Jaillan Yehia

Confessions of a champagne socialist – Lessons In Travel & Champers

Written by Jaillan Yehia

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champagneLike most girls I’m rather partial to a glass of bubbly  – and writing about the differences between champagne and sparkling wine recently (as you do) reminded me that along with making me forget a few things, my nights (and days) out with champagne by my side have taught me a few things worth remembering too.

Here are three fun facts that champagne has taught me on my travels, from how easy it really is to sabre a bottle of the sparkling stuff to the longstanding tradition of post hot air ballooning baptisms with bubbles …

So in no particular order, my social life lessons, garnered from champagne are –

Lesson 1: How To Sabre A Champagne Bottle

Sabering a champagne bottle from Savoir There on Vimeo.

When I visited The Bearfoot Bistro, Whistler’s signature high-class restaurant, I was presented with plenty of things I had expected – great food, good conversation, and even a made-at-your-table dessert of liquid nitrogen ice cream  – but when I was presented with a knife and told to hack the top off a superior bottle of bubbly, I was taken aback.

However, it was here that I learned that slicing the tip off a champers bottle like they do in the movies is a lot easier than it has any right to be – and once you find out the secret you’ll be buying champagne in caseloads to impress those around you

Here are the simple steps you need to know –

1. The champagne must be ice cold. Chill for 24 hours and put on ice for the last 15 minutes.

2. Feel for the weak point near the neck of the bottle where the two halves of the bottle have been joined together by machine – you should be able to see and feel the joins on either side.

3. Simply slide the blunt edge of a knife or anything resembling one along the bottle gently to find the place where this seam meets the neck of the bottle and with one decisive motion, almost like throwing a frisbee follow through with your final slide of the knife. Et voila!

Where I learned this: The Bearfoot Bitsro, Whistler

Travel take-away:

Don’t be afraid to try something new, its often easier than you think, and it always feels great to add a new skill to your repertoire.

Lesson 2: Champagne Comes in Kegs Too

wine in kegs

Wine on tap at the Van Urban Winery

If you’re walking down East Hastings Street in Vancouver’s Gastown, the last thing you’d expect to find at the end of this rather shabby road is champagne. And you won’t. Well not exactly.

The Vancouver urban winery is a little enclave of sophistication full of wine and tapas delights  – but as it serves only local BC wine that means that I can’t call its sparkling offerings champagne – but you get the idea.

However, despite that little linguistic hitch, this is the place that first put me onto the notion that wine can – and in many cases should – come in steel kegs and be available on tap. And so can champagne.

I was given the tour and told about the 40 wineries with whom they work to create blended wine, as well as the fact that they’re the only winery in British Columbia that packages their product in pressurized stainless steel kegs which can hold 26 bottles, meaning that so far 160,000 glass bottles have been saved from production.

And if this doesn’t prove that sparkling vino and champagne comes in plenty of styles with prices to suit any budget I don’t know what will – their local The City 55 Blanc de Noir Brut is only $25 and has been recommended by top sommeliers.

Where I learned this: The Vancouver Urban Winery

Travel take-away:

There are usually alternative ways of doing what we want which can lessen our impact on the environment, and the more demand there is for these new and improved techniques the more they will be implemented.

Lesson 3: Hot Air Balloonists’ Give Special Champagne Toasts

Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival

Colorado River Crossing Balloon Festival

Most hot air balloon flights seem to include champagne, but I’d always assumed this was simply a way to increase the luxury contingent of the experience and make it feel that little bit more special.

But after my own hot air balloon ride over Arizona I learned that champagne and balloon rides go hand on hand – legend has it that while King Louis XVI originally organised for criminals to take the risk of the first hot air balloon ride, in the end champagne carrying aristocrats climbed on board – and further rumour suggests subsequent flights included bottles of the stuff to calm down the freaked out peasants who’d just seen a giant balloon fly through the skies, land in their field and spew out people.

My own post-ride champagne toast was accompanied by a surprise baptism  – its good luck to have it poured over your head too apparently, as well as a reading of the special balloonists’ prayer –

The winds have welcomed you with softness
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in your laughter
and set you gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.

Where I learned this: Yuma, Arizona

Travel take-away:

The most fun part of an experience can often happen when you least expect it – who knew that kneeling in a car park and having champagne poured over my head by a stranger would be as enjoyable as floating through the Arizona skies.


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