Kyla Kirkpatrick left a corporate career in 2005 after reading an article on Napoleon Bonaparte. His love affair with champagne, and friendship with Jean Remy Moët, had her wanting to know more about champagne’s illustrious history, and its links to kings, queens, rock stars, movie stars and rappers.
After writing a letter to the author of her favourite book on champagne and receiving a surprise invitation to study with him, she jumped at the opportunity and hasn’t looked back.
In her workshops as The Champagne Dame, Kyla vows to teach people — champagne lover or not — how to be a bubbles aficionado in a two-hour, action-packed, cheeky journey into the world of champagne. You can expect to learn about its sparkling history, etiquette, different styles, production techniques and more — but if you missed our Mother's Day workshops here is a taste tester of six things you didn’t know about champagne.
Never intentional, the bubbles started naturally occurring in bottles of still wine made by the monks of Champagne in the late 1600s. When the monks, led by talented winemaker Dom Pérignon, couldn’t remove the bubbles, they decided if you can’t beat Mother Nature, join her!
They are a blend of multiple years’ harvests, which is why there is no year on the bottle. The Champagne region is a cool climate, and not every year enjoys the best growing conditions for the grapes, so a blend is made using still wine from previous years. Every Champagne house releases a ‘Non-Vintage’ each year as the flagship of the house — ideally it tastes the same every year no matter the conditions.
You should wash your champagne glasses in straight hot water and give them a hot rinse after being in the dishwasher.
A loud pop is considered uncouth in champagne circles, and the more vivaciously you pop the cork, the bigger the rush of bubbles at the time and the less bubbles for your glass.
The tall slim flute, which most people drink from, is too narrow and will help retain the bubbles but close down the aroma and completely defeat the champagne. The coupe, which is the old-fashioned wide-mouthed glass (believed to be modelled off Marie Antoinette’s left breast) was fine in the 1700s, as champagne used to be sweet and syrupy and not particularly aromatic.
Champagne today is aged in the cellar for a long period to develop a wonderful bouquet of delicate aromas and is highly refined compared to yesteryear — so we need a small white wine glass or ideally a tulip-shaped glass to help the champagne open up and show its true potential.
Dinner party etiquette says if you bring a bottle of champagne to a dinner party cold it is expected to be served to guests, but if you bring a bottle at room temperature then it is intended as a gift and should not be served.
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