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Champagne for the rookie and the discerning connoisseur 

Synonymous with quality, luxury and opulence, champagne has been shorthand for celebration since the seventeenth century.

 

Synonymous with quality, luxury and opulence, champagne has been shorthand for celebration since the seventeenth century.

The lively bubbly, served in elegant flutes, has carved its reputation into popular culture, be it James Bond ordering a Bollinger or Marilyn Monroe sipping a Dom Perignon. 

Johannesburg has been home to the Absa Champagne Festival since 2002, enthralling invited clients and members of the public alike at the only festival of its kind in the country.

“There are other ‘bubbly’ festivals around, but none which exclusively serve Champagne – meaning sparkling wine made in the Champagne region in France,” said Shaun Anderson, rights owner of the Absa Champagne Festival and chairman of the Champagne Importers Association.

Festival attendees will have the privilege of being able to taste more than 100 champagnes all under one roof. “This is a real highlight and an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and find new favourites. We started with 17 champagne houses and now have close to 40, including a new generation of independent growers such as Valentin Leflaive and Hugues Godme,” Anderson said.

“While South Africa’s Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines are made in the same manner as champagne, the warmer climate in South Africa results in grapes with a higher sugar level that have to be picked very early. In France, the cold northerly

vineyards have chalky soils and produce grapes that make a wine which is bone dry, offering a crisp, steely freshness that is classically champagne. They also have a relatively low alcohol content, meaning you can drink it with breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

Different champagnes are best suited to specific foods. “Those made with pinot meunier and pinot noir cultivars are more fitting with game and red meat, while those made with chardonnay are ideal with white meat and fish.”

Guests at the Festival will be served food tailored to compliment the champagnes on offer. Designer canapés, including smoked salmon roll-ups or mini tacos with BBQ chicken and mango chilli salsa, will be served as guests arrive. Buckets of freshly-shucked oysters on crushed ice will have a variety of toppings including lemon, chilli or soy pearls, beetroot or Kimchi salt.

Champagne will heighten the evening’s culinary delights, “offering a stimulation of the senses, from hearing the cork pop, to seeing the magic of the bubbles rising in a glass to tasting the fine mousse,” said Anderson.

Over three nights, close to R1-million worth of champagne is sold – an average of 250 cases which are delivered after the event to guests’ homes. 

 

The event takes place at the Inanda Club from October 31 to November 2. 

Tickets are now sold out

Invest in art at the Absa Champagne Festival 

For the first time in its 17-year history, guests at the Absa Champagne Festival will be able to bid on investment art.  

 

A selection of wall hangings and sculptures, commissioned from both established and up and coming artists, are a new attraction in the form of a silent auction, with proceeds raised being donated to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Art, as an alternative investment class, is one of the fastest growing asset classes in the category. Any luxury item which holds its value reasonably well over time is considered a collectible, says Bongani Khulu, Head of Family Office and Client Engagement at Absa. “The majority of art collectors buy art to add to their collections, but with an investment view.”

According to the 2018 South Africa Wealth Report, South African fine art prices have risen by 28% over the past 10 years (in US$ terms), while global fine art prices have risen by 12% over the same period. “The art market has shown an ability to thrive through economic and political uncertainty. It is not about flipping artwork every year, it is a long-term investment that is meant to be enjoyed,” says Khulu.

Absa assists clients with accumulating wealth around art through the Absa Wealth Art offering, as well as protecting, growing and then transferring the wealth through succession planning.

According to New World Wealth, the number of High Net Worth Individuals in South Africa rose by 8% during 2017, reaching 43 600 by the end of last year. But not all art investors belong to this small group of wealthy individuals, says Dr Paul Bayliss, Absa Art and Museum Curator, who collects and manages the Absa gallery and provides a platform for nurturing young artists.

Bayliss is responsible for managing Absa’s art collection comprising about 18 000 works. “You don’t need a lot of money to get into investing in art; you can buy an artwork for a couple of thousand rands. There is value for everyone,” says Bayliss, adding that potential investors should look at an artwork “in same way you consider a stock on JSE”.

“Examine the artist’s credentials, their technique, whether they are developing or remaining stagnant in their work. An artist could be technically strong but you should understand their narrative,” he says. “I most enjoy visiting an artist in their studio because it gives one insight into the artist’s world.” 

But, he cautions, if you are buying art, don’t merely buy due to the possibility of making money. “Purchasing art is a lifestyle investment. Sure, old South African masters like Irma stern or Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef fall within a bracket and guarantee a return on investment. But with younger artists don’t buy because you’re hoping to make money in five years; buy because a piece resonates with you.” 

This year’s Absa Champagne Festival boasts an exhibition for young and upcoming talent, some of whom have been named as artists to watch such as Pauline Gutter, Banele Khoza and Jan Tshikhuthula, and sculptor Roberto Vaccaro. Other works are by artists including Jaco van Schalkwyk, Benon Lutaaya, Nelson Makamo, Vincent da Silva, Anton Smit, Pat Sithole and Asanda Kupa. 

Invited guests and members of the public can buy the specially-commissioned artworks via a silent auction, with upwards of 40% of the proceeds donated to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the balance reverting to the artist. Artworks will have reserve prices of between R2 500 and R800 000.