‘Women in Champagne’ workshop
Last weekend Studio fifty-three held our ‘Women in Champagne’ workshop. We all enjoyed an intimate evening indulging in five beautiful Champagnes and were enchanted by Kiron Barui who entertained us with her stories of the inspirational women who pioneered these Champagne houses. But before I tell you more about the evening, I want to share with you some of the antics that happened leading up to this entertaining event.
The day before
Thursday morning my friend Jane and myself headed to a home on the other side of the city to collect some green foliage from a hedge growing there. I’m not sure what the plant is, but it’s green glossy leaves makes great fillers for floral decoration. When we drove though the front gates the first thing we noticed was the lush, thick hedge had received a rather severe haircut. Luckily, we managed to collect enough for what we wanted to decorate.
Foraging and ants
The next stop was the flower market to stock up on fresh flowers. As we were driving along we noticed a large wattle tree hanging over the fence of a paddock. We flipped a quick u-turn and Jane jumped out of the car with her secateurs. She started clipping off a couple of branches of the silvery foliage. Loaded up with an armful, she threw it in the back seat of my car. It didn’t take long before we noticed hundreds of huge ants crawling all over the car and us. I don’t know what passing cars thought of us frantically jumping around trying to expel these unwanted passengers. After 10 minutes of swatting and squealing, we were confident enough to get back in the car without the risk of being bitten by these small but vicious insects.
French Champagne and Italian fashion
We bought the flowers and got them and the foliage home and into buckets of water. Kiron arrived soon after with her car laden with boxes of the Champagne to be chilled for Friday night and the French made Lehmann glassware.
The day had slipped away and I had to get Jane home as we had a photographic exhibition by Impressionist Photographer Wendy Roche to attend in a couple of hours. On the way we remembered a pop up store that we wanted to check out. After all it was 50% to 80% off designer women’s clothes. How could we not go! And yes after a manic 45 mins walked out with a few new treasures. We made it to the exhibition, met up with some friends and after an easy dinner went home to bed ready for an early start the next morning.
The set up
The alarm went off and the day started with lugging the tables and chairs upstairs. Most of our workshops are held downstairs in the studio space but for some special occasions we hold them upstairs. For this one we set up on the deck which has a beautiful view over the valley.
Jane arrived and we set to decorating the table. I wanted it pretty and feminine, after all we were celebrating special women. Jane is a whiz with flowers so we set to it.
I had an idea in my head as to how I wanted it to look and it evolved from there. We decided the hedging we cut the day before were to robust, so I sourced some beautiful Ivy, and that was the first layer for the table. Next the flowers that Jane had arranged in cut crystal and glass vases were laid out followed by candles also in cut glass vessels. We set the cutlery, then napery was ironed and folded and we made little sprigs to decorate them. It was an extremely hot day so we put the sprigs in the fridge until it was closer to starting time. The day was slipping by again but at least the table was set and looking beautiful.
I did a last once over of the floors and tidy up before i jumped into the shower and got ready. Kiron and Jane arrived and the caterer with the evenings canapés. Everything was going to plan and our guests started to arrive.
The Big welcome
In the middle of welcoming everyone, I was frantically summoned to the front with the statement “Sebastian is out”. Sebastian is our beagle escape artist and has entertained quite a few of our guests with his shenanigans in the past. Sure enough he had gotten out and was head down sniffing his way up the street. What was I to do, but head off after him in my cocktail dress and sparkling stiletto shoes. Not long into my sprint, a lovely man who was dropping off his wife got out of the car and offered his assistance. Phew. His gorgeous young daughter ran up the street and retrieved Sebastian for me. Well it didn’t end there… unfortunately. Before I could grab him and lock him into his compound, he bolted inside to welcome each and everyone with a good old sniff. My husband cornered him before he could knock over the very expensive glassware. As he bent down to grab Sebastian, his trousers ripped down the crutch. What a dramatic way to start the night.
The exquisite champagnes
By now everyone had arrived, I took a calming deep breath and we sat down to enjoy the evening.
Kiron was dressed beautifully in period costume and started her presenting her workshop. She entertained us with her vast knowledge and passion for Champagne and the five women from the five Champagne houses she introduced us to. We experienced Clicquot Rosé, a jéroboam of 1990 Pommery Louise (exquisite), Bollinger special cuvee, Royal Riviera (which Kiron is importing) and we finished with a Charles VII Brut Rosé from Canard-Duchene.
Kiron sabred the Champagnes and some of our guests were able to experience this as well, some more successfully than others.
I can confidently say that everyone had a fabulous night and that next time they get to experience Champagne from one of these houses, they will be able to accompany it with a story about the extraordinary woman behind the label.
Photo Credit Jane Degnian