Blonde, bubbly and irrepressibly cheerful, just like her favourite beverage, Jayne Powell – aka Champagne Jayne – is a respected Australian independent reviewer and expert in champagne and sparkling wines.
Her website, Champagne Jayne, is a cornucopia of entertaining and educational champagne videos, articles, event reviews and useful hints and tips to help you make the most of all your champagne and sparkling experiences. Follow Champagne Jayne on Twitter to hear all about her champagne adventures.
When and how did your love affair with champagne begin?
Within 24 hours of arriving in France on a student cultural exchange aged 15, I was smitten by practically everything I could see, smell, touch and taste. It was my first trip overseas and I was totally enthralled but completely ignorant. Lucky for me, my penpal’s father (who was a hotelier) decided, on the spot, to educate me about food and wine, and introduce me to the French art de vivre – I’ve been mad about all things French, especially champagne, ever since.
What inspired you to start your website, Champagne Jayne?
Champagne tastes fabulous, is a proven anti-depressant, and is even good for your waistline (champagne is, in fact, a mild diuretic!). Renowned the world over as the natural partner for any event where celebration, luxury and romance are the themes, champagne is also the ultimate icebreaker and relationship-building tool suitable for any occasion in corporate life.
There are very scientific reasons behind champagne’s expense and unique position in the wine world, but few understand the secrets of its magic appeal. This is where champagnejayne.com comes in. As a passionate champagne evangelist, my palate remains a “free agent” unrestricted by any brand sponsorship, so I decided to make it my life’s work to demystify champagne and make this global icon of luxury accessible to all.
Tell us about the champagne on offer in Australia.
Moët & Chandon (the world’s seventh most powerful luxury brand) is, by far, the biggest selling champagne brand in Australia, followed by its stablemate Veuve Clicquot. Mumm and Nicolas Feuillatte are also top local sellers, but, since La Champagne is a wine region of remarkable diversity, it’s very exciting to report that we now see small artisan champagnes (made by families rather than corporations) beginning to make a regular appearance in specialist bottle shops Down Under.
Find out more about great value grower champagnes here. Two exceptional quality (and value) and widely available family champagne producers that offer entry level cuvees costing less than AU$50 are Champagne Drappier and Champagne Pierre Gimonnet.
What’s new in the world of this celebratory drink?
Despite the recent hiccup in global champagne sales due to the GFC, demand for this ultimate icon of luxury has been steady for centuries, and the Champenois are used to planning for all possible long-term eventualities. In Champagne, the hot topic is how best to maintain the existing wine land and supervise the extension of the Champagne region’s vineyards, to include new previously unclassified village and vineyard parcels.
Australians love champagne and provide a great market window onto Asia. In 2009, Australians drank three million bottles of champagne, making our small nation the ninth largest consumer of champagne in the world. Thanks to the GFC hangover and the strong Aussie dollar, there has never been a better time to buy champagne in Australia. Average champagne prices in 2010 were nearly 10 per cent lower than in 2007 (when pre-crisis consumption had risen to 3.5 million bottles of champagne per annum).
Find the best bubbly retail bargains by watching Champagne Jayne TV Shopping Guides.
Do you believe champagne is strictly for special occasions?
Absolutely not, champagne is like a “holiday in a glass”. For me, champagne isn’t about being snobby, posh or saving up to celebrate weddings and job promotions – it’s the affordable luxury in life. You mightn’t be able to afford to jet off to Bali for the weekend, but everyone deserves to treat themselves to the small indulgence of enjoying a really decent glass of fizz on a Friday night! I firmly believe there is a perfect style of champagne for every special moment in your day, from breakfast to nightcap.
What should we look for when buying a bottle?
There is a champagne to match every occasion, every mood and every budget, so the answer to this question really depends on “why” you are buying this particular bottle of champagne. The first thing to consider is, does the recipient prefer light and dry styles, or rich and fruity styles of table wine (in champagne terms, Champagne Lanson versus Champagne Bollinger)? To give you some ideas, my top tips on how to choose champagne and sparkling for AUS$40 and under, and prestige champagne AUS$250 and over, can be found here.
What’s your favourite cocktail involving champagne?
As a poor university student in the South of France, I could only afford champagne on special occasions, so I would replace champagne with an entirely pleasant dry, local French sparkling, called Blanquette de Limoux, and mix it with crème de cassis [blackcurrant-flavoured liqueur] to make my favourite cocktail aperitif, Kir Royale. Later on, I graduated to a Bellini – using real champagne and real fresh peach slices, naturally! Bellini is still one of my favourite cocktails as an alternative to my usual champagne aperitif.
What are your tips for matching champagne to food?
Champagne wines are light, balanced and wonderfully flavoursome, so they’re the perfect match for the Australian climate and our lighter Asian-influenced style of cuisine. The majority of brands available Down Under are classic non-vintage multi-grape blends, composed of between 40-80 base wines. Champagne NV is the cheval de bataille (war horse) of any champagne house, so these champagnes are the perfect match for a slab of cheddar or any other hard cheese with bread! Fish and chips is another favourite match (particularly with a blanc de blancs champagne). Try Lanson, Taittinger or Pol Roger with first-course dishes. To match a meaty main course, look to vintage champagnes (1999, 2002) or full-bodied NV styles, like Alfred Gratien, Bollinger or Krug. But the very best trick in the book is to splash a drop of the champagne you’re drinking into the sauce of the dish you’re making, and then wow your guests with your matching expertise! Find out more about champagne and food matching here.
What is your secret food indulgence?
Thank God a glass of champagne contains only 98 calories, because the thing I love most after champagne is chocolate! My secret shame is that I’ve been a huge fan of Nestlé Walnut Whips since I was a small child, and my indulgence is that darling mum sends over regular Walnut Whip care packages from the UK!
What else would you like to tell your fellow foodies?
“He who never takes risks, never gets to drink champagne” (Old Russian Proverb) Find out why in my new book Champagne – Behind The Bubbles published in April 2011.