Spiritz Magazine: Serve Elegance with Champagne

May 17, 2011


Davide Zubani is an Italian born in the northern town of Brescia nestling between Lake Garda and Lake Iseo.  Trained in Italy as a sommelier, he first came to India in 2006, went briefly to the Maldives and then India called again.  Davide is the sommelier at L’Angoor and lives in Gurgaon with his partner, ‘she is not an Italian or Indian, but a Turkish lady.  I like to complicate my life,’ says Davide.  Zubani reveals to Spiritz finer points of champagne styles and service.

All things being equal and if champagne was easy to stock, how many styles would you ideally want on your wine list?

Ideally, to have an interesting and appealing ‘Champagne selection’ in my list I would have some vintages from the great Maisons, some non-vintages from small Maisons (with a bio or bio-dynaic production) or from different villages.  These will play around ‘Commercial Chanmpagne’ that obviously will represent the backbone of my list (and the business).  If they can be found, I would add maybe a Demi Sec.  A couple of Rose (vintage and non vintage will complete the opera.

How would you suggest a glass of champagne (in case it was available by the glass) to a couple when they come to your restaurant?

Personally I would like to introduce a glass of champagne as a different way to start their dinner.  The intimate atmosphere that a glass of champagne can create (a balanced emotional feeling of joy, elegance, finesse, class, added to aromas and freshness of champagne itself) equals to no other drink.

If a customer is undecided about which style of champagne to order, how would you question his preferences and maybe help a couple select a style to go along with the whole meal.

In this case, which takes place quite frequently among champagne lovers, I try to explain in the simplest way the reasons of my suggestions (mainly related to the complexity, texture and aroma intensity of the food) so that they can enjoy the best experience possible.  My suggestions have been taken into consideration by the guests 99% of the times.  But if the guests are comfortable with their own choice….cheers!

If the guests are 4 or 6 on a table and want to try more than one style of champagne, how would you select the progression of style for them?

I will start with the lighter and easier to drink (in body) and go to the full bodied (can be Rose, why not) and complex ones (for the richest dish, usually a main course).  I also adopt some ‘trick’ to amplify the dinner’s experience playing with the temperature of the champagnes.  I start with an over chilled champagne for the beginning to enhance the acidity and the freshness and go to an under-chilled one for a main course to amplify the aroms and softness, which will help in better balancing of the palate, bite after bite of a more rich consistency and flavour of the main course.

Would you suggest different styles of champagne for different occasions – Valentine, engagement celebration, even proposal of marriage or indeed a romantic anniversary?

Frankly speaking, I can’t see any connection between different styles of champagne, but Napoleon Bonaparte said “in victory I deserve champagne, in defeat I need it!” I totally agree with him.  What is absolutely wrong, from my point of view, is to ‘segregate’ champagne as a drink for a special occasion.  Why not drink something special on any occasion?

What’s the right way for a sommelier to open a bottle of champagne?

A few rules to follow:

Service temperature: Theoretically, the right temperature to serve champagne is 6-7 degrees Celsius.  However, my experience teaches me that to obtain the full potential of champagne in terms of freshness (read acidity), bouquet and bodied, different styles of champagne require different temperatures.

The ‘right’ glass: From the regular flute for most champagne to a more ample glass for more structured and ‘big’ champagne (most vintages) is preferred.  The bottom should have a prominent dimple to allow the formation of bubbles which is one of the more important aspects of judging champagne.

Clean glasses: Always undervalued but due to the finesse and delicacy and/or complexity of the bouquet, just a small residual from the washing process can affect the entire taste of the nectar.

Don’t shake the bottle.

Maintain a certain distance from the table.  It’s very embarrassing, if accidentally, champagne is spilled out on the lady’s new dress, or the cork goes straight to the gentleman’s glass!

Pay attention to the foam that sometimes comes out of the glass while pouring.  Always happens when there is a mobile phone just close to the glass.

Elegance delivered during all the service phases.  The real whole with the bottle’s presentation to the final clearance of the glasses, in between….the heaven!

How would you suggest that we improve the acceptance of champagne as a wine of celebration yet a wine essentially?

Maybe it is just my own impression but I have noticed that there has not been much hype created on champagne across various media.  So let’s start to speak about it as it has happened and still happens with wines.  Let’s give the consumers the opportunity to taste champagnes, let them know the story behind the bubbles, the centuries of story, the people, the work and the sacrifice.  Just doing this we can thank champagne for the magnificent moments spent drinking it.  Champagne deserves it…

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