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We sat down with QT Sydney’s very own Champagne dame, aka Head Sommelier Samantha Belt, to learn more about everyone’s favourite drink to pop and pour during silly season.
So Samantha, tell us why Champagne is the perfect drink for a celebration?
Champagne is more than just a wine, it is an emotion. From the moment you hear the pop of the cork and you get a tingle up your spine, the excitement kicks in. The bubbles make you giddy with anticipation, the elegance of the palate making all your troubles feel lighter and the buffet of flavours like brioche, biscuits and pastry set your appetite on fire.
With bubbles flowing and good company, Champagne is the ultimate wine to start your celebration.
QT Sydney has seven Champagnes available for guests to sip and savour at the QTea High Tea by Adriano Zumbo. Choices choices! What are some tips for selecting a Champagne to enjoy?
Champagne is like any other wine. It can come in many styles from lifted and elegant to rich and bold. If you’re not sure how to choose, think about the type of wines you usually like to enjoy.
Start off with a Non-Vintage (NV) style Champagne, these are master blends that are representative of a Champagne House’s ‘style’ of wine. Prefer something light and elegant? Try the NV Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut. Prefer something a little more robust and rich? Try the NV GH Mumm Grand Cordon. You won’t go wrong.
The Gowings and Parlour wine lists are award– winning. Tell us about how you decide what Champagnes are make the cut?
For most of Champagnes history, Champagne makers have been blending fruit from all over the region. This is largely due to the cooler or poorer weather they face. To combat this, the makers achieve balance through different parcels of ripe fruit and varieties. In the face of climate change, we are now seeing more consistent ripening across the region allowing for less blending and more sub-regional expressions of Champagne, as well as organic and biodynamic farming.
When looking for new Champagnes to list, the most important factors are quality, sustainability and commitment. As sommeliers we have a responsibility to be aware of what we are selling, and we need to make sure we are choosing brands that are committed to sustainability that is paramount to the longevity of Champagne and the wine industry overall.
QT Sydney’s neo-French bistro Parlour offers a robust wine program. What is your Champagne pick in Parlour?
The 2015 Paul Bara Special Club Bouzy Grand Cru would be my choice. It is made from 100% estate owned fruit, all from the Grand Cru village of Bouzy, famed for top quality Pinot Noir. I adore the robust nature of Pinot Noir dominant Champagne and how they interact with more intensely flavoured foods like steak tartare or confit duck, which we have on the menu.
Hatted restaurant Gowings has an exceptional wine selection. What is your favourite Champagne now pouring in Gowings?
Our Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Blanc de Noir. This wine will always have a special place in my heart as it was my gateway drug into growers Champagne. It’s made with 100% Pinot Noir with oak aging combined with extended lees contact, which gives the wine a powerful, complex mouthfeel. This Champagne isn’t for the faint hearted but has the range to hold up to all your Italian inspired favourites at Gowings.
What is something about Champagne that might surprise people?
Up until the 17th century, the bubbles in Champagne were seen as a fault. The Champenois dedicated endless time and recourses trying to rid their still wines of bubbles, as did Dom Perignon, who spent most of his life trying to rid Champagne of bubbles. Ironic – his name is now revered as one of the world’s most popular vintage Champagne names.
To coupe or not to coupe – which glass should you choose and why?
I would always choose a white wine glass for my Champagne. Flutes were invented to preserve the mousse of the Champagne but it is quite difficult to appreciate the aromas in such a glass.
Drinking Champagne in a white wine glass allows the aromas to swirl out of the glass allowing you to enjoy all the features of the Champagne. Unless you’re pouring for a Champagne tower – then coupes are a MUST.
A big question now, what is your favourite Champagne of all time?
Bollinger Grand Annee, no matter the vintage, I adore this wine. The wines are always so generous and the core is so fruitful with a lifted weightless finish. It’s like drinking a new wine with every sip, a new aroma or flavour develops every minute. I’m always happily lost in the wine.
Samanatha Belt is the Head Sommelier of QT Sydney, working together with EVT Beverage Director Chris Morrison to curate our venue’s award-winning wine lists.
Check out QT Sydney’s places to wine and dine here.
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