Experiencing the Effervescence Champagne Festival
When I first heard about the Effervescence Champagne Festival early in 2016, I thought “Now that’s what’s been missing from my life – an event celebrating my favourite drop!” We were filming a story on the festival for our show The Great Day Out (formerly The Great South East) and had a wonderful day shooting at the heavenly Spicers Hidden Vale.
The Effervescence Festival Director, Amanda Reboul (aka The Bubble Diva), and I hit it off instantly. With our shared love of French champagne it was no surprise and within a couple of weeks I came on board as the inaugural event’s Festival Ambassador.
My partner and I arrived to the picturesque Spicers retreat on the Friday afternoon of the festival and we were checked into a charming cottage which was just beautiful and boasted the most stunning view of the Lockyer Valley. Once settled in we took advantage of the lovely deck off the lounge room and popped the first of what would be many bottles of bubbly that weekend. I remember the anticipation and excitement for the weekend ahead was almost palpable.
It couldn’t have been more picturesque on that deck as the sun was setting with the clouds in the distance slowly changing colours from orange to pink and then finally purple. Truly stunning!
Once the sun had set, it was time for the Welcome Cocktail Party in the cozy library of the property’s rustic homestead. On arrival we were greeted by wait staff with a flute of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque. Absolutely sublime drop. With a fire raging in the library’s old world fireplace, we were joined by our fellow guests who seemed as equally excited as were to kick off this special weekend.
The anticipatory vibe created a wonderfully convivial atmosphere with guests mingling and getting to know each other. A variety of hors d’ouerves that resembled mini-works of art, were served. To top it all off, we were treated to a fantastic performance by electric violinist, Suzie G. No one wanted the evening to end but we knew it would be wise to get a good night’s sleep for the big day ahead.
We woke up on Saturday morning and all I could think about was the Champagne Breakfast that was awaiting us. Spicers head chef, Ash Martin, is well-known not only for his exceptional fare but for his unique and creative culinary skills. With the mid-morning sun shining we walked over to the retreat’s restaurant, Homage, and were escorted to a table on the veranda that provided a spectacular view of the Little Liverpool Ranges. Needless to say the brekky was delectable as was the Brimoncourt Champagne we enjoyed with it.
It was a day jam-packed with activity. Following the leisurely breakfast, there was a masterclass hosted by renowned Champagne expert David Donald. This included a tasting session, with David highlighting the differences between Non-Vintage, Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Meunier and Blanc de Noir varieties.
This was followed by what turned out to be one of my favourite activities of the weekend, the Pommery Petanque Competition. Guests gathered at the “Boulodrome” adjacent to the homestead for this French version of lawn bowls and we were divided into teams. Flutes of Pommery champagne were served.
Although my team was not victorious (I think we over-indulged in the Pommery!), it was an absolute hoot. The winning team then had to compete against each other until a sole winner was crowned who was a vivacious middle-aged woman from Brisbane that was thrilled to receive her prize, a magnum of Pommery, of course!
The lawn bowls fun was followed by an outdoor lunch at one very long table beautifully set out with a crisp white table cloth and stunning fresh floral arrangements running the length of the table. The panoramic view of the Lockyer provided a magnificent backdrop. The setting was like something out of a French film!
After the lavish lunch we then retired to our cottage for a bit of a nanna nap to rest up for the wonderful evening ahead. At around 5pm we all gathered on the property’s Laidley Lawn for a Sunset Sabrage Session. After a tutorial from Amanda, each of us was given the opportunity to master the art of sabrage, a ceremonial technique dating back to Napoleonic times of opening a bottle of bubbly with a saber.
As the sun was setting in front of us with kangaroos hopping across the horizon, we were each given our own bottle of Canard-Duchene and handed the saber to lop off the cork with some of us being a bit more successful than others. But rest assured, all the bottles were eventually opened!
With copious sabered bottles of Canard-Duchene at the ready, our group of newly certified Master Sabeurs strolled down to the homestead where the Spicers staff had been busy preparing the elegant dining room with candles and fragrant flowers. Over the next three hours we were treated to an absolutely divine five-course degustation with the Canard-Duchene the perfect complement.
The conversation flowed as freely as the champagne – so many interesting and entertaining people in our weekend group. After a sublime dessert that was reminiscent of a MasterChef final challenge, it was with great reluctance that we called it a night – but not before having an après-diner nightcap in front of the fireplace.
We woke to a picture perfect Sunday morning and took a nice long walk around the hilly property before breakfast which featured a beautiful Vincent Brochet Champagne. This was followed by our second masterclass showcasing “Special Club’ vintages from various Champagne houses including Veuve Clicquot and Moet & Chandon. Why didn’t we have such classes when I was in school??
I’d enjoyed the previous day’s long table lunch so much, I could hardly wait for the day’s Krug Lunch which was set out under a massive tree outside the property’s barn – adjacent to a vibrantly blooming row of fuchsia bougainvillea that had everyone snapping photos. The star of this lunch was the Krug Grande Cuvee with which we were indulged, and which quickly became my favourite drop of the weekend. Share platters with mounds of abundant winter fare arrived at the table, stopping the chatter in its tracks as we gave it the attention it commanded.
The inaugural Effervescence event’s ‘piece de resistance’ was without a doubt The Champagne Trail on the Sunday afternoon. With pop up stands and social areas scattered around the hills of the property featuring tasting stations for over 60 different Champagnes this was always going to be popular. As the clock struck 2pm, our intimate weekend group was joined by more than 250 champagne aficionados who descended upon Spicers to revel in a dream afternoon of fine French bubbly in this magical location.
The atmosphere was electric – everyone seemed to have a smile on their face as they sipped champagne, took in the stunning scenery, had a laugh and enjoyed the convivial mood of the day, it was truly one of the best weekend’s I’ve ever had. To be able to immerse oneself in so many of the world’s most renowned French champagnes and in such a beautiful place, it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
That is just one of the reasons I feel so fortunate to return as Festival Ambassador in 2017, to have the opportunity to experience this wonderfully unique event yet again. I must have seriously done something good in my past life to deserve this!