By: Vaniitha Jaiin, On: December 24, 2015 Blanc De Blancs, Blanc De Noir, Bollinger, Breakfast with Champagne, Champagne Pommery, Drappier, Krug Grande Cuvèe, Laurent Perrier, Louis Roederer, Moet & Chandon, Sparkling, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, Wine Tasting, Wines
A night and day swamped in luxury of all kinds…
Mark Twain’s words, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right,” all made sense after my first Champagne Experience.
In India, Comité Champagne and Rajiv Singhal, the ambassador of Champagne to India, have been organizing ‘Champagne Experience’ to promote the history, art and protect appellation of Champagne, ‘coz as it a highly misused word across the globe.
Arrival in the city of lakes
Venue for the 24-hour affair was The Leela Palace on Lake Pichola, which is enveloped by the Aravalli range on one side. On September 26th 2015, at dusk, I reached Udaipur. At the banks of the freshwater lake, other invitees and I boarded a boat to reach the hotel. As we cruised over the calm waters and watched the sun set, my thoughts veered away from my chaotic home town and starting to relax in the tranquil atmosphere.
By the time we arrived at our destination, I was deeply immersed in the peace and grandeur around me. As I set foot on the magnificent Leela Palace, the gracious host and his wife, Ritu Singhal, with a team of congenial hotel staffers were waiting to welcome us.
But they weren’t alone, tulip glasses filled with Champagne Pommery were waiting for us. Usually a welcome drink would be nariyal pani or an exotic juice or a regional drink, but we were served a refreshing bubbly, which at hindsight was an ideal aperitif to whet appetite for more sparklers. And right away I knew we were in for pleasant surprises for the next 24 hours.
Before Pommery and the Palace hotel got the better of us and made us lose track of time, Mr. Singhal, informed us that next on the itinerary was a presentation on Champagne.
I was ushered to my beautiful room with breath-taking view of the lake. Enthralled by the splendour around me I decided to put up my feet and enjoy the luxury. But within few minutes I heard ‘ding dong’.
Series of Surprises
A trolley laden with gorgeous Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut bottles and a smiling sommelier greeted me at the door. The gent handed me a flute of the bubbly as a ‘welcome drink’ to the room. I still hadn’t gotten over the first unusual welcome drink and here was one more. It’s difficult to turn down such a fine drink, so I swigged the golden bubbly, picked up my best dress and got ready for the high tea and presentation.
Mr. Singhal gave us an in-depth glimpse into the world of Champagne, talking from ‘what’ to ‘why’, and ‘how’ about the golden bubbly in this talk. We tasted and analysed the fresh Louis Roederer Brut Premier, the fruity and dry Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Rose and the vivacious Philippe Gonet Blanc de Blancs to help put the information into perspective. By the end, I had so much gen on Champagne and its eponymous drink that I feel responsible to not let the world misconstrue the word. So, next time you use champagne to classify colour, watch out!
After the several sparklers in my system I was happy high when I got the next surprise. A candle-lit sit down dinner was set in Sheesh Mahal under the moonlit sky and over-looking the lake. Our menu boasted of fine authentic Rajasthani delicacies paired with France’s finest Champagnes (Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle, Drappier Grande Sendrèe 2005, Louis Roederer Cristal 2005, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1998, Bollinger Grande Annèe 2005, Krug Grande Cuvèe and Armand de Brignac Brut Rosè).
And, there I was living a magical moment – savouring Dal Batti Churma, sipping fine Louis Roederer Cristal and having conversations in a land where my ancestors lived. I had never dreamt of this moment. Being from Rajasthan, the evening made me nostalgic and is a memory etched forever in my heart. Suddenly, I felt my life was like a fairy-tale filled with mystery and magic.
Bubble in Bed
Our night ended pretty late, so next morning to shake me out of my slumber I was served the delicate, fruity – Taittinger Brut Reservè instead of chai or coffee. What a start! I don’t if it was the champagne or the thought of bubbles in bed that got me excited, but I certainly think it is a blissful beginning for a new day.
For breakfast, once again, the table was filled with North Indian and Rajasthani dishes and Champagne Devaux Brut & Moet Chandon, Imperial Brut. I had so much champagne in my system, yet, every time a shimmering glass was in front of me I could not resist. Moreover it was a rare experience, so I without any guilt relished every sip and bite I took.
At this point, I’d like to mention the high point of the previous night’s dinner and breakfast was matching Indian food with champagne. Most of us can’t crack secret of how to pair the European drink with Indian delights. But, Mr. Singhal and Leela Palace hotel’s team, had perfectly paired the delicacies and drinks and left us with a new gastronomical highs.
The climax of the lovely morning though was Champagne Sabrage. It’s a ceremonial technique where a bottle of champagne is opened with a special sword or knife. Like the bubbly, this method too comes from France. Mr. Singhal slid a Rajasthani sword along the body to the neck of a gorgeous bottle of Moet & Chandon. Caution: It requires skill and a special sword to saber champagne so don’t go around breaking bottles recklessly.
After that we proceeded to our last meal at The Leela Palace that was paired with Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosè and Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial. For the first time, I was served champagne on the rocks. Demi-sec Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial was served with a circular ice, custom-made by Rock, a machine that makes perfect ice balls from solid ice. When I sipped the champagne, I realized the ice didn’t dilute my drink, it just cooled it enough to beat the summer heat and prepare us for a journey back home. Yes, it was time to put an end to the extravagant event.
Of course, everyone wished the romance with champagne wouldn’t end, but good things come in small packages. So, I said goodbye to lovely and gracious host and hostess and, with umpteen thoughts about the unique experience, hopped back in the boat to leave The Leela Palace. Maybe there will be more such events or maybe not. But one thing’s certain, too much of champagne is just right!
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Wine & Spirits Specialist. Whisky Enthusiast. Marketing Wizard. Globetrotter. Runner. Passionate. Just a few words that concisely but aptly define me, Vaniitha Jaiin. ..