A Sparkling Soirée

25th May 2017


Champagne makes a historic reappearance in the heritage gardens of Udaipur’s royal City Palace and headlines its unique French soirée in India.

French wine and gastronomy has long ruled the world. Today, Atout France, the French tourism development agency, is finding new and unique ways to promote these around the world, one being the annual international Gout de France day, originally conceptualized by Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse. On March 21, wine and food lovers in five continents sit down to savour French meals paired with French wines. The curtain raiser for this years’ event in India was held on 20 February in spectacular fashion in the royal city of Udaipur, hosted by Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar and the Champagne-Ardenne Tourism board with Atout France. The 3-course sit down dinner in the City Palace, created especially by Chef Eric Geoffroy of Au Piano des Chefs Reims, saw Champagne toasts raised throughout the evening. The grand marque Champagne in question was from the house of Laurent-Perrier in Reims. The Laurent-Perrier Brut NV was served as an apéritif and the special Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé which made it appearance with dessert as the grand finale.

The location was the glittering fairy-lit courtyard of the historic Manek Chowk in the heart of the City Palace. Traditional Rajasthani music played live from the ramparts and a company of ceremonial royal guards on horses stood to attention as guests entered. Fresh marigold and jasmine flowers lined the pathways and at the very centre of the courtyard gardens were damask-covered tables set for 30 diners. Guests for the evening included Thierry Morel of the French Embassy, Romain Tilly of Champagne-Ardenne Tourism, Jean-Christian de la Chevalerie key accounts international director of Champagne Laurent-Perrier and senior members of the wine, food and travel media. They were welcomed by members of the Udaipur royal family even as the Laurent-Perrier Brut NV flowed, poured by liveried servers.

Laurent-Perrier has long been the Champagne of royalty, having been granted the Royal Warrant by His Royal Highness Prince Charles for close to two decades. It seemed fitting that the two Champagnes being poured for the royal Udaipur repast were the same as those poured for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, commented de la Chevalerie.

The evening’s host, Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar recalled the historic royal family ties with France dating back generations. “Iconic French Champagnes and wines have regularly been served to our guests at State banquets and royal dinners. Over the years in India there is an increased appreciation for fine Champagnes. Needless to say, the French offerings of wine continue to be the most preferred despite so many global challengers now!” In fact, guests that evening had told him that the Champagne and wines for the dinner tasted much better for being drunk in the mesmeric surroundings of Manek Chowk. “They attribute the enhanced flavour to the unique ambience of the heritage venue!

De la Chevalerie admitted to being stunned by the beauty of the historic surroundings of the soirée. “Serving Champagne in a remarkable, historic location as Udaipur says it all. It is a majestic site with incredible scenery that fits perfectly with the spirit of Champagne.

If the dinner was noteworthy, the Champagne-paired dessert at the end of the meal was a true revelation. The Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé Brut in magnum was paired with ‘oeuf’ vapeaur au vinaigre poudre au cacao et sa gelée de whisky sur son lit de cacao au curry (steamed ‘egg’ cured with vinegar and cacao powder and whisky jelly on a bed of crumbled cacao curry.) The aromas of red fruit and flavours of raspberry and cranberry held up to the unusual sweet-tart notes of the French dessert.

Chef Eric Geoffroy, known for his creativity, gave the pairing his approval. “We made a good choice,” he said. His decisions for the menu were driven by the vibrant colours and flavours of India. “It’s been a fantastic first experience in India and I would love to return, any time.

De la Chevalerie summed it up. “All festivals of food and wine contribute greatly to the promotion of Champagne in India – the public is increasingly knowledgeable. We have been in India for many years, and with Champagne being the most celebrated wines of the world, it was a privilege to share these delicate bubbles with distinguished guests and royalty. Our Champagne provides elegance, freshness and finesse, which makes it a real wine of pleasure to start any event as an apéritif. In fact we were the first house back in the ‘70s pouring Champagne as an apéritif rather than only with dessert.

What makes Champagne as a destination so eminently attractive to Indian visitors is not just its proximity to Paris, but the variety and quality offered to travellers from Asia seeking new gastronomic experiences. From vineyard picnics to sit down dinners in iconic cellars of some of the best Champagne maisons, there is something for everyone, said Romain Tilly of Champagne-Ardenne Tourism. “There is always a good reason to open a bottle of Champagne in Champagne!” And collaborative France-India events such as these underline the deep historic and cultural similarities between the country brought together by excellent food and wines such as Champagne.

Written by Ruma Singh


Glass of Bubbly

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