for people who love champagne and all things sparkling!

Tag: Bubbles

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)

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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.

Margaret River Sparkling Cellar Doors

The Margaret River region is situated around three and a half hours South of Perth.  It is more than a day trip, at least three days would allow you time to discover some of the Sparkling Cellar Doors.

This is was not my first visit to Margaret River, but it was the first time I have visited to explore only the bubbles from the region. I love that the area has so much to offer – beaches, towering Karri tree forests, vineyards and rural views, local produce, gourmet food and, of course, the wine. On this ‘research’ trip during February 2018, I enjoyed pleasant mid-twenty degree temperatures, perfect for touring, and the warm days benefited from gentle sea breezes.

Sparkling wine is in its infancy in WA, but there are some nice bubbles developing.

You can explore the region by self driving, but then there is always the issue of limiting the tastings for the designated driver. This is why I love a winery tour, when someone who knows the area takes you to the best places and will, of course, also be the designated driver. In Margaret River, I was pleased to find a bubbles specific tour Margaret River Bubbles Tour.  With a background as a tradie and ex-rugby player, Mark, the owner, is an unlikely bubbles tour guide. He told me that the idea for the tour company came when he, his wife and a group of their friends visited the area on holidays, only to discover there was no tour catering for bubbles drinkers. An idea was sparked, and a few years later Mark and his wife moved to the area and established Margaret River Bubbles Tour. Prior to my visit, Mark gladly shared information about the wineries that produced bubbles in the area to help me with my planning, and I enjoyed a day out on tour with him experiencing the area. Mark only visits the smaller producers, so you can easily enjoy a few days exploring on your own and fit the day tour into your itinerary to cover some of the boutique wineries. Tours can also be customised to include visits to cheese, chocolates and olive oil, and they have just commenced a new tour featuring whale watching in season.

If you have a look at the list of Margaret River wineries, you’ll find over 95 Cellar Doors. Mark told us that even though there are around 130 vineyards in the region, they represent only 1% of the Australian wine market, but around 26% of Australia’s premium wine market. Only around 40 of these vineyards produce a sparkling wine.

The geology of the region is the oldest in Australia, and the gravel soils, microclimate, aspect and consistent maritime influence create ideal conditions for the region’s grape varieties.

I discovered that only a few wineries had their own sparkling wine facilities, and many of them have their sparkling wine produced locally by John Frazer – Frazer Woods Wines. As I travelled around, many people told me that I needed to meet John. He is an elusive character, but I was told that I could find him at his ‘sparkling shed’. Although it is not open to visitors, I was given directions to follow an old dirt road until I saw a sign that said ‘God’s Farm’, take that driveway and just turn up to see if he is there. I did find ‘God’s Farm’, but John wasn’t there. Instead, his son kindly showed me around and had a quick chat, but he suggested that I make contact with his dad. John kindly contacted me via our website afterwards to provide some more detail for me.

When planning your visit, I suggest that you check the Cellar Door websites for opening days and times, as they can change depending on the season.

Here is my list of Sparkling Cellar Doors:

Vasse Felix

‘Site of first vineyard and winery in Margaret River established in 1967’ is featured on a large sign as you enter the driveway.

Lovely options for food and wine tasting. Wine lounge for charcuterie, cheese and olives, and restaurant upstairs for an interesting menu of dishes featuring local produce. The estate has an Art Gallery and Sculpture park, and all spaces look out over the vineyard, which is quite close to the Indian Ocean. I couldn’t see the ocean, but I could smell the salty sea air as the breeze washed over the vineyard.

They have one sparkling, which is the Vasse Felix Blanc de Blancs. I tasted the 2016 Vintage that had recently been released after 18 months on lees, green apple and hints of French oak. The staff explained that the Chardonnay is from a parcel of vineyard in Karridale, which is in the Southern part of the region, and has a cooler climate.

The place was busy, but relaxed. You may want to book in advance for the restaurant. Behind the scenes tours are also available for booking on the website.

See website for more details

Swings and Roundabouts

Rustic relaxed atmosphere, open fires, cosy corners and a huge lawn with vineyard views. It is family friendly with lawn games, ping pong table, and tyre swings. Simple menu with local ingredients, woodfired pizza, with a few other options including charcuterie, olives, and arancini.

They produce two different labels:

Backyard Stories is the premium label sparkling produced in small batches – NV Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir, which has been aged for two years on lees. Brioche, toast, nutty, fine creamy palate, crisp notes.

The Swings and Roundabouts range is a larger production Sparkling NV, which is 100% Chenin Blanc, mid-palate fruit of guava, passionfruit, apples, high acidity.

My favourite of the two was the Backyard Stories.

See website for more details

Brookwood Estate

This family-owned vineyard, began as a bare paddock, until the family (although not originally from a wine background) planted out vines. The family’s experience and expertise has evolved a lot since then. I met Bronlee, the winemaker. She is the daughter of the owners and grew up here, and she loved it so much she studied to turn winemaking into her qualification and career. Funny enough, her nickname is ‘Bubbles’, so of course there needed to be a sparkling wine, and it is called just that – Bubbles. Brookwood’s bubbles is a blend of Semillion, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. Quite fruity and a bit sweet, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The bubbles are added and not bottle fermented. For some on our tour, this was their favourite. It has a Zork closure – an imitation cork, one that can be used to reseal the bottle. We enjoyed lunch here as part of our tour – a lovely dining experience on the verandah looking out over the vines.

See website for more details

Howard Park

There were lots of bubbles on tasting here. Sparkling is a speciality of this family-owned winery, and they are one of a few to have their own bottling line for sparkling wine. The Howard Park Jeté Brut Blanc NV had recently won prestigious ‘Best Australian Sparkling Wine’ trophy at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in London. This accolade has created such a demand for the label that it meant there was none available for tasting on my visit. Their bubbly expertise, however, was evident in the other sparklings on tasting.

Madfish Prosecco – released in October 2017, this is their first Prosecco. The grapes are from the King Valley in Victoria. Only available at Cellar Door.

Madfish Vera – Traditional method – 18 months on lees. 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir. Crisp, citrus fruit and apricot, very dry finish.

Jeté NV Brut – as mentioned above, in addition this Jeté range has also won two golds, and a silver award. Almost sold out on my visit, so it wasn’t available for tasting.

“There is some tough competition in the Australian Sparkling space, so it really is an honour to have won this award, as a Western Australian winery, not famed for their sparkling, it is a fantastic achievement.” — Chief Wine Maker, Janice McDonald.

Howard Park Jete Rose – 100% Pinot Noir, 18 months on lees. Mid-palate berry fruit provide richness and freshness, very dry finish.

Grand Jete 2013 – 55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir. The blend varies depending on the best grapes for that year. It has been a Blanc de Blancs before. The first vintage was in 2009, and there are plans to release a vintage each year, depending on the harvest. This was fresh and fruity, with complexity through mid to full palate.

There were a couple more available for purchase but not tasting:

Pascal, Marchand and Burch. Limited vintage created in collaboration with the French champagne house. The Australian collection is made here under direction of Pascal. For the French collection, the fruit is sourced locally by Pascal to create the Marchand and Burch range.

Franck Bonville Champagne is also imported and sold here. I queried why, as there was not a winemaking collaboration – “because it is awesome”, that’s what they told me at the Cellar Door! It wasn’t available for tasting, so for now, I will take their word.

There is no restaurant here, but Howard Park hosts festivals where catering is brought in. December is ‘Bubbles and Blooms’, January ‘Oysters and Revelry’, February for Chinese New Year, Asian street food, and they also create a pop-up restaurant on some weekends. I suggest that you check their website for events before visiting.

I asked about availability to purchase their wines on the East Coast, and they told me that there is limited distribution. If you are keen to try any of the range, either visit the Cellar Door or order online.

See website for more details

Leeuwin Estate

Leeuwin has a great heritage in the region, being one of the first vineyards established in 1969. This is the site of the great Leeuwin Estate concerts. As you approach the entrance of the Cellar Door, you can see posters from the legacy of this great event, as well as the stage set overlooking the lawn, providing an inkling of the excitement of being at a concert here. Artwork is also a feature of this estate through their Art Series labels, which features paintings commissioned from leading contemporary Australian Artists. You can visit the art gallery onsite, which shows these wonderful works. It is worth spending time to explore. I didn’t dine here, but the menu at the restaurant looked nice and afforded views over the lawn to the concert stage.

I tasted the 2014 Brut Pinot Noir Chardonnay, with 60% Pinot Noir. It has spent some time in French Oak before bottle fermented – three years on lees. Oyster shell, lemon, lime and apple on the palate, bright and racy mouth feel with a dry finish.  Great aperitif style.

See website for more details

Voyager Estate

Wow, what a sense of arrival! The estate is the vision of the founder Michael Wright. Built in the style of Cape Dutch architecture with stunning gardens, with spectacular Wine Room and Restaurant. The biggest Australian flag in the Southern Hemisphere flies from the flag pole to greet you as you enter.

“Inviting everyone to come and enjoy a glass with us in Margaret River. The perfect combination of food, wine and the warmth of family and friends is what a visit to Voyager Estate is about … every feature of the Estate is designed to give you an inspirational experience.” The estate is still family-owned, with Michael’s two daughters taking over the reins since his passing in 2012 – continuing the direction of style as their father did.

I tasted the 2015 Blanc de Blancs, which had a lovely nose, small bead and creamy texture with citrus featured. It is limited release and small batch. I thought it was delightful, but was disappointed to hear that the 2015 will be the last vintage as they will now only produce the Project Sparkling Chenin Blanc, which I also tasted, dry finish with a fruity mid palate. I am not totally converted to the Chenin Blanc. I did prefer the Chardonnay.

Allow some time for a visit here. The estate is very big, and I spent time just sitting and looking out over the rose garden and kitchen garden that look out over the lawns to the vineyard. They have guided tours, a private tasting room, daily tour of the estate, which includes a walk through the vineyard, learn about tending the vines, show through the winery and barrel room as well as the biggest underground cellar in Australia. Tastings are available at the Cellar Door, and there are also sommelier-created wine flights, cheese and charcuturie platters, and a restaurant serving a degustation menu as well as High Teas on the weekend. Most of these need to be pre-booked which you can do online.

See website for more details

Watershed

Great looking venue, but I didn’t stay to taste. As is the case with some Cellar Doors, they didn’t have their sparkling available for tasting. I assume that you can order it by the glass in the onsite café or restaurant. They do have one sparkling, which I had tasted previously at my hotel. It is the Blanc de Blancs 2013 – 100% Chardonnay grown on their estate vineyard. Produced as an aperitif style of sparkling using the ‘Méthode Traditionnelle’.

See website for more details

Xanadu

Yes, I did have Olivia’s tune ringing in my ears as I drove the along the driveway through the vineyards into Xanadu. I had visited here before, many years ago, but the Cellar Door was in a shed at the time. The sense of arrival now was something a bit more spectacular, with architect-designed visitor facilities of the Cellar Door and open plan restaurant looking out onto a ‘chill out’ courtyard, where people were lazing in the sun, sitting on bean bags and sipping wine. I did think that perhaps I had arrived in Xanadu.

The staff were great, and everyone was so friendly and helpful. They told me the story of how the vineyard was given its name. When the eccentric Irishman Dr John Lagan, who loved poems and literature, settled here with his wife Eithne, to establish one of the region’s earliest vineyards (1977). Dr Lagan said that he had found the land of paradise, an idyllic setting, where there are now 65 hectares of vines, and he called it Xanadu. The winery has since experienced some transition in ownership. It was publicly listed, but is now privately owned by the Rathbone family. Successful winemakers and owners of other great Cellar Doors (think Yering Station, Yarrabank and Mount Langi Ghiran), the Rathbone family looked to expand into Margaret River. The potential of Xanadu was recognised by them as having the combination of great viticulture, great wine making facilities and great tourism facilities.

At the Cellar Door, I tasted the Xanadu 2014 ‘Methode Traditionelle’ Brut, which was delightful. It is 100% Chardonnay with a very low dosage, it is almost what is called a Brut Nature. It has spent some time in oak barrel, and then three years on lees. All made onsite, hand-picked, small batch. The palate had some citrus and brioche. I made this my lunch stop and this was a perfect food match with the Soft Crab Corn Fritters. The only disappointment is that due to the small production, it has since run out of stock and no longer available to taste at the Cellar Door. The next bubbly release will be the 2016 vintage, due for release in 2019.

Don’t despair, bubbles are still served in the restaurant. The advantage of being part of the Rathbone group, is that there is always wine of good pedigree on hand! Another delightful bubbles, the 2012 Yarrabank Cuvee Brut ‘Methode Traditionnelle’, which is made through a joint venture between Champagne Devaux and the Rathbone’s Yering Station in the Yarra Valley, is currently being served until the next vintage of Xanadu is available.

See website for more details

Clairault Streicker BdB

The scenic driveway off Caves Road winds through farmland and native forest, bringing you to the lovely Cellar Door and café with an outlook over the vineyard. One sparkling on tasting here.

2014 Streicker Blanc de Blancs – Sonja the Cellar Door manager told me that it was “frightfully easy to drink”, and she was right. It is made in the traditional method with two years on lees. Lemon zest, granny smith apple and a bit of brioche and toasted nuts.

See website for more details

Fermoy Estate

Lovely building, this is a smaller Cellar Door, with no café onsite. It is family-owned, and the staff told me that one of the loveliest ways to experience the wines here is to enjoy a picnic under the leafy trees on the front lawn, or take a seat in the Cellar Door with a glass of bubbles and enjoy the atmosphere.

They only make vintage bubbles, and I tasted the Fermoy 2013 Pinot Noir Chardonnay. Pinot Noir led at 60%. Small parcel, hand-pruned, hand-picked from Pemberton Region, which is bottle fermented in the traditional method and aged on lees for four years. It was a lovely bubbly, characters of creamy lemon, brioche and toasted nuts with a delicate and persistent bead.

See website for more details

Sandalford Wines

Their Margaret River Cellar Door is much smaller than the one in the Swan Valley, and this one sits in the middle of a beautiful country garden surrounded by grape vines. There are picnic tables under a covered pergola and free BBQ facilities. There are also a variety of local artwork, wine accessories and Sandalford merchandise available for purchase.

I tasted the Sandalfords NV Sparkling, which is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Only available at Cellar Door, crisp, lemon, zesty with a creaminess from time on lees.

See website for more details

Cape Grace Wines

This is a small Cellar Door, a little off the beaten track. We were very lucky to receive a bit of a behind the scenes tour here. Harvest was underway for some varieties, and we watched some whole batch Zinfandel being crushed. The winemaker told us that it was an experiment to try to make sparkling Zinfandel. Not sure how that is progressing, but we did taste the 2017 Cremant de Grace – Sparkling Chenin Blanc, which had hints of lemon meringue, a touch of citrus peel, and finishes with a beautiful lemon/lime acidity.

See website for more details

Harmans Estate

Harmans Estate is a family-run, premier small-batch winery. They explained to me that they are one of a few wineries in the region who processes, produces, bottles and labels all onsite, ensuring the integrity and heart and soul of Harmans is in every bottle.

One of the specialities is wine distilled into pure, smooth high-proof spirit (Pisco). I didn’t try it, but I did taste the 2013 Sparkling Pink Pinot Noir – crafted from 100% Pinot Noir, 36 months on lees, strawberries, raspberries, with layers of marmalade and spicy fruits.

See website for more details

Old Kent River

This is a small Cellar Door, of rammed earth structure with a rural outlook. There is no restaurant onsite, so it is only a tasting stop, but there are some picnic tables that you could make use of and a lawn that kids could run and play on if you had the family in tow. A small selection of local cheese and produce is available to purchase, and ‘make your own’ platters to enjoy with a glass of wine, or you are welcome to bring your own picnic.

Their sparkling is called Diamondtina (the diamond of the range). The staff were very friendly and talked me through the range. I tasted the 2006, which is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It has spent eight years on lees (which is a long time for an Aussie sparkling). It is their museum release with limited stock. The staff explained that the Cellar Door used to be much further south in Denmark, and has recently moved to Margaret River. The Pinot Noir is single vineyard from the owners’ family property in Frankland River, which is cooler climate and much better for Pinot Noir. Also available was the Diamondtina 2008, which is the same blend and has spent six years on lees, with hints of French Oak. There is also the Diamondtina NV sparkling Rose, which is the same blend, but has spent three hours on skins to give the pink colour. Fruity with a dry finish. Not too complex, an easy drinking wine.

See website for more details

Firetail Sparkling

This is a very small Cellar Door. The space has an emphasis on wood, built with local Jarrah teamed with French Oak from barrels used to age their wines. The Cellar Door, Jessica the owner told me, is “like our wines, hand-crafted, stylish and pretty special.”

Jessica was very happy that the new Firetail Sparkling had just arrived. It is a Blanc de Blancs made from 100 % chardonnay, which is from a friend’s vineyard. A portion of the base wine was fermented in French Oak barrels before secondary fermentation in the bottle in the traditional method. The wine was aged for 30 months on lees before disgorging in February 2018.

See website for more details

The Berry Farm

At the Berry Farm, I discovered wine made from a different kind of fruit – berries. The helpful Cellar Door staff arranged for Mike the winemaker to come and have a chat with me, and guide me through the tastings on offer. I discovered that fruit wine can be made from virtually any plant matter that can be fermented. Most fruits and berries have the potential to produce wine. There are a number of methods of extracting flavour and juice from the fruits or plants being used, pressing the juice, stewing and fermenting the pulp of the fruits are common, however few foods other than grapes have the balanced quantities of sugar, acid, tannin, nutritive salts for yeast feeding and water to naturally produce a stable, drinkable wine, so these products require the addition or sugar or honey to make them palatable and to increase the alcoholic content (sugar is converted to alcohol in the fermentation). I tasted Strawberry, Passionfruit, and ‘Tickled Pink’, which was a blend of lemon and elderberry. I do think that it is an acquired taste. I don’t think I was converted, as they are very rich and mostly sweet. I can see though that there would be a market. “I don’t think there is a fruit I haven’t tried fermenting”, said Mike. He mentioned that the best food matches would be spicy food (yes, a sweeter wine works better with spice), dessert or a bubbly breakfast. I moved onto a coffee from the café before setting off. It was a nice impromptu stop for me. It is a good family-friendly place, with a kids adventure playground, café, produce shop and (fruity) Cellar Door.

See website for more details

Flametrees

Small family-owned Cellar Door, with no vineyard, but yes, flametrees that greet you at the entrance, as well as featured on the label. I may have had the Cold Chisel tune ringing in my ears whilst tasting. Lovely light flows through large windows into the Cellar Door, with views out to the open lawn to relax at a picnic table for a tasting, and space for kids to play. Food selection is platters, with local cheese and produce.

I tried the Blanc de Blancs, which has been aged for three years and the NV, which is 30% Pinot Noir, 70% Chardonnay. The winemaker here was previously the winemaker at Voyager Estate.

See website for more details

Mongrel Creek

Rustic is not quite the word, but the Cellar Door reminded me a little of the Ettamogah pub. With a name like Mongrel Creek, what does one expect?

The owner, Larry has a no BS approach, and told me that as a small family-owned winery, their primary focus is on producing quality wine at an affordable price.

The bubbles on offer were the 2012 Le Mongrel Sparkling, which is 100% Chenin Blanc, which had been aged for five years, and Le Mongrel Sparkling Rouge – aged for two years, which is 100% Cab Sav. These are usually released in small batches of 1,096 at a time.

See website for more details

House of Cards

Another small family-run Cellar Door. Established in 2011 by a young couple Travis and Elizabeth Wray. Travis is the winemaker and Elizabeth takes care of the marketing. Their young family also feature on their website. The attention to detail here is remarkable, hand-made neck tags and hand-made labels on the bottles. We visited as part of bubbles tour, and they had kindly arranged for a Queen Bee Magnum to be opened for our visit.

We tasted the 2015 Queen Bee Vintage Magnum, which has spent two and a half years on lees, single vineyard Blanc de Blancs, citrus and creamy. As this is a magnum, this one could be cellared for longer to bring out more complexity in the wine. We also tasted the 2015 Blanc de Blancs Queen of Diamonds, three years on lees, green apples, pears and buttered toast dominate the aromatics.

The Cellar Door also features a great range of art and jewellery by local and Australian artists. For food, the nearby Chow’s Table provides traditional Chinese/Malay cuisine with a modern twist, overlooking the vineyard, and Gabriel’s Chocolates is also in this corner of Caves Road, so you might allow some time to explore here.

See website for more details

Windows Estate

This is a small family-owned and operated business, just over the road from House of Cards. Walk-ins are fine, but they do ask that advance bookings are made for groups of six or more people. They have won the Gourmet Traveller Small Cellar Door award for the past three years.

This is not just single vineyard production, but it is a single person vineyard. Chris, the owner, has worked the vineyard completely on his own from day one, which he says is the only way to meet the high standards he sets for himself. He spends the vast majority of his time in the vineyard. He knows it like the back of his own hand, hand-pruning every single one of the vines himself, year after year.

I tasted the 2016 Mousseux – 100% Chenin Blanc made in the traditional method.

The residual sugar after dosage is minimal, so it is predominantly fresh green apple aromas, zesty citrus notes. This is an elegant sparkling wine, delicate fine bead and smooth creamy texture with a refreshing clean finish. With my preference for a Champagne style, I hadn’t been convinced with the trend in Margaret River for a sparkling Chenin Blanc, however this one did convince me. Definitely worth a tasting.

See website for more details

Credaro

Family-owned, four generations of the Credaro family, a pioneering family to the region, first settling in Margaret River in 1922 after migrating from Northern Italy. Initially involved in farming and the timber industry, small plots of vines were planted to provide the family with table wine.

2013 Vintage Sparkling – 85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir. All grapes sourced from the family vineyards in Margaret River, within a 50km radius. Made in the Traditional Method, this sparkling wine has delicate aromas of spiced apple and grilled nuts with subtle yeast characters. The palate is finely structured with layers of citrus, brioche and white peach.

This Cellar Door doesn’t have food, but they can do catered events. They did have a small selection of boutique clothing and homewares available for sale, so you can tie in shopping with your bubbles tasting. The terrace is the perfect spot to enjoy some bubbles with lovely rural views.

See website for more details

Windance

Family, Heritage and a passion for great wine – is the tagline here. I tasted the 2016 Glen Valley Blanc de Blancs – apple, sherbert, citrus – traditional method, 15 months on lees. Fresh, vibrant with crisp finish.

The Chardonnay is sourced from Wilyabrup, which means ‘place of water’.

This family-owned vineyard has a new Cellar Door. They explained that they are in generational transition from Father to daughter Billie, and the son-in-law Michale (with French winemaking experience), is the winemaker. The focus is on producing quality wines, whilst incorporating sustainable land management and environmentally-friendly viticultural practices.

See website for more details

I would like to acknowledge Mark from Margaret River Bubbles Tour and Margaret River Tourism for providing assistance with this trip.  Margaret River Tourism will now feature this blog as their information on Margaret River Sparkling Cellar Doors.

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!

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.

Aussies are Top 10 for drinkers of Champagne!

Us Aussies, we always like to hear how we compare with the rest of the world.  To discover we are Top 10 in something, is always a great thrill.

So as a lover of champagne, imagine my excitement to see that Australia makes the Top 10 in champagne consumption in the world. Yay us!

Australia confidently holds its place as the fifth largest champagne market per head of population, and the only country outside Europe in the top seven overall, exceeded only by France, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK.

I recently interviewed Tyson Stelzer, who is a multi award winning wine writer and presenter, and author of the award winning The Champagne Guide.  I asked him what changes he had seen with champagne in Australia to which he responded that “Australia is now the fastest growing champagne market on earth”.

A search on statistics and I confirm that, yes, that’s true. No country outside Europe drinks more champagne per person than Australia. The average Australian now drinks twice as much champagne as the average German, three times as much as the Italians, almost four times as much as the Japanese and close to five times as much as Americans. It’s remarkable that such a tremendous volume of champagne would ship all the way to our land downunder!

The growth of champagne in Australia in the past decade has been phenomenal, we are drinking more than three times as much as we were seven or eight years ago, says Tyson.  Over this same period, champagne sales globally have grown less than 17%. This means little Australia alone takes the credit for more than one-seventh of champagne’s global growth over the past fifteen years!

Does this mean that our taste in bubbles is becoming better?  I guess the short answer is yes, but we can improve our palate even more.  I asked Tyson for some insight on Australia’s champagne drinking habits and some tips on how to discover more.  Before I give you the link to the video, a couple of terms that are mentioned that you might not be aware of:

Grower champagnes – produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards from which the grapes come.  Many of these are family owned vineyards.  In Australia we would most commonly refer to the equivalent as a boutique winery.  Grower Champagnes tend to be more terroir focused, as they are often sourced from single or closely located vineyards around a village, in comparison to some of the large Champagne Houses, who source grapes from many different vineyards to blend to create their signature house style.

Co-operative champagnes –  is as the name suggests a group co-operating together.  This could be a grower’s co-op that pools their resources and produces wine under a single brand, or a union of growers who share their resources and collectively market their own brands.

On my recent trip to Champagne, I visited Champagne Collet home to the oldest Cooperative in Champagne ‘The COGEVI’. They have created this short-film which recounts the history through the ages right from its creation during the Revolution Champenoise in 1911.  It depicts the struggle and up-rising of the Champagne winegrowers for the protection of their terroir and to gain recognition of a united Champagne appellation.  It really helped me to understand the reasons behind the fierce protection of the Champagne name and gave insight into some of the struggles for growers and the advantages of the co-operatives.  Highly recommend it, you can view this short film (6mins) here The roots of COGEVI (note it is set to be viewed for 18 years and older due to the discussion of alcohol, which is why it will tell you it is restricted).

To see my chat with Tyson Stelzer as we discuss the champagne market in Australia, including tips on how to discover more – click here Natalie from The Bubbles Review chats with Tyson Stelzer about champagne in Australia.

Cheers!

Natalie


 

Tyson Stelzer is a multi-award winning wine writer, television presenter and international speaker. He was named The International Wine & Spirit Communicator of the Year, The Australian Wine Communicator of the Year and The International Champagne Writer of the Year. He is the author and publisher of sixteen wine books, a regular contributor to fifteen magazines, a frequent judge and chair at Australian wine shows and has presented at wine events in nine countries. www.TysonStelzer.com is your link to his wine recommendations, and book sales.

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 monthly Subscriber offers and prize draws. The giveaways are a bubbly giveaway.  In November it is a chance to win a signed copy of Tyson’s The Champagne Guide.  Join our list!

Gotta love a Festival!

If you’ve read some of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I talk a lot about making new discoveries when it comes to Sparkling Wine and Champagne. Yes, we all have our favourites, but I love being out and about, exploring, meeting new people, hearing their stories, new sensory discoveries of sights and sounds, and, of course, taste, mouthfeel, aroma, and all of the senses that go along with tasting sparkling wine.

Visiting regions and Cellar Doors is a great way to do this, but it also has its limitations. Making the time to be away, planning to get the most out of your day, and then who will be the designated driver, as one full tasting experience can put you over the limit. So whilst enjoyable and highly recommended, how do you get the tasting experience all in one place?

Step into the festival! The origin of the word comes from the word Feast, and in other Latin-based languages means party. And feast and party it is. I love a good festival – a chance to be out and about and meet people, explore and make new discoveries, all in one compact space, before taking public transport/taxi/Uber home.

In Melbourne, which is arguably Australia’s home of Food and Wine experiences, we are very fortunate to have a festival to celebrate just that – The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) opening at the end of this month and running 31 March – 9 April. I was so excited to see that there are many bubbly-focussed events, as well as some of the bigger events like the City Cellar Door as part of the River Graze (held on the first weekend), which will see tasting tables along the banks of the Yarra River. Entry to this family-friendly event is free, and the $10 Festival glass allows you to participate and enjoy wines by the glass or bottle. Visit www.MFWF.com.au for more information.

I am very pleased to have been invited to attend a few of the Bubbly Events at MFWF as accredited media. I will be at the City Cellar Door on the opening night, and here is where I will be for other events. Feel free to find me and say hello. Here are details with links:

Fed in French. Fri 31 March – Sun 2 April this is also part of the FREE River Graze Fed event, the French will take over Federation Square with traditional dishes, fine wines and sweets to treat your Francophile taste buds. The River Terrace will be full of marquees showcasing fare from all regions of France. The crème de la crème will be LE BAR, featuring a selection of French wines, beer and champagne right next to French bistro, Bon Ap’ – popping up for the very first time away from their usual Fitzroy address.  http://www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au/program/fed-in-french-6697

Champagne Lunch with Bollinger – Sun 2 April. I do love a Champagne matched meal. Even its name conjures up good times and bubbles on the tongue. So raise your flute to make a toast to everything that makes Victorian produce great, especially when matched with one of our favourite champagnes. Gather with friends at the 2016 Hotel Bar of the Year to enjoy an indulgent Sunday afternoon of five exquisite courses matched with Bollinger. http://www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au/program/champagne-lunch-with-bollinger-6611

Sweet and Savoury Champagne Party – Tuesday 4 April.  I am so excited about this event. Om Nom, which is the dessert bar at The Adelphi that we included in our recent Melbourne Bubbly Evening (see our photos on our Facebook and Instagram pages), has this great event to surprise your tastebuds – and the masters of dessert are experimenting as never before. Join chefs Jo Ward and Darren Jones on a fun canapé ride at a stand-up champagne party, with delightful sweet elements entering the savoury dishes, and clever savoury twists appearing in desserts. Think Balsamic Fairy Floss, Venison with White Chocolate and Truffle Mousse, and dishes such as Squid Bubbletea and Cowramelo! Match this with Laurent Perrier, Champagne Besserat, and Louis Roederer as the champagne sponsors, providing free flowing champagne all night. Very exciting! Here is the link

http://www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au/program/a-savoury-sweet-sweet-savoury-champagne-party-6596

Best of Victoria High Tea. Two sessions daily between Saturday 1 April to Sunday 9 April. This event focuses on the extraordinary native produce Victoria has to offer. Sample bite-sized delicacies including native Mt Martha oysters, Port Phillip scallops, macadamia tartlets and wattle seed lamingtons. All matched with a lovely selection of Victorian Sparkling Wines. I will be there on Wednesday 5 April, 3–5.30pm. http://www.melbournefoodandwine.com.au/program/best-of-victoria-high-tea-6450

If you are not from Melbourne, maybe this is the perfect time to visit?! There are lots of regional events for MFWF too, so take a look at the website and plan your program.

Also keep an eye out throughout the year for wine festivals in your area or in regions that you would like to visit.  Book a tour, hire a vehicle with your designated driver, plan an overnight stay, or draw straws to see who gets to be Captain.

And on that note, The Bubbles Review has our own festival happening in Melbourne 28 April – 30 April. We are very excited to introduce the inaugural The Bubbles Festival – a celebration of Sparkling Wine.  See the link to our events page here.  https://thebubblesreview.com/eventstours/

We hope to bring The Bubbles Festival to other states in the future.

It is definitely Feast, Festive, Fiesta, Festival time. Here’s cheers to that!

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 monthly Subscriber prize draw. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

 

 

Interview with Floriane Eznack – Champagne Jacquart

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Floriane at a Jacquart Masterclass at Taxi Kitchen in Melbourne. I was fortunate to be given a VIP interview slot to speak with her before the Masterclass, and Floriane generously shared her time and insight with me about working in Champagne.

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.

Historically there have been some great women of Champagne. We asked Floriane about women working in Champagne today.

Floriane talked 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.

She shared 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.

The more that you discover champagne, the more you discover the diversity of it. In introducing Champagne Jacquart, (which is a relatively young label at around 50 years old) to Australia, Floriane says she understands that people feel safe tasting a brand that is well known, but that Champagne is a rich region, very diverse with different styles. There are over 8,000 labels in Champagne, so be curious about tasting – wine is about discovering and sharing. The brand is a modern style, in particular the mission was to highlight the Chardonnay and use the red grapes to enhance that as a fresh style, with refined bubbles and a soft and smooth finish.

See the full interview with Floriane here:

You may also be interested in our blog with an excerpt from the Masterclass – Minerality in Champagne

A beautiful Jacquart giveaway is the prize for our monthly subscriber’s draw for

Champagne Jacquart Giveaway

February. Jacquart describe their passion as such; “Each wine tells the story of its relationship with Champagne lovers. Each wine offers a mosaic of emotions depending on the context in which it is selected and tasted. A youthful and international brand, Champagne JACQUART is now well known across the world.”

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

Minerality in Champagne

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Masterclass with Floriane Eznack, Chef de Cave, Champagne Jacquart at Taxi Kitchen in Melbourne. In this short video she is discussing minerality in Champagne and how this helps to create the flavour and texture profile of different champagnes.

Champagne is particularly known for chalk which was laid down as sediment in massive seas that covered this area, it is like a fingerprint of the land, and the ancient sea fossils found in the soils. The expression of the soil, is more than texture and flavour, it also helps to create the mouth feel, and as Floriane explains, there is more diversity than just chalk to be found.

Other terms that she mentions are Grand Cru and Premier Cru. The word ‘Cru’ in French means growth. This classification of Champagne vineyards was developed in the mid-20th century as a means of setting the price of grapes grown through the villages of the Champagne wine region.

This is a percentile system known as the Échelle des Crus (“ladder of growth”), Grand Cru is an official rating, it is the top of the scale in terms of quality, grapes from one of the 17 villages selected as Grand Cru are considered the best quality, then Premier Cru which the next highest level, and the remainder referred to as Cru.

She also mentions ‘Vintages’ and ‘Non Vintages’.  In short, Non Vintages can include grapes from different harvests, it is a way of blending to get consistencies of style to create a signature champagne. It is usually the ‘lead in’ in terms of pricing for a brand. A Vintage champagne is a champagne that is created from one particular year, it will have a flavour profile that reflects that particular year’s harvest.  It is a lot more difficult to create as it is dependent on the year, if it wasn’t a good year, then a vintage will not be created.

Take a front seat at the Masterclass with this short video excerpt.

Floriane Eznack, Chef de Cave, Champagne Jacquart

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. Since she joined Jacquart in January 2011, she has played a central role in the creation of the finest quality blends for all of the Jacquart’s champagnes. A relatively young brand for Champagne – established 50 years ago, and new to Australia they are definitely making their mark. They describe their passion as such ~ “Each wine tells the story of its relationship with Champagne lovers. Each wine offers a mosaic of emotions depending on the context in which it is selected and tasted. A youthful and international brand, Champagne JACQUART is now well known across the world.”

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

Is champagne better than sex?

I do believe that champagne is one of the joys of life. With Valentine’s Day upon us, a day widely recognised as a day for love and devotion, I thought I would share some thoughts on my devotion to champagne.

So yes, my headline is a little controversial, and you don’t really think I am going to answer that, do you? I will, though, explain why I think that the enjoyment of good champagne is very similar to the enjoyment of good sex. You know, the kind that stays with you, you find yourself drifting off into a day dream in the days afterwards, smiling for no apparent reason, remembering and reliving some of the most sensual moments.

Champagne is a drink that captures all of the senses and creates those moments that pleasantly drift back to you. Take a moment to savour the memories to bring joy to your everyday.

Visual – I like the look of champagne. What is not to like? A beautifully shaped bottle that is almost like a piece of art, which is then uncorked in a sense of ceremony and poured into an elegant glass.

After which an endless flow of very delicate bubbles continue with effervescence waiting for your drinking pleasure. So yes, I like what I see and I would like to take it further.

Smell – I always take time to take in the aroma, the scent or ‘nose’ of the wine. When you smell a wine, you prepare your mind for what you are about to taste. Put your nose at the top of the glass, breathe in slowly and deeply. Guessing at flavours before I taste, this could arguably be considered the foreplay, the playful moments that add to the enjoyment, before we go onto taste.

Touch – To discuss touch, let’s talk about ‘mouth feel’ (yes it is a proper champagne term), the description of how the wine feels in your mouth, and with champagne this is a kaleidoscope of experiences. Take a moment to let that feeling of discovery happen. You have the bead of the bubbles, they help the wine to dance on your tongue, the creaminess and the effervescence you’ll feel as you press down a little, a little explosion in your mouth. The minerality that adds to the where the wine sits in your mouth and continues to bring a discovery of flavours as you taste from the front to the back of the palate. It really is joyful.

Taste – Let’s not forget taste. As you are taking a moment to enjoy the sensuous mouth feel, let your mind explore the taste. What flavours can you detect? Are they the same as you thought they were going to be when you discovered the scent, or are there a few surprises in there? Enjoy the taste as it hits different parts of your palate. Now swallow. Gorgeous.

Even on busy tasting days I always swallow. The spittoon is rarely used, which probably means that I am in love every time that I drink champagne.

Feel – How do I feel when I drink champagne? Joyful is the best description I can think of. As a warm glow takes over the body, I savour the moments of delight, the feeling of luxury, richness, and the feeling of appreciation; I feel truly blessed and enriched from the experience. The pleasure that it brings, the delicate moments of joy, and for days afterwards I find myself smiling for no apparent reason remembering all of the delightful details, the smell, the taste, the mouth feel.

Sigh! Well, I hope that this was as good for you as it was for me! Wishing everyone a happy Valentine’s Day. Whether you are enjoying a glass of bubbly alone or with a loved one, take time to savour all of the precious moments and remember – life is too short not to drink good champagne!

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 monthly Subscriber prize draw. The monthly giveaway is usually a chance to win a lovely champagne or sparkling gift. Join our list!

 

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