presenter mentioned that because he had wine review websites, he claimed his wine purchases as a tax deduction. And at that moment, I knew my review blog would be about sparkling wine. Once I did the business case it was an easy ‘Yes!’, and I could incorporate my travel industry skills to run events and tours. Creating a business that means you get paid to drink champagne is awesome, and we’ve been listed in the top champagne blogs in different countries around the world, which is also pretty amazing!

The keys to success with each of my businesses is that they all come from my passion, my core values, and my desire to contribute and share my knowledge with others. When they become stressful, I remind myself that business and life is supposed to be fun. Our businesses should work for us, not the other way around.

I have purposely kept the pace of growth of this business at a level that doesn’t become overwhelming. This is important, because The Bubbles Review is my bubbly passion project. The number 1 priority is that it should be fun – for me, and everyone who shares the bubbly joy with me.

The idea for what has become our signature event – The Bubbles Festival – came to me in a meditation one morning, and I like to think that it was divinely inspired.  I mentioned it to a friend who owned an art space, and he was very enthusiastic and provided the venue free of charge so that I could deliver the inaugural The Bubbles Festival in April 2017. The first one was about testing to see if it was of interest – both for exhibitors to showcase their champagne and sparkling wine and ticket holders to the event. The inaugural Bubbles Festival (and a follow-up event in October 2017), received very positive feedback, with patrons giving the event 5 stars.

Postponing The Bubbles Festival in 2020 was incredibly disappointing, particularly because it was the first time that I was taking the event nationally. It was also very costly, as by the time restrictions on mass gatherings across the country were imposed, we’d already expended a lot of the advertising budget. I had appointed team members in other states to assist with set up and had paid deposits to venues. Moving the events meant that most of that expenditure was lost, except for the venues who were accommodating in finding solutions and refunding larger deposits. Not all venues managed this well, but most did.

Delivering The Bubbles Festival in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, and Perth in 2021 was no mean feat! The invitation for exhibitors was sent in February, which was later than usual, as I tried to forecast restrictions. We had some exhibitors who were still committed since 2020, as well as new wonderful exhibitors who enthusiastically signed up, but by March, restrictions were still fluctuating, so some were wanting to wait and see before committing.

Ticket holders, on the other hand, were ‘champing’ at the bit.  I think that having been under restrictions for so long, people were so happy to be out and about, meeting likeminded people and drinking bubbly. Almost every session was sold out, and in some locations, the whole event was sold out in a matter of weeks, and people were writing to me begging for tickets, and offering to pay more to attend.

I designed the event just like I would if I was arranging for people to come to my home. That’s why everything is included – a lovely glass, canapés, and a welcoming introduction on sparkling wine from me. Once people are at the event, they don’t need to keep paying for extras like more tastings or food – they just relax, mingle and enjoy the bubbly experience.

Anyone who has planned events before will know there are always challenges, but COVID added a whole new dimension. Capacity restrictions were moved up and down several times, and every state had their own version of conditions around public gatherings.

My experience of 30 years in travel and events gave me the confidence to be able to deliver, and Melbourne kicked off the series and was a great success. After achieving the record for the most locked down city in the world in 2020, people were excited to be out enjoying being social and drinking bubbles. It was so exciting to be hosting this event – a much needed and long overdue celebration!

“We had great fun and loved the available selection of French champagne and sparkling wines. The accompanying canapés were delicious too! Looking forward to attending future Bubbles Festivals.” ~ Leanne Turner

“Fun night out with friends who truly appreciate fine champagne and all things bubbly.” ~ Kate Cadet

“Great way to spend the afternoon!” ~ Rick McLeod

“A lovely way to spend a couple of hours trying and learning about the bubbles, the background to them, food pairing and meeting other like-minded souls.” ~ Janet MacLeish

“I love the evening. The only drawback was that I wish it was longer. In saying that, I would still come again and enjoy it just as much.  Thank you for a great night out!” ~ Betheia Lele

The next day, there were hints that Perth (the location for the event on the next weekend), may go into lockdown – and on Monday, the Western Australian (WA) Premier announced the restrictions. We could probably have proceeded, but everyone would need to be wearing masks, and from a safety point of view, you don’t want to put your patrons at risk and you certainly do not want your event to be listed as an exposure site. The difficult decision was made to move the Perth event forward at least 6 weeks to give time for the case numbers to go down and for restrictions around public gatherings to return to a point where the ticket holders in Perth could enjoy the event at its most celebratory.

As I was dealing with the date changes for Perth, and finalising post event activities for Melbourne, I received a message from a cousin of Michelle (our Sydney-based Event Manager), who was writing to advise me that Michelle had passed away suddenly from a heart attack. We were only 4 weeks out from the Sydney event and Michelle had been assisting us with preparations, including sourcing a new venue (the lovely RACA), student helpers and securing some late exhibitor sign ups. I had known Michelle for many years through our different roles in tourism. She was a consummate professional and beautiful soul. I was devasted for her husband and family, and I cried for days. The only good thing that came out of moving the dates of the Perth event, was that I was free to travel to Sydney to attend Michelle’s funeral later that week.

I had planned to stay overnight after Michelle’s funeral, but there were news reports of COVID infections and exposure sites in different parts of the city, including the area we were currently in for Michelle’s wake. There was an announcement that Sydney would enforce restrictions from 5pm that evening, and I realised that if I stayed, I would run the risk of having to quarantine when going back to Victoria, and therefore not be able to get to Brisbane and Adelaide for the next two events. I quickly changed my flight, said my goodbyes and headed for the airport. I made it safely back to Melbourne before any issues arose about having been in Sydney.

Our Brisbane Bubbles Festival was the next event, and although there were fluctuating concerns since a lockdown about a month prior (which prevented me from visiting for a pre-event site visit), we were safely able to proceed with Brisbane without too many disruptions. The event sold out within 2 weeks of the tickets being released. We had a waitlist and were eventually able to release more tickets to the waitlist as capacity restrictions were eased. Our WA exhibitors couldn’t travel to Queensland, as it was too risky for them to get caught in another state due to WA’s strict COVID border controls. We made arrangements to staff their stands, and the event was a great success with many people coming to thank me for arranging such a wonderful celebration during these incredibly challenging times.

“We really enjoyed our first Bubbles Festival event and would recommend it to our friends!” ~ Peta Shiels

“The Bubbles Festival was a welcome relaxed Evening. Informative as much as social and some wonderfully attired folks who made an effort which pairs with the Classic Architecture and history of the Building.” ~  Anya Slinn            

“A delightful sensation for the nose and palate.  Fabulous selection of Bubbly and Canapés to complement. I am also happy to say the wines I enjoyed most were both from Australian wine makers. Well done Natalie for a great event. See you at the next one 😘🤗🥂” ~ Jane Dewit

“Very well organised & great selection.” ~ Ingrid Ostbye

“A very bubbly evening thank you 🥂” ~ Kerrie Hodgson

“A wonderful way to taste some interesting bubbles from Australia and overseas.” ~ Peter Ryan

“I am so glad I found out about this event. If you get a chance to come and join in the future, do it. Meet new people learn more about bubbles. What more can I say!” ~ Loretta Carmichael

“A fabulous night in an amazing venue. It was a wonderful opportunity to discover some new sparkling wines complemented perfectly by the selection of canapés. Would definitely go again!” ~ Rachel Hodgson

“Fantastic night with great bubbles and canapes – learned a lot! Beautiful venue with views over the river and lights on the bridge added to the atmosphere.” ~ Debbie          

“My first experience and not my last. It was refreshingly educational, enjoyable and a wonderful way to start the weekend. Fantastic!” ~ Chris Hodgson

“A fun & educational event, can’t wait for the next one!” ~ Lesley Harris

Our next stop was Adelaide, and we were blessed with no major breakout. South Australian (SA) border restrictions were pretty risk adverse, so it was a bit touch and go. Victoria had recently recorded a few cases and SA had closed the border to anyone from Victoria who had been in an identified hotspot. Lucky for me, I had not. Arriving at Adelaide airport, I waited in a long queue as border officials checked entry permits on incoming flights from Victoria. The Adelaide event was sold out, and I had people writing to me begging for tickets and offering to pay more. Fortunately, due to the easing of some restrictions, we were able to release a small number of new tickets, which sold out in just two days!

“What a fabulous afternoon filled with quality bubbles – looking forward to the next one and bringing more friends along 🥂🥂🥂 – thanks Natalie 🥂” ~ Julie Johnston

 “A fun way to get together with friends and learn more about the art of Bubbles… with a great range of local produce all in one easy location.” ~  Sharon Gulley-Frith

“A great event showcasing local bubbles with comprehensive tasting notes and friendly producers. Well orchestrated- thank you.” ~ Sarah Vaile

“Great fun day with excellent bubbles!!” ~ Faye Lorain

“Just a great way to spend a few hours, delightful selection of sparkling with knowledgeable wine experts, some tasty nibbles and fun.” ~ Fiona Rich

“Bubbles, bubbles, much more than froth and trouble, even though too many could lead to it!” ~ Anita Zocchi                          

“Had a great time tasting different bubbles with friends!” ~ Amy Blackmore         

“Had a great time and the VIP experience was well worth it.  Would come again.” ~ Cheryl Lees

“The best educational tasting & girls day out I’ve been to in the city!” ~ Ashleigh

“Highly recommend the Bubbles festival. Went with 3 friends and had a ladies’ day out. Full of fun and met new people tasting many wines. Had a great day and can’t wait for the next one. “ ~ Sue Lushington               

“I would thoroughly recommend the bubbles festival to all my friends, I had a very enjoyable experience.”

As we moved through the series of Bubbles Festivals, I kept getting the feeling that everything would be okay. It was like we’d found this level of flow that was allowing us to gently navigate the challenges of the uncertainty of so many factors and conditions.

With Adelaide under our belts, I returned home to Melbourne. By this time, exposure sites were growing, and by Tuesday, one of the sites listed as a concern was the MCG during a crowded football match. SA had closed their border to all of Victoria, so we were lucky to have been able to hold the Adelaide event only days before. I was booked to fly to Sydney for our event that coming weekend, but looking like a lockdown could be imminent, I wondered if I should try to get on an earlier flight. I checked availability and there were seats, but at about 10 times the price I had paid. My flight was around 1.30pm the next day, and I decided it would be okay. It was totally nerve wracking waiting for the press conference as I prepared to leave for the airport. The Victorian Government announced that the state would go into the lockdown at 5pm that day. I checked the NSW response, and by that stage they hadn’t imposed any border restrictions for Victorians, but I wasn’t going to ‘count my chickens’ until I was through the arrivals lounge on the other side. I boarded my flight and hoped for the best. 

When we landed in Sydney, I checked my phone and there was a text from my mother saying “Are you there yet? You need to be in by 4pm!” It was just after 2.30pm, so I was there just in time to avoid the ‘stay at home’ orders that were being imposed on anyone arriving from Victoria. The Sydney event was another success, with two sold out sessions. We received glowing reviews and the event was lots of fun. 

“What a fabulous way to spend two hours, educational and fun. Can’t wait till next time.” ~ Simone Messenger

“All the suppliers were very knowledgeable and accommodating. Tasting notes help you to remember who had which wine. Loved it all!!” ~ Johanne Champness

“What a fabulous event!! So happy get on board with this event!! Do yourself a favour – get out of your comfort zone of sparkling wine & champagne & go to The Bubbles Festival!!! You will be surprised & amazed!!” ~ Corinne Layton

“It was a great event and I highly recommend you catch the next one. The sooner the better!!” ~ Peter Robert Tuckey

“For a night of “Bubbles”, friends and a bit of learning too, this is a fun event to attend. We shall return. Thank you Natalie!” ~ Melinda Baderski

“A fabulous event! Natalie was a wonderful host, taking us through the art of tasting and finding our own ‘happy place’.” ~ Erin Noordeloos

“What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. See you next year.” ~ Janet Green

In the days after my arrival, I realised that returning home to Victoria (which was now in lockdown with an ever-growing list of COVID exposure sites), would risk the upcoming Perth event. The WA government had already closed the border to anyone arriving from Victoria, or who had been in Victoria during the dates of the outbreak, which was eventually changed to been in Victoria within 14 days of arrival.

An array of different logistical options were running around my head! ‘Should I stay, or should I go?’ The Perth event was 4 weeks away, and it was possible that things could clear in Victoria before the event – but it was a risk, and one that I wanted to mitigate. Having already postponed the event from 2020 to 2021, and then having to move it again only a few weeks ago, I wanted to do whatever I could to ensure that the event would run. I had some loyal and patient ticket holders who were still holding tickets from our pre-sales in late 2019. I didn’t want to move the event again. Yes, it was possible it could be run without me if I found someone locally to do it, but that wasn’t ideal because my followers were expecting me to be there.

I researched all the different state border options, looking for the best way to get to WA. Counting out days on the calendar, it worked out that I had exactly enough days to spend 14 days in NSW, which at this stage was mainly clear of COVID, to then arrive in WA with 14 days clear in case I needed to quarantine on arrival. If NSW stayed with low or no COVID cases, the plan would work. I cancelled and changed flight bookings. I had only packed for a few days in Sydney, so I shopped for essentials and my daughter kindly sent me some extra clothing from our home.

While I could have stayed in Sydney for the rest of the 14 days, I decided to see if Byron Bay was an option. I could rent an Airbnb room and have a nice time catching up with friends. I checked flights and they were available and cheap. If I was going to need to work remotely, then I would choose some special places to work from. As soon as I arrived in Byron, I knew I had made the right choice – I could feel the stress of the past few weeks just drift away.

I arrived back in Sydney the night before my flight to Perth and stayed at an airport hotel. Having done the amount of work I had done to be able to arrive safely in time for the Perth event, I didn’t want to take any risks of missed connections! Everything was looking fine for me to arrive without needing to quarantine, but I was still apprehensive about what would happen on arrival. After touchdown, we were advised that we would need to wait on board until the WA Police were available to meet the flight. We needed to have our border passes ready to be viewed, and there were signs to inform us to have our hands free so that we could be sanitised before proceeding.

At the head of the queue, there were two people in full PPE gowns, masks, and face shields – one person to take our temperature, and one to spray our hands with sanitizer. Once that was done, we visited a cubicle to respond to a police officer asking questions. I was incredibly relieved to be given the ‘all clear’ – free to enter the state and no quarantine!

I had a pre-event site inspection of the venue booked for that afternoon, and then I was also free to enjoy the rest of my plans, which were to travel to Broome the following day to stay at my Mum’s place. The irony was that she had travelled to Melbourne for her sister’s 80th birthday on the day that I flew into Sydney. She was now stranded in Melbourne, because even as a resident she was unable to return home to Broome without a 14-day quarantine period in Perth. While it was disappointing that I wouldn’t be able to spend some time with my Mum, if I needed to be working remotely, I was going to make the most of it. One of my clients had called my efforts ‘an odyssey’, and I agreed with that very apt description of the adventure I was on!

My dear friend Jane, who had been managing the door at the events, lives in northern NSW, and although NSW had remained a very low risk category, there were new cases starting to be recorded. I had become very good at predicting what would happen with restrictions and border closures, so Jane and I discussed options that would still allow her to make it into WA for the Perth event. I suggested that we book her onto a direct flight from Sydney to Broome the next day, but there were none. I knew that every passing day would mean an increase in cases in NSW and possible closure of the WA border to any arrivals from that state.

The new plan was to have Jane arrive in Perth early. By this stage the travel budget had been well and truly blown, so although it would mean a few extra nights’ accommodation, it would still be better than me trying to find and train extra staff only days before the event. Jane managed to get a booking to travel on the Monday to Perth. The WA border was still open but was changing whilst people were mid-air enroute, with an extra restriction for NSW arrivals – which was get a COVID test on arrival and isolate until getting a negative test result. There was a chance that the border would close or a 14-day quarantine period would be imposed, which would make her arrival obsolete as she wouldn’t be able to work at the event. We enquired about the alternative, which would mean Jane having to return to NSW on the next flight back. She was bringing the banners and some other event supplies and having already changed flights several times, it was now a very expensive airfare. We did joke about how expensive that would make it for just delivering the banners if she was to be turned away. But make it in she did, and the border closed to NSW arrivals the following day.

The Perth Bubbles Festival was another great, sold-out success. We received so many wonderful comments, and some of them were so lovely, that in my state of post-event series exhaustion they brought a tear to my eye. We’d done it! Five sell out events across the country, border hopping like fugitives, and working every angle or option to be able to deliver.

“It was a fun time and definitely recommend 💕” ~ Veronique Shepherd

“This is such a fantastic event; for those who truly love their bubbles and want to experience some that they wouldn’t ordinarily try.  Natalie is so knowledgeable!” ~ Kelly

“Best two hours of fun I’ve had for a long time and it was great to share it with friends and other lovely attendees 😊” ~ Marla Reid

“Thank you Natalie for organising a wonderful event.  It was an absolutely wonderful event and glad we held onto our tickets.  Third time we got there.  The atmosphere was awesome and got to chat to lovely fellow guests and exhibitors and of course the sparkling wines and Champagnes were fantastic.  Thanks again, looking forward to the next event.” ~ Jo-anne Kramer

“Thank you for bringing to WA a unique experience for the bubbly lovers. Having a very knowledgeable and passionate presenter-founder made the experience that extra bit more enjoyable. I look forward to the next one.” ~ Brenda Fenerty

“Fantastic night with many and varied bubbles from which to choose paired with a delicious grazing board! Well done 👍” ~ Allison Pivac     

“A well organised event with some fantastic sparklings showcased.” Louize Kang

“This was my first time at a Bubbles Festival and it was fabulous. I will definitely be back and so will my friends!” ~ Ceri Writer

“My Friend and I have a Fabulous afternoon as VIPs, the tastings were generous the Grazing table spectacular …. We are excited to attend any future events and have a few friends who are very keen to come with us.  An exceptional day which was enjoyable and extremely informative.” ~  Logan Nicholson

“The Bubbles Festival is a well organized fun event that is not only informative but great value for money.” ~ Ina Boxshall

“What a fabulous afternoon to enjoy with friends and to sample some amazing BUBBLES from our regions within Australia cannot wait for the next experience.” ~ Leonie Spencer

“Had a great evening at The Bubbles Festival and would recommend going to The Bubbles Review’s events!” ~ Monicka McDonough

“I thought I couldn’t love bubbles any more but I was wrong!! This experience was second to none! A classy yet relaxed vibe with access to all the best, new, interesting and popular bubbles, some of which were completely new to me. The VIP experience was to die for, a great privilege. Congratulations to Natalie and her team for putting this together in today’s climate. A true testament to her love of bubbles and a phenomenal way to share it with the country! I will definitely be on the lookout for the next event!!” ~ Jana Bartecki

“Thanks to Natalie, Jane and the WA team for such an amazing evening. Covid had delayed me enjoying my 2020 Mother’s Day gift until now. Totally worth the wait and can’t wait to partake in the next event. Thank you again & keep up the great bubbly work!!” ~ Isla Ferrarotto          

“Fabulous afternoon out at a boutique feeling event. Lovely champers and sparkling wines. We really enjoyed it, thank you for persisting in trying to stage it!!”

“A great afternoon with the chance to mingle with likeminded bubbly lovers. A fun afternoon full of great sparkling on offer thank you!” ~ Brooke O’Donnell

We’d planned to have some time in Perth on the Sunday before returning home on Monday. We were relaxing at the Fremantle markets on the Sunday morning when we were told that Perth was going into restrictions by midday that day. Venue capacities would be reduced, and masks were mandatory indoors. We had delivered the Perth event just in time! Perth would then declare a lockdown commencing later that day, and the Victorian Government declared Perth a medium risk zone. Upon my return to Melbourne, I was (perhaps ironically) required to get a COVID test and isolate. It didn’t matter, I was happy to be home. I joke that one of the things that I have collected in 2021 is the QR check in apps for almost all the states of Australia!

I feel very blessed that we were able to hold the national series of Bubbles Festivals. I did have plans for some smaller events and tours in the later part of this year, but it’s September and Melbourne is back in lockdown. Sydney is too. It is unlikely that there will be opportunities for events for the rest of the year, but I remain hopeful that we will get a clear run for 2022. The plan is to take The Bubbles Festival to more locations in Australia, and eventually New Zealand, the USA and UK. I am also optimistic that we may even be able to hold our tour to Champagne in 2022, but perhaps that will be 2023.

Whilst working remotely in Broome, I had seen an opportunity to be a co-author in a book that was being published in the USA – Becoming an Unstoppable Woman! I submitted an application and at my interview, they asked me to tell them a bit about myself. I said ‘Sure. Let me tell you about my latest unstoppable story!’ I shared the story of being able to deliver all of these events during a pandemic, border closures, and snap lockdowns. It was definitely an example of being unstoppable. I was accepted and went on to create my chapter called ‘Living the Dream’, which is all about my career as an entrepreneur and business mentor, on overcoming adversity, with a focus on savouring life’s precious moments. The book was released in September and is now an international best-seller. It has also led to several articles published in the US media on my business success and how I created The Bubbles Review. There’s no stopping a woman on a bubbly mission! Cheers!

Get tickets for The Bubbles Festival 2022 on this special pre-sale here.

You may also like these articles

 Natalie Pickett: From Avocation To Vocation; How I Turned My Hobby Into A Career | by Penny Bauder | Authority Magazine | Sep, 2021 | Medium

Natalie Pickett: Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life | by Pirie Jones Grossman | Authority Magazine | Sep, 2021 | Medium

Purchase link for the Becoming an Unstoppable Woman book- Natalie Pickett | She Rises Book Pre-Order (sherisesstudios.com)

Join me on 27 October for a virtual bubbly book reading – the ‘unstoppable’ bubbly book club event. Get your tickets here

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will get first look at our events, (including exclusive subscriber pre-sales), and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Cheers to your good health!

I’ve been thinking of the origins of ‘Bless you’ recently.  As we are facing a global pandemic, I was reminded about my time as a tour leader in Europe, and the story I used to tell our guests about where the phrase comes from. The phrase ‘God bless you’ is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who uttered it in the sixth century during a bubonic plague epidemic. Whenever someone sneezed, which was an obvious symptom of the plague, people would bless them in the hope that they remained in good health. The exchangeable German term ‘gesundheit’ literally means ‘health’. It is interesting that this term has endured all of this time, and is so very relevant for us all today.

The drinking party, in one form or another, has been around for thousands of years, and I wanted to explore the origins of how we use the occasion of getting together to drink bubbles, with toasting to the good health of our companions.

Historians guess that the toast most likely originated with the Greek libation, the custom of pouring out a portion of one’s drink in honour of the Gods. And yes, there were even gods of wine! The Greek God, Dionysus or Dionysos, known as Bacchus to the Romans, is the God of the vine, grape-harvest, wine-making, wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre.

From there, it was an easy step to offering a drink in honour of one’s companions.

Early medieval Anglo-Saxon feasts featured round-bottomed drinking glasses, designed to be emptied, since they could not be set down without spilling them. Guests drained their cups and then turned them upside-down on the table. This is most likely where the tradition of ‘bottoms up!’ comes from. Around the same time, the Saxon word ‘waes hael!’ (‘Good health!’), has been noted in history books.

The term ‘toast’ – as in drinking to someone’s health – comes from a literal piece of spiced or charred toast, which was dropped in a cup or bowl of wine, either as form of food or perhaps to make the wine taste better. Shakespeare mentions this in The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which Falstaff calls for a quart of spiced wine, then adds “Put a toast in it.” By the 18th century, the term ‘toast’ had been transferred from the floating bread, to the person honoured by the toast, and those who were very popular became known as the ‘toast of the town.’

It seems that the ‘bottoms up’ tradition of toasting was a common practice in many countries, but it was not one that everyone appreciated. The first temperance society, the Order of Temperance, established in Germany in 1517, was dedicated to abolishing toasts. Louis XIV banned toasting at his court, and in 1634, Massachusetts banned the ‘abominable’ custom of drinking to another’s health.

Eventually, in polite society, one no longer had to guzzle an entire wine glass for each proposed toast; a sip was considered plenty.

There are a few theories about the clinking of the glasses. One of these is to engage all the senses by adding the sound of clinking glassware. Some say it was to ward off evil spirits, while raising the glass may relate back to the raising of wine to the gods.

When I worked in Switzerland, we would take our guests for a fondue dinner and I would introduce the local custom of saying ‘cheers’ whilst looking your companions in the eye. If you did not make eye contact, you were considered untrustworthy. This custom is not unique to the Swiss, as there is also the tradition of drinking before or after battle and celebrating with friends and foes, and the need for eye contact to prove your trustworthiness.

In English we say ‘cheers!’, and often toast to people’s good health. The word ‘cheers’ comes from the Anglo-French of medieval times, ‘cheres’ meaning ‘face’, or the Old French ‘chiere’ for ‘expression’. It evolved to signify the mood shown on one’s face when happy. By the 1800s, saying ‘cheers’ came to represent gladness, or to show support or encouragement.

We shared information on our social media recently about how drinking champagne may help boost your immune system. In moderation of course, and not to be taken as medical advice!

So here’s cheers to your bubbly good health!

Here’s what they say to ‘toast’ to good health in other countries:

French – Santé (pronounced Son tay) or votre santé – good health or to your good health

Italian – Salute (prounounced Salut ay) – cheers, bless you, to good health

Spanish – Salud – (pronounced Salude) – cheers, bless you, to good health

German – Prost (from the latin prodesse – to be beneficial) or gesundheit – good health

Afrikaans – Gesondheid – good health

Scottish, Irish Gaelic – Sláinte (pronounced slawn-cha) – ‘to your health’ and is from the root ‘slán’ defined as ‘healthy’

Danish, Swedish and Norwegian – Skål – (pronounced Skoal) – ‘to your health’ or ‘bottoms up’

Finnish – Kippis – comes from an expression – to tilt glasses

Chinese – gānbēi! – literally means dry cup – ‘bottoms up’

How do you say cheers?

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will get first look at our events, (including exclusive subscriber pre-sales), and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

How to choose the right glassware for your bubbles?

Champagne and sparkling wine is synonymous with celebration, and what better time to be celebrating than with friends and family over Christmas?

Champagne is often served as an aperitif or for a toast. As you may have read here before, it can definitely be served throughout all courses. Perfect for an Aussie Christmas, champagne pairs especially well with seafood, and choose a traditional blend including red fruit, or a Blanc de Noirs, or Rosé with the more robust main course flavours of ham and turkey. Those of you who love a sparkling red may choose to include this in your line-up.

Now that we have the wine sorted, which glass should we use to serve? 

There is the champagne coupe or saucer glass. Legend has it the shape of the coupe was modelled on the left breast of the French Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI of France, but it seems that the glass was designed in England over a century earlier especially for sparkling wine and champagne in 1663. The coupe was fashionable in France from its introduction in the 1700s until the 1970s, and in the US, and Australia from the 1930s to the 1980s. The coupe had a revisit a few years ago, with a bit of Art Deco, Great Gatsby-inspired frivolity. Perfect to build a champagne tower, they are lots of fun, but not very practical. Apart from making it easy to spill, the glass is very wide creating a large surface area for the wine, with an open rim, which means that the bubbles dissipate very quickly.

Then there is the champagne flute. The skinny flute, designed to accentuate the view of the bubbles as they rise up in the glass, has definitely dominated the glassware served for the past 30 years or so. These glasses make it lot easier to serve, you can fit many more on a tray than the coupe, and you are less likely to spill your drink. But, you may be surprised to discover, this is not the best glass to be using.

If you visit the Champagne region, you will find that many restaurants will serve champagne in a white wine glass. This may seem strange at first, but a good exercise to try at home is; pour half of your glass of bubbles into a skinny flute, and half into a white wine glass. Taste a few sips from the skinny flute, then try it from the wine glass. Take time to explore the aromas and taste. Most likely, it will taste like a different wine. This is because to truly appreciate a good wine, you need to take in all of the senses: the look, the aroma, the feel and taste.

The skinny flute presents champagne as one-dimensional, because you can’t get your nose into the glass to get the full wine experience. It also concentrates the bubbles and in trying to get the aromas you’ll often get a nose full of fizz and acidity instead.

This presented a challenge, as part of the fun of having bubbles is the special glass. Onto the scene comes a wider tulip or egg-shaped flute; a sort of hybrid of flute and standard white wine glass with a wider middle that tapers at the top. This allows for a wine lover’s ability to appreciate the full range of aromas. This is still a beautiful stylish glass, but let’s you take in the full appreciation of the wine.

I’ve read that the tulip style has origins from the Sommelier at Les Crayères restaurant in Reims, who didn’t like serving top champagnes in a flute. He is said to have worked with glass makers Lehmann glass to develop an elongated glass, rounded in the middle and tapering towards the top wider flute.

This as a superior shape has been confirmed by science, with Gérard Liger-Belair, a physicist at the University of Reims, stating that ‘the spherical shape of the glass, which also encourages vertical movement, respects the role of the mousse’. 

The RIEDEL brand known for innovation and design, and an industry leader in the introduction of grape-varietal-specific stemware in the 1980s, has also collaborated with some of the top champagne houses to create bespoke glasses tailored to their specific wines.

Each bubble carries aroma to the surface. The RIEDEL glasses are designed to provide a ‘progressive extension along the curve of the glass which favours first a gradual then a stretched ascent, allowing each bubble to burst at the widest point to free its flavours and express aromatic subtlety’.

A champagne glass should be clear, not coloured or engraved with fancy design, so we can assess the wine’s clarity, colour and bubbles.

I’ve also noticed a recent trend of stemless glassware. Whilst this might be a nice casual style for other wines, it is a no for bubbles. We hold the glass by the stem, so that the heat from our hands doesn’t warm the wine, and greasy fingerprints don’t obscure the wine’s colour. Perhaps I need therapy, but I must admit I have to look away when I see friends holding their glass by the bowl and not the stem, as I can’t bear to watch. Note to my family coming over for Christmas!

When I present tips on how to taste bubbles at our events, I always remind people to hold their glass by the stem, and also that there is no need to swirl the glass (to get air and aroma). When tasting bubbles, the bubbles will bring out the aromas out for you.

Some wine writers are asking ‘Should champagne flutes be outlawed?’ I think this might be a bit extreme, but I do agree, my preference for good quality bubbles is to serve them in a wider flute or white wine glass.

Most important though, is the joy of sharing bubbles with friends and family. Find the best glass you can, raise it and say cheers!

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

You may also like these blogs:

We are very excited to have RIEDEL glassware as our giveaway partner this December, and our glassware provider for The Bubbles Festival. 

Our subscriber giveaway which is the Extreme Rosé / Champagne glass twin pack (RRP$59.95) will be drawn on 13 December 2019.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is RIEDEL-Extreme-glass-giveway-FB.jpg

The Extreme Rosé/Champagne Glass is perfect for developing and displaying champagne’s complex characteristics. This glass allows the wide range of aromatics to unfold thanks to its egg-shaped design, with the larger rim diameter enabling them to be released in a way which is not achieved with a narrow glass.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will get first look at our events, (including exclusive subscriber pre-sales), and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Why is champagne so expensive?

Or is it? It definitely feels luxurious as you are sipping it.

Let’s compare, a 2015 bottle of Grange is currently selling for around $900. It is not ready to drink yet, Penfolds suggest the recommended cellaring is 2022 – 2050.

For champagne, a bottle of 2008 (a very good year in Champagne) Dom Perignon is currently around $250, Cristal 2009 (also a good year) $390, Moët et Chandon 2009 is on sale for $90. To buy the equivalents from Burgundy or Bordeaux you would need to pay about 20 times this. For an Australian comparison, the 2008 Arras Grand Vintage, this highly awarded Tasmanian sparkling has won multiple awards including Gold at the Champagne and Sparkling World Championships, has a recommended retail price of $84. It has been aged for more than 7 years before release and it is ready to drink now.

In champagne and sparkling descriptions, you’ll see, aged on lees for a certain amount of years or how many years of tirage.  This is describing how many years the wine has been in the second fermentation stage (which also creates the bubbles), stored in bottles in the winemaker’s cellar. 

In Champagne a Non-Vintage must be aged for a minimum of 15 months and a Vintage must be aged for a minimum of 3 years, although many houses will age their wines much longer than this at around 3 years for NV and 5-10 years for a Vintage champagne.

That is a huge amount of capital sitting in the cellar, waiting for a return on investment.  Forget bank vaults of gold, the underground cellars of Epernay and Reims are holding millions of dollars of liquid gold. Champagne currently has around 1.5 billion bottles stockpiled, which will remain in waiting for an average of more than 4.5 years. It is an investment in quality and delivery of a ready to drink product. Aside from fortified wines, champagne is the only prestige wine that is sold already matured to its prime, so there is no need to cellar it (although you might decide to with a good vintage), it is ready to drink straight away.

Champagne production is labour intensive. According to the rules governing production, all grapes must be picked by hand and there is a limit on the amount of yield per harvest. This contributes to Champagne being the highest grape price in the world, with prices increasing around 60% over the last 15 years. By comparison the price of champagne has risen less than 15% in a decade, and with greater choice and volume coming to the Australian market there are some absolute bargains to be found.

To create champagne the production process is complex, and more time-consuming than any other in the wine world. A sparkling wine made in the traditional method is similar, yes there are cheaper methods for creating bubbles, either second fermentation in tanks, or by just adding Co2 to make bubbles in a very cheap wine.  But, if we are comparing apples with apples, or should I say grapes with grapes, compared to other wine styles, champagne and traditional method (methode traditionelle) sparklings are the best value wines around.

When you add in the skills and passion of the wine making team, I like to think about drinking champagne as similar to admiring a wonderful piece of art. 

Surely it is the closest thing on earth to liquid gold, at a fraction of the price! Remember this next time you are sipping bubbles.

Cheers!

Like to join us in Champagne to tour the cellars in Epernay and Reims? See our Events and Tours page.

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

You may also like these blogs:

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will get first look at our events, (including exclusive subscriber pre-sales), and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Big, bold and bubbly!

Do you love Sparkling Red wine?

As we discovered in my recent blog on rosé, there is no such thing as a red champagne (a rosé but not a red), but there are sparkling reds from other parts of the world made with all kinds of red grape varieties.

Sparkling red wines begin their life in the same way as still reds, fermented on skins to extract colour, flavour and tannin. The finest are then privileged to méthode traditionnelle, although transfer, charmat or carbonation methods for cheaper wines can also be used.

In Australia, a Sparkling Shiraz is loved by many. I recently confessed to my fellow bubbly enthusiasts that I do love a sparkling rosé, but I am not a lover of sparkling reds.  I realise that is un-Australian, and wondered if there were others that shared my view?  So, I put it out there and sent a survey to our list, and oh my, what a flurry of passionate responses!

Although there are no precise records, it seems that the tradition of Aussie sparkling reds can be attributed to Charles Pierlot a winemaker from Champagne who was employed at Hans Irvine’s Great Western cellars. He experimented with making some of Australia’s first ‘sparkling burgundy’ wines in 1893. More than 125 years later, this legacy continues with Seppelt and other Aussie producers now known as makers of some of the world’s finest bubbly reds.

I do love the change of seasons, the cooler nights, which go so well with hearty food, casseroles and rich flavoured meals. As we are in the cooler months here in Australia, perhaps a long weekend lunch (or brekkie as one of our readers suggested!) or an evening meal, with a sparkling rosé or red might be the perfect bubbly match for your Autumn and Winter dining.

Here are the results to our bubbly red questions:

We asked ~ What do you like, love or dislike about sparkling reds?

Here are your comments:

Tracey A great full-bodied alternative to
sparkling whites.
Lynn Cannot drink still or sparkling red wines … bad reaction
Rhonda I like sparkling reds more with
heavier foods, so more in the
colder months, however I did have a
couple of nice cold refreshing red
bubbles over summer. It’s nice
to be able to have a choice and
some variety.
Kaye Harris Love the earthiness of Grampians
Estate sparkling red from their
Great Western block victoria
Mandy P. Some of the sparkling reds can be a bit
heavy.
Barbara Kahi I think it is an acquired taste.  Not great availability where I live. Need to find a
friend to share a bottle.  
My wine drinking friend lives in
NZ and I live on the Gold Coast.  
Maybe share with my brother in
law who likes to chill his red wines.
Cassie Maywald I don’t like red wine and relate
similar taste to this I think. I also
don’t want to risk buying a
sparkling red only to be
disappointed and
wished I stuck to my champagne.
  I like sparkling reds as they feel more
celebratory than a still wine.  Rose
is my favourite at present
Karen Nicol I adore red wine, but what could be
better than red wine with bubbles!
Sandy Love the fresh bubbly berry tastes
Robyn Naughton They have just a different texture and
flavour
Donna Maloney Love the taste, goes well with food from chilli chocolate to duck to
dumplings. It looks festive and
bubbles are always wonderful.
Louise Love Sparkling Merlot & Shiraz.  I
believe they are like a truth serum!
  Either summer or winter I
absolutely love a chilled sparkling
red.  So full of flavour
Carol I like them as a yummy alternative
to
sparkling white. There are some
lovely Victorian ones from up
Rutherglen way.   They also go well with cheese at the end of a meal. 
Michelle 🙂 They do not have the same
crispness and are not as refreshing
  I enjoy sparkling white wine
personally and sparkling red is
something I can only drink in small
amounts, not as enjoyable.
Susanne Meier I love the marriage of red and
bubbles. The bubbles totally
change the nature of reds. Versatile food pairings in cooler temps.
  The bubbles, and the sensation of

drinking sparkling red
Jan Martin I like red wine and love bubbles! A great combo and a Christmas
tradition!
Marg Drinks well while eating cheese
and sometimes l prefer a sparkling red
instead of a heavy red.
  You still have bubbles but with a
heavier meal.
I leave in North East Vic and we
have a few great reds that are
great sparkling wines
Megan I don’t drink red wine, so If I try a
sparkling red, I just find it too
heavy.
Nicole Olbourne The flavour profile is just all
wrong when it’s a sparkling.
Maybe it’s the tannins but it’s just
yuck!!
Kate The delight the bubbles add to the red
experience.
Sue Hobbs Too fruity. It’s like fizzy cordial
Heather They are very different I wouldn’t drink a still red if you paid me
Lyn D Not really a lover of reds sparkly or still
Beverley Monley I don’t like as I just think a full
bodied Red with bubbles just isn’t
right & I just don’t like the taste.
Mel I don’t like cheap sparkling reds as they are sweet and horrible, but
good quality wines have richness,
good dark fruits and savoury notes and
complementary sweetness. I
love them mainly in the warmer
weather, especially at Christmas,
but happy to have in cooler
weather as an aperitif too.
Shauna I love a true Lambrusco that has a slight sparkle to it. 
Particularly in winter.
Zoe I mainly drink Shiraz so a sparkling red is a bit of fun.
Mel Butler They tend to be too heavy and
sweet. I like my sparkling wine dry and
light, crisp and favoured in
warmer weather.
Lee Any sparkly wine that’s not too
sweet is great.
  The benefits of drinking a lovely
full bodied red with the all
important bubbles.
Michelle I don’t mind the occasional one but

some are too sweet and I prefer
still red.
Meryl Not fond of red. Will drink it if I
have to, but not
my preferred tipple.
Sofie I just don’t drink red wines and
the bubbles do nothing to
change my mind or enhance
the flavour.
Dr Annetta Mallon Often they are too bold, heavy, or
just ‘too much’. I generally prefer
sparkling white and rose.
Carol Embleton It doesn’t have the same fresh taste as
my usual bubbles. I only like still
full bodies red wines. There is just something that doesn’t blend with my taste
buds about sparkling red.
Karen I have just never been a lover of
red wine
Sherryn Absolutely love the depth of
flavour in a decent sparkling red
Jane Symes Love red wine sparkling or not,
turning to the dark side after years of
white wine, red just better.
Leanne Bruce There are some great sparkling
reds and it is a drink I enjoy in
winter as I love my bubbles 🙂
  I find them too heavy to drink
  I can’t really comment as I have
only had limited tries.
Tanina I love red wine, however I’ve
never found one Sparkling
red I’ve ever liked, it’s
something about the taste, it
just doesn’t taste like a red, they
also can be tricky to open
and fly out the bottle
when opening, be careful
you don’t get covered
in it!
Georgia A really good sparkling red is an
experience you rarely have when
drinking anything ‘bubbly’. It has a zest and vibrancy that is exciting
and really let’s you appreciate the
red variety it has come from.
Loretta Wellman I get drunk very quickly with
sparkling red yet I can drink a
bottle or two of champagne and
I’m just HAPPY!!!!!
Chanel I am not a fan of sparkling reds, I
think the whole attraction to a red
is the temperature and thick
feeling and the sparkling seems
to take that away. Having said this, I am open to the idea of a
sparkling red and will keep
taste testing them at wineries as
you never know I
might change my mind.
Anne Mac Prefer still reds
Ann I love the rich red colour and
jammy berry taste. Even chilled it’s a
winter warmer for me
Wendy McCullough They are good when you only want to
have just one glass of bubbles.
For instance, tonight my partner
wants to celebrate a small win. I
don’t want to drink a full bottle (which I will do if I open white or
rose sparkling) so a sparkling red
will ensure I just have one, ok, two. I
don’t drink the flat reds or whites.
  Feels too heavy.
Debs They seem to affect me a lot
quicker – heavier to drink!
Pauline Lang I don’t have them often but as long as it
is not sweet ok.
Katherine Bit too big for my liking. It’s a bit
like drinking a bubbly shiraz.
Denis Zaruba I’m French and for me the only
reason why Australians created
sparkling reds is to have it on very hot
days (30 + degrees) and it’s not at
all as fine as champagne is. It’s
overpowering!!
Nicole I think they are too heavy
  Not quite as bubbly as champagne but
brings out special flavour of the
red….still prefer still red though.
Carmela Dimattia Cannot be sweet so I like my reds
a little drier
  Too strong
Carolena Boyd I really like the boldness of a good red – combined with the bubbles.
  Prefer sparkling white or rose,
rarely drink any red wine at all.
Anna Buddee Just love the rich heady aroma of
the bubbly sparkling reds!
Pam I enjoy drinking sparkling red on a hot
day, usually with a cheese
board, for something different.
Sharon Some are amazing and others too heavy. I’ll try any wine once but
sparkling reds make me a bit picky
Wendy A little more full bodied than
normal sparkles.
Michael Potter I’ve never found one yet that I can drink. The flavour isn’t my cup of
tea… or glass of wine.
Isa I just prefer a flat red or a white
sparkling. I don’t like the taste of a
sparkling red
Megan Deves I love a little more full flavour
sometimes when I’m craving a
sparkling
Vicki W Not a red wine drinker whether
still or bubbly…I dont mind rose
but anything heavier is not my
style.
Cheryl Some time you need a red and I
don’t do plain reds but with a steak or a bbq a sparkling red goes down well.
  I don’t love red wine as much as I
love white wine. And sparkling red is
just so foreign and unappealing
to me
  I don’t mind a light red sparkling but if
it’s too heavy I don’t like it at all.
Anitra I used to enjoy them 15-20 years
ago but don’t any more. I think my
palate is more discerning these
days.
  I enjoy sparkling wines and also
red wine so being red & sparkling
is a nice change
Lynda Doncaster Better than champagne or a glass
of red as combines both!!
Karla They’re great. So much depth of
flavour for when you have a hot
meal and/or cold weather.
Ainsley The rich colour, all the big
red-wine flavours combined with
the mousse mouthfeel of bubbles –
it’s a winner for me. I prefer a
sparkling red to a still as the
bubbles seem to lighten the wine a bit?
Karen Brus Love it in winter, a different take on a
still red. My hubby loves
sharing a bottle with me.
Lucy They taste wrong. You lose the
depth of a good, still red wine and
the sparklings don’t have the
vivacity of a good sparkling white.
Cheryl Bisi Reds just aren’t meant to be
sparkling! Reds are a ‘heavier’
type of wine that does not suit the
light nature of a sparkling wine
in my view.
Suzanne Adair Red is red and bubbles are white
and pink
Chris Bubbles
Jane Ross As long as they’re not too sweet. 
Sparkling red is the bomb! Love it
Wendy Hills We only drink them in winter as
a refreshing drink, not a serious
wine if that makes sense.
Lisa Cicchine I love the intensity of Sparkling
reds
Mark It just tastes wrong – a fad that
needs to die!
Chris Well it is sparkling, so I have to
love it. Not a big red wine
drinker, prefer bubbles, so this
is a fabulous way to get all those
red wine “health benefits ” !
Fiona McL I have a local favourite that I just
find easy & comforting to drink
  Sparkling reds are too heavy
for me
Pene Kats I quite like Lambrusco.
It’s an Italian wine that is slightly
sparkling and has a pleasing, deep,
fruity flavour.

Make sure you invest in a decent
label though, this wine is not good when it’s cheap. Brown Brothers
do a nice one for between $10.00
to $20.00 (I cant remember
exactly!).
Make sure you drink this cold!
Simon Deep rich sparkling wine with a
flavour which complements many
foods
Dot Taste is bitter
  Love red wine and it is a tasty
red with bubbles !!!!
Caz Karski I have never been a fan of red
wine, so it just seems logical that
even putting bubbles into it,
I wouldn’t like it.
Lis It’s diversity and pairs well with
food. Great on a hot day.
Jules Grew up having ‘cold duck’ with
Sunday lunch! Love sparkling red
to this day
  I like the heaviness of the red wine in
winter but still with a sparkle!
  Dislike the nose
Alison The depth of flavour combined
with the joy of bubbles.
Maree I think a red should be smooth rich ripe full bodied but not bubbly.
Maz Glover If it’s a sweeter red I am sure I will drink it
Melinda The taste is just not correct to me
Doreen Swann I just don’t like reds of any kind
but my husband loves reds
Kerrie Hodgson I really love bubbles full stop, so if
I start on champagne or bubbles,
I can easily follow up with a
sparkling red rather than a still
white or red. After the first couple of
sips its just as delicious as
bubbles.
Sharon I like my bubbly to have a light
flavour and red tends to be very
full bodied
Maria Moreira I love the tingling, bubbling, fresh,
effervescent sensation on your
taste buds and the chilling vibe
you get from swishing sparkling
reds in your mouth.  They tend
to go with many varieties of food!
Kristan Lum I think the bubbles help with
sparkling reds, adds a different
texture in flavour and exciting
  Hate the smell of red wine
Kym Durbano Don’t like the taste
Kerry Sometimes I just like the feeling of
something sparkling. It is
refreshing. You don’t want a big,
bold red just something light.
Nedda I just like bubbles can drink
anything including reds
Lynn I do not like red wine sparkling or still
and they do not like me!
Anne It just does not seem the way to do a
sparkling
Jackie K Most taste lighter, a great
alternative to a heavier red.
Kate It just doesn’t feel like the right
combination. I don’t enjoy the red
flavours when it is fizzy and cold. I miss the crisp freshness of a white. The
furthest I will go is a sparkling Rose for
the added fruitiness.
Leave reds alone.
Brenton  Jolly Just something different and
unusual and something delicious
any time of the year.
Robbie Poulton As a Champagne traditionalist I
don’t enjoy sparkling reds…too
heavy! However I do enjoy a
cheeky sparkling Rose. It’s all
about the texture for me.
Louise Lupton I find all red wine too heavy even with
bubbles
Heidi I think they are ok, although maybe a bit weird.
  They taste good and are an
alternative to white bubbles
Ally They can be hit and miss,
sometimes too sweet.  You want
some sweetness, but lovely plum
flavours, great with cheese or
dessert
Elaine I haven’t found one I like the taste of
Sharyn Campbell Can’t really pin point why but I do love
red wine and drinking it with
bubbles (and cold) is just not for me. 
I probably like sparkling
white as I don’t drink white wine
much and sparkling white is just
so good for any occasion.
Jodi I love red wine, I love bubbles, so
a sparkling red is a favourite of
mine, refreshing and
flavoursome 🙂
Sue. S Sparkling reds make a nice fruity change from white bubbles
Ann Blannin-Ferguson At non-summery days a sparkling shiraz with some yummy cheeses is perfect
Lennie Lister Unique, food friendly, suits
climate/BBQs/outdoor dining
Dan B Took a fine young lady on the
vintage Daimler Benz tour of the
Barossa in 2003 and a work
colleague suggested going to
Charles Melton and he hand makes a
sparkling red every few years
method traditional. Tasted one
then, it was great bought some,
he said you can put it away for
20yrs and drink on a special
occasion, cracked one at my
father’s 70th 2 yrs ago. Still great.
Audrey Wilkinson makes one also
in Hunter.
Rachel You can drink reds in the middle of summer! And drink bubbles in the middle of winter.

I don’t like the overly sweet ones.
  I don’t like red wine
  A tad too big for my liking..
perhaps dangerous is the word!
Nadine Lambert I’m a South Australian. We love
our reds, the bigger, the bolder,
the better. But it’s also bloody hot
in summer. Arguably too hot to
drink our big reds (even chilled),
so a big bold dry sparkling red is
the perfect compromise. (just don’t give us any of that sweet red sh#t). Love
from your South Australian
readers
Jodie I’ll be honest, I’m undecided about
the taste.
Lisa Scheepers At first I was dubious about
sparkling reds as I love my red at
room temperature. After trying a
sparkling shiraz one day I’ve been
hooked ever since.  I love the
full body of shiraz mixed with
the light bubbles.
Tiffany Hansen Dislike – taste is awful on all reds
Julie Not a big fan, I just prefer
Sparkling whites or Rose. Not as
heavy in flavour.
Cecilia I love sparkling Shiraz. You get the full
body flavour but a sparkling
version of a still red.
  Chilled sparkling red is much
lighter and refreshing
Anthony A good chilled red on a hot day can be
lovely. Especially Stanton & Killeen’s
sparkling red in Rutherglen.
Sarah Mack Perfect blend of winter and
summer. Sparkling reds in
summer chilled and add a
lightless in winter.
  I only like them if they are a light red.
Helen Don’t seem to have the same taste/effect as white sparkling and gives me a
headache.
Oli So warming in winter
Mark Phelps Fantastic drink, I love a good red
and to add bubbles is a unique way to
enjoy them.  Great with a cooked
brekky as well as by the fireside.
  I’m not a red drinker, so I think
that preference transfers in to the
sparkling reds.
  Sometimes they can be very
refreshing.
Kelly (Gadgetgirl) It is somehow just wrong.  I like full
bodied reds, especially in winter. 
Bubbles to me, are cold and refreshing
and best drunk all year round.
Elaine Mitchell It’s something different and a light hearted way to enjoy reds in Summer as I am not a fan of “chilling”
reds.  It’s also a good way to get non red drinkers eased into reds.

Thank you to everyone who shared their comments. I really loved reading them all. I always say, there is no right or wrong when it comes to tasting wine. If you like it, that is all that matters.

I did notice in our subscriber comments that some mentioned sparkling reds were “dangerous” and a “truth serum”.  A reminder that red wine usually has a higher alcohol content than white wine, and this is especially so with bubbles, a champagne at 12.5% and a prosecco is usually around 11%, compared to sparkling reds at around 13-15%. Remember to pace yourself and enjoy responsibly!

You may also like these other blogs:

Do you know the way to make rose

Make every meal sparkle

Why that is not a glass of champagne that you are drinking

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will get first look at our events, (including exclusive subscriber pre-sales), and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Do you know the way to make rosé?

Who doesn’t love a pink bubbly?! Let’s not mistake it for a sweet drink (sparkling Moscato), a sparkling or champagne rosé has a rich flavour profile with a crisp dry finish that is a perfect to drink as a food match at this time of year, or anytime really!

Australia makes the top 10 in the world for champagne imports, although we are the second lowest for imports of rosé champagne, but this trend is changing, 2018 saw the highest imports in a decade.

For every 28 bottles of champagne popped in Australia, one of them is pink. Across all markets, it’s one in ten, and the USA set a new record last year of more than one in six.  

Possibly a case of supply vs demand, as there is less choice when looking for a rosé champagne. But this is definitely shifting, I’ve noticed more and more options and there are also some great Aussie sparkling rosés available. I am happy to do my bit for increasing demand!

The method to create the bubbles in a sparkling rosé is the same as white sparkling, but how the colour is achieved may differ between blending (assemblage) and saignée. 

Rosé d’assemblage is a blending method, the most common way of making rosé, in which a tiny quantity (around 15%) of Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier made as table wine is added to the white base wine.

The Veuve Clicquot was the first to use this method. Breaking away from the tradition of adding an elderberry-based preparation to create rosé champagne. Madame Clicquot created the first “rosé d’assemblage” by blending some of her red wines from vineyards in Bouzy with her champagne to create the very first blend of rosé champagne.

To make champagne, only certain grapes can be used, there are seven grapes on the list, however there are three that are most commonly used, which are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Only one of the three, is actually a white grape.

(See the full list of champagne grapes here:  FAQ)

As described in our blog: Come quickly I am drinking the stars.

It is the skin that creates the red colour of a red wine, to create a white sparkling wine from red grapes, this is done by gentle pressing with very limited skin contact. In different champagne styles you will find a 100% Pinot Noir, which is known in Champagne as a Blanc de Noirs meaning white from black.  So, although it is 100% Pinot Noir it will still be a white champagne, as it is not pressed on skins.

But, using the second method of creating a Sparkling rosé, the saignée method, the pink of a rosé can be achieved by using the skins. Saignée literally means bleeding in French and with this technique the rosé is made by ‘bleeding’ off juice from just-crushed pinot noir or meunier grapes after a short maceration (soaking) on skins prior to fermentation.

This minimal maceration allows the must (still wine) to develop stronger aromas and flavour profiles while deepening the colour.  

In sparklings from other parts of the world you might find a sparkling Pinot Noir or other grape varieties to create a sparkling red wine. But you will never find a sparkling red in Champagne, as it is against the rules to make a sparkling red in Champagne.  A pink as a rosé is okay, and there is a still red wine, the Coteaux Champenois which is allowed, but never a red champagne.

In Australia, a Sparkling Shiraz is loved by many. Sparkling red wines begin their life in the same way as still reds, fermented on skins to extract colour, flavour and tannin. The finest are then privileged to méthode traditionnelle, although transfer, charmat or carbonation methods can also be used.

Our giveaways over the past few months have featured some lovely sparkling rosés and champagne, keep an eye out, we may even have some sparkling red in the pipeline! A sparkling rosé with dumplings is a heavenly match.  I love the change of seasons, the cooler nights, which go so well with hearty food, casseroles and rich flavoured meals. Perhaps a long weekend lunch or evening meal, with a sparkling rosé or red might be the perfect bubbly match for your Autumn and Winter dining.

You may also like these blogs that talk about champagne techniques and tasting:

Why that is not a glass of Champagne that you are drinking!

Minerality in Champagne

Is champagne better than sex?

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Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will get first look at our events, (including exclusive subscriber pre-sales), and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

What is a Pét-Nat?

It seems like Pét-Nats are popping up everywhere at the moment. One might assume that they are a new wine style, or just another hipster trend. Well, they are definitely ‘on trend’, but you may be surprised to discover that Pét-Nats are actually the oldest sparkling wine!  With records showing them pre. 1500s long before the sparkling wines of England (1662) and then Champagne in 1668.

So, what is a Pét-Nat?

Pét-Nat is short for pétillant naturel, which is means “naturally sparkling” in French.  It is made in the  “ancestral” method of bottling before the first fermentation has finished, allowing the process to complete in bottle (as opposed to the Champagne method, which commences second fermentation in bottle after the first has completed in tank/barrel).

The more rustic approach to making pét-nat means that there is less interference, so it is on trend as a natural sparkling. It is usually less bubbly and less refined, so I wouldn’t compare it to champagne or other sparkling wines, but be open to try something different.  I have seen some people liken it to drinking beer (although it is still made with grapes), I can see the comparison, as it refreshing in that way and this winemaking process results in a less alcoholic wine.  This relaxed, casual wine is perfect for an Autumn picnic matched with a Charcuterie plate, or try it with something sweet!

Our giveaway this month is from Chateau La Colombiere which is in Fronton, 30 mins north of Toulouse, where husband and wife team Diane and Philippe Cauvin are painstakingly nursing back from extinction some of France’s rarest vines. The pair are living their dream, crafting wines from the regional ancient variety: Negrette which is native to their area of Fronton. Diane took the reins of the family estate after learning viticulture and completing a tour de force throughout French vineyards including Burgundy. The first and perhaps the most significant change was to step up the effort to preserve these rare vines by farming biodynamically in 2006. As the vines have been cultivated here in the same way since the 15th century, this was a significant change, to say the least. Add to this hand picking and sorting and you get the base to create something delicious.

The feature this month is 2016 Chateau La Colombiere, Sparkling Pet Nat, Negrette.

Tastes like:  Some sediments in suspension, the mousse is rich, bubbles are generous and active for a Pét-Nat even after opening. It is a delicious dry style with yeasty and fresh strawberry as well as fleshy peach notes. This smashable low alcohol sparkling Pet Nat have also some cider vibe with flavour of ripe red apples.

Area: Fronton (South-West France)

Farming: Biodynamic (certified)

Grapes: Negrette (100%)

Occasion: Brunch/ lunch/ dinner wine! A perfect park wine or by the pool.

Food match: Charcuterie, salads or fresh goat cheese.

When to drink: Drink now or before end 2019.

With special thanks to Mosaique Wines who import and distribute this and other artisanal wines from France.  The owner Thomas Gisbert told me:

“I travel extensively throughout the country each year to bring you a collection of wines that reflect the heart and soul of this land- a mosaic of small and beautiful parts that make a bigger picture.

Each wine has been hand-selected for the unique qualities they express, lovingly made by local producers who dedicated their lives to their craft. These producers respect the land they farm above all else, using sustainable, organic or biodynamic techniques to nourish their vines and the ecosystem around them. We have endeavoured to tell their stories in the hope you can envisage yourself sharing a glass with these characters and enjoying the fruits of their labour.”

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Here’s cheers to the fabulous women of Champagne!

There are many examples of amazing women in Champagne, here a few names you might know, and some you would like to know more about.  From historical to modern times, if you look at the dates, they are around 50 -100 years apart. In life, we all benefit from the legacy created from those that came before us. International Women’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate that. Here’s cheers to all of the fabulous women of Champagne!

The word ‘veuve’ means widow in French, many of the great women of champagne, were widows and mothers, who became major influencers in the champagne industry. At the time the only way a woman could be at the helm of a business was to take over after the death of her husband. So successful were the veuves, it is rumoured that some producers added veuve into their title, even when there was no veuve at the house!

Veuve Clicquot – Veuve Barbe-Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin

In 1805, after the death of her husband, Madame Clicquot at 27 years old became one of the first businesswomen of France when she took over the Clicquot business. In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company – a role she undertook with passion and determination. According to the Veuve Clicquot company description of her, Madame Clicquot’s character might be summarised with two words: audacious and intelligent.

Imagine the audacity of this decision at a time when women were not even allowed to open their own bank account!

She is credited with many innovations that have steered the success of champagne – the riddling process to remove the sediment from the bottle; improving the bottle so it would withstand the pressure of the bubbles; creating Rose champagne by adding some red wine; and her PR and branding, creating the first labels on a champagne bottle – the yellow label that still adorns the Veuve Clicquot bottle today.

I love the story of Veuve Clicquot, you can read more about her on our blog here:

Madame Pommery – Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Mélin Pommery

It was upon her husband’s death in 1858, that Madame Pommery, assumed full control of the business. One of her first decisions was to sell off their struggling wool business, and concentrate on the Champagne wine business. And, we are so glad that she did!

“I decided there and then to carry on the business in my husband’s stead”

With those words, the young widow set out to conquer national and international markets –overturning, without any qualms whatsoever, one or two corporate management rules. She was a true trailblazer, laying down the basis for any luxury product promotion; style, brand, communication and public relations on the estates.

She invented the modern style of champagne with the introduction of Brut Champagne, Brut being a much drier style was a bold initiative, as at the time the prevailing taste was for very sweet champagne (up to 300gms of sugar per litre, compared with now, depending on the level of Brut, is  up to 12 gms per litre). 

Only 10 years after taking over the business she built the Pommery Estate which at the time was the biggest building site of the century in Reims.  This grand site is still the home of Pommery and is an amazing place to visit.  Madame Pommery described her champagne in two words; “Joyful and Lightness”.  Now that is something to be celebrated!

Another amazing legacy, you can learn more about Madame Pommery in our Bubbly Appreciation Course and on our blog here:

Lily Bollinger – Élisabeth Law Lauriston-Boubers-Bollinger

In a new century, another amazing lady, Lily Bollinger took over the presidency of the Bollinger house after the death of her husband Jacques in 1941, and directed it until 1971. She launched the Bollinger RD vintage in 1961 and the vintage Vieilles Vignes Françaises in 1969, putting the brand on the international stage.  She is credited with introducing the brand to celebrities of the time. When asked by a journalist from the London Daily Mail in 1961 “When do you drink champagne?” her witty and facetious answer is still quoted today as an exquisite definition of champagne:

“I drink it 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 hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it — unless I’m thirsty…”

Historically there have been some great women of Champagne. But what is it like today?  

We asked Floriane Eznack from Champagne Jacquart about women working in Champagne today.

Floriane explained about the role of the wine maker, and how in Champagne the main responsibility is to produce the consistency of style in the non-vintage blend.

As a young winemaker, Floriane earned a Masters Degree in Oenology in Reims in 2004. Her studies included a couple of harvests in some of Champagne’s finest Houses, including Moët & Chandon. She joined Jacquart in January 2011 as Chef de Cave (Chief Winemaker), where she plays a central role in the creation of the finest quality blends for all of the Jacquart’s champagnes.

In our interview Floriane shares with us her motivation for working in the industry, and how she gave up her dream of becoming a fighter pilot! When she chose the wine industry, it was clear, she didn’t want to work with any other wine, but bubbles; “Not just bubbles for celebration, but a wine that everyone loves. It cheers you up and makes you happy and there is a magic behind champagne” she says.
See our interview with Floriane here:

An update to this post. Floriane moved on from her role at Jacquart and Champagne, at the end of 2019, but you’ll still be drinking her legacy at Jacquart for a little while longer.

More features and stories on the modern era of women in Champagne, coming soon in our blogs and Bubbly Appreciation course. Stay tuned for that.

Until then, let’s raise a glass to celebrate these amazing women.

Cheers!

Natalie Pickett is the Founder of The Bubbles Review which is for people who like champagne and other bubbles, written by people who have a love of all things sparkling! At The Bubbles Review, we like to debunk some myths, make the art of drinking champagne accessible, explore bubbly regions and champagne bars, and provide events for you to join us and indulge.

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

Christmas in Champagne

As is the custom in the cities of France, a Christmas market is established in the centre of Reims, with 145 stalls in little chalets in the square surrounding the famous Notre Dame cathedral.  Tourists and locals wander tasting traditional products, drinking wine or cidre chaud (hot cider) and enjoying the Christmas lights.

In Epernay, the historic capital of Champagne, les Habits de Lumière happens with a three day festival on the second weekend of December. Every Champagne House on the Avenue de Champagne opens its gates to the public and light shows are projected on the facades of Moët & Chandon, Perrier-Jouët, Pol Roger, de Venoge and more. The event includes illuminations, projections, dazzling sound and light shows, champagne and gourmet food tastings, and finishes with a vintage car display on the Sunday.

Picture credit – Habits de Lumiere

Picture credit – Habits de Lumiere
De Lumiere at Perrier-Jouët

?#habitsdelumiere #epernay

Posted by Habits de Lumière Epernay on Friday, December 8, 2017

Aside from celebrations, the period before Christmas is very busy for Champagne Houses and growers! Indeed, they receive last minute orders from their customers: wine shops and private individuals. It is a key moment in terms of sales for the whole of Champagne.

In the winery, some start tasting the vins clairs (still wines from last harvest that are in vats or barrels) and will decide later of the assemblages (blends). This year there is great excitement as the Vintage of 2018 is very promising!

In the vineyards, everything is so quiet although some growers may begin to prune, pruning will be much more intense in the first months of 2019, before spring.

But I am sure you wonder how we celebrate Christmas?!  Here is a typical lunch or dinner paired with champagne or wine that we enjoy every year! I will share with you the best match between each dish and a type of champagne.

Christmas lunch menu

Oysters with a very low dosage Blanc de Blancs (Extra-Brut)

Smoked salmon with a standard Brut champagne (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier in equal parts)

Foie Gras with a Vintage Brut Champagne (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in equal parts)

Turkey and chestnuts with a pure Pinot Noir champagne (Blanc de Noirs)

Cheeses, let’s have a break and enjoy some red wines! Why not a red Coteaux Champenois, which is a still wine produced in the Champagne region. Champagne is not only about bubbles! If you like blue cheese (Roquefort, Fourme d’Ambert), try some Ratafia, which is a sweet liqueur produced by many Champagne houses.

Bûche de Noël (yule log) pairs nicely with a demi-sec champagne.  Demi sec, although it translates to half dry, is actually the term for a sweet champagne.

Merry Christmas – Joyeux Noël to you!

Sébastien Lebon was born, raised and continues to live and work in Champagne. Lucky him!  He has worked in a range of roles for some of the big champagne houses as well as grower champagnes. His favourite champagne quote is by Sir Winston Churchill: “Magnum is the best size for two gentlemen to share over lunch, especially if one of them is not drinking.”

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

Harvest in Champagne

An insight from my friend Sébastien Lebon, a contributor to The Bubbles Review.  Born, raised and still living in Champagne, Sébastien provides us with some bubbly snippets, direct from the source.  I asked Sébastien to share some insights on what it is like to be in the region for harvest.

Harvest in Champagne

“The calm before the storm” – This is what we might say when wandering in the Champagne vineyard just before the beginning of the harvest. Everything is so quiet and all of a sudden…more than 100 000 seasonal workers land on the chalky ground of the region.

Within more or less 3 weeks, they will pick the equivalent of 35 000 hectares as it is strictly forbidden to use machines. The C.I.V.C. (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne) decides for each wine village or “cru” (320 in total) when the grapes can be gathered. For instance, picking usually starts earlier in the south of the region since the climate is a bit warmer so the grapes will be ripe sooner than in the north. In a qualitative approach this organisation also limits the yield per hectare (10 800 kg/hectare in 2018).

Several factors are considered before commencing: the acidity, the level of sugar and the health of the grapes are the most important. Some samples of grapes from each village are analysed before making any decision.

The work is tough and painful and must be done efficiently regardless of what the weather conditions are. To regain their strength, pickers wait for the morning break: coffee (or champagne!), pâtés en croûte (terrine wrapped in pastry) and maroilles (cheese) pies!

Once the grapes are collected, they are taken to a presshouse. There are presshouses all over the region because we do not want to damage the grapes during a long transportation. It is not unusual to find that traffic is busy and slow in September as the roads are filled with tractors carrying these precious fruits!

Pressing, it is done very softly to avoid colouring the white juice with the black skins of Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes. Then the juice is collected in decanting vats and after a few hours, the first alcoholic fermentation starts!

After days or weeks of hard labour, you know harvest comes to an end when you can hear in the distance cars and tractors honking. Tradition also warrants the vans to be decorated with vines. The “cochelet” is the name given to the big party thrown to celebrate the end of this intense period where champagne flows freely!

I am sure you are wondering how last harvest was… well it was exceptional! In recent years, harvest has begun earlier than usual and in some parts picking has begun in the earlier ripening villages in late August, recent harvests have shown the quality was very high for any type of grape!  2018 was definitely a harvest everyone will remember. Let’s hope it is the same for this year, and that the winter and spring tastings of vins clairs (clear still wines) will meet our expectations!

Sébastien Lebon was born, raised and continues to live and work in Champagne. Lucky him!  He has worked in a range of roles for some of the big champagne houses as well as grower champagnes. His favourite champagne quote is by Sir Winston Churchill: “Magnum is the best size for two gentlemen to share over lunch, especially if one of them is not drinking.”

If you liked this you may also like these other blogs from The Bubbles Review:

Come quickly. I am drinking the stars!

Minerality in Champagne

Like to keep following us? Sign up to The Bubbles Review list and you will be included in our Subscriber prize draws. The giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift.  Join our list!

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