It’s not always French but it’s usually pretty good. David Pike looks forward to summer and another appointment with the fizzy stuff.

WITH the silly season just past it is time to start planning for the festive frolics to come.

For me the allure of the festive season is just one drink – well, one style of drink (I have never been known to have just one drink). The drink of the season, as the warming rays and blue skies of summer break up the dreary grind of the weekly work schedule, the only thirst quenching drink of satisfaction is champagne.

In its traditional form champagne can only come from the land of frogs legs, langoustine and Bridget Bardot. Down Under, however, the production of fine fizz is fast catching up with the best efforts of the French. Top Aussie wines such as Hardys Arras, Pipers Brooks Pirrie, Domaine Chandon Blanc de Blanc and the Seppelts Salinger are quite stunning examples of Australian fizz. All the same, I am not at pains to tell you that ‘French rules’. While the price issue doesn’t allow the foreign fizz to flow in abundance at my place, it certainly makes an appearance more often than my bank manager would like. The chosen brew is usually Billecarte Salmon NV $75.00, maybe a little less if you talk nicely to your local bottle shop owner. Another relative bargain comes with the refined bubbles of Pol Roger NV $70.00. But if you win Lotto or have an unending supply of cash, and love champagne, there is only one choice – Krug Clos du Mensil blanc de blanc $500.

Champagne lovers will be very glad to hear that it seems likely the 2002 vintage will be declared as a ‘vintage’ year. The French only declare a vintage when they, the producers of champagne, believe the quality to be outstanding. Various producers have suggested that the 2002 vintage will be compared to that of 1990, while others are arguing that, while it won’t be as good as 1995, it is happily sitting up their with the likes of 1996 and 1991.

Those who, like me, find that they have a soft spot for champagne will rejoice in events coming up in the next few weeks as part of a new initiative from the Champagne Information Centre of Australia. The first of what is to be an annual national celebration of champagne throughout Australia will this year take place in venues nationwide during November. Here in Perth, master of wine Steve Charters will present an informal tasting of eight champagnes from renowned producers such as Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Charles Hiedsieck and Laurent Perrier. Steve will guide you through the various individual house styles of the champagnes on offer and give you an insight to the world of champagne.

The event will be presented in the private dinning room at the Globe Wine Bar at the Hilton on November 14 from 6pm –8pm. Places are limited and, at only $85, this is a tasting that you must endeavour to attend.

Those wishing to further explore the exquisite bubbles of champagne and complementary food will embrace the offering from Lexie Thompson, winner of the 1992 Vin de Champagne Award, and Globe chef Cheong Liew for the second champagne evening, which will be held at the Globe Wine Bar at the Hilton. The November 20 dinner, at $195, will have on offer some of the best champagnes currently still available in fine wine stores. Cheong has matched Louis Roederer Blanc de Blanc 1996, Taittinger Brut 1996 and Pol Roger Rose 1995 with epicurean delights such as salmon jam salad, saltwater duck, loin of suckling pig and macerated oranges with dates. It has all the ingredients of an event not to be missed.

While on education, the Wine Education Centre is presenting a range of one-night specialty courses over the coming months. ‘Merlot magic’ is the first and will be held on November 14. Paul McArdel will guide you through this ever-popular variety and help you gain a broader appreciation of its delights. The cost for this evening is $85 and participants will look at a range of wines both nationally and internationally.

‘Sexy sauvy’ will be held on November 21. One of the trendy varieties around at the moment, sauvignon blanc produces a wide range of styles. During the course of this tasting you will begin to understand the complexities that this variety can display.

Examples from New Zealand and the Loire Valley in France will be offered against the finest Aussie wines. And all for only $55. To book a place at any of these tastings or to find out about other educational evening courses contact the Wine Education Centre on 9385 1699.

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