‘An Insight into Champagne through the eyes of a Barman and Guests’
Ah, Mr. Consul, how nice to see you again. Did you enjoy dinner?” said Josef, the head barman, in his Tyrolean accent with his Austrian charm. “Oh gracious Madame does look healthy, I am so glad to see you again too,” and with a young move one would never have thought of, Josef the barman, who was already 65 years old, took the right hand of Madame Consul and gave her an Austrian kiss on her hand, not touching her skin but only breezing the back of her hand. All was done in such an elegant way and with such devotion that someone looking on must have thought they were witnessing a scene from the Austrian emperor era back in 1895.
“We have had a fantastic time Josef, the dinner was just perfect. By the way do we have the same table here?” the consul asked, with a beaming false set of teeth while pronouncing the word ‘fantastic’ with a French accent.
“But of course Mr. Consul”. Josef took the only two available arm chairs and drew them from the table for them to sit down, first Madame and then for Mr. Consul. They were the last chairs in the full bar that evening and Josef had reserved them precisely for them. Once the Consul and his wife were seated, Josef whispered into the Consul’s ear, “like always Mr. Consul, Duval Leroy Femme du Champagne”?
“By all means Josef,” and the Consul then said to his wife, “Only with Champagne are holidays fun, right Globey?” Globey was the pet name he gave to his wife because she looked nice and round like a globe.
“How right you are, Bully (that was the pet name given for Mr. Consul as he always acted like a Bulldog when they were alone), how right,” she said with a face reflecting a desire to kiss her ‘little dog’ who was in reality, smaller than her in size. Looking around the bar, she quipped, “Look Bully, there is Mr. and Mrs. Sack, they have not been here for at least two years and there is Mr. and Mrs Buck. Do you remember last year she commented to her friend Mrs. Mice that I looked like a Magnum Bottle of Champagne?”
He also knew that he had the title of Consul and his wife had inherited the title by being married to him. So he expected that she followed his cue and behaved all the time in thanks to him.
To serve Champagne is history and art at the same time, Josef always shared his thoughts to his assistants. He also had very deep thoughts about this beverage and about how this fine sparkling wine lies 4 years on yeast in a bottle in a humid wine cellar and then for another 2 years, in another cellar peacefully and actually ready to be drunk, before it is delivered to the bar in the hotel.
You can compare this with the birth of human beings, thought Josef, who also believed that the soul of a human being already exists in the universe and is waiting to be transmitted. The soul circles like a plane, waiting to get permission to land. At this time the soul is cleaning herself from the previous body she left before. The soul also needs 4 years more or less (depending on what kind of human she has left) to clean herself from all the memories. Only when all is left behind and the soul is clean again, is she permitted to come back to earth as a human soul.
She can also come back as a vine or a bird. The longer the soul has lived before, the longer the cleaning act. To wait so long is not agonizing; it is like becoming Champagne. With each year, the Champagne creates more and more pearls which means more and more life will be breathed into the Champagne. In this case, the character of the wine changes. So does the human soul; it loses all dreams, souvenirs, all patches of good and bad, all is erased and changes in a spotless soul like the Champagne that becomes an immaculate pearl fresh beverage in the wine cellar. Then the soul is ready to come back as a seed or ovum. Ready to be implanted again into the body of a woman or the soil of the Champagne area.
At the table of the Consul, Josef showed the elegant shaped Champagne bottle. Josef took care not to touch the throat of the bottle, so the Champagne would not be warm when tasted. The Consul remarked right away that the year on the bottle had changed and asked Josef, “The year has changed Josef, is this Champagne as good as the 1990?”
“Oh yes Mr. Consul, even a bit livelier than the 1990 and as you know Mr. Consul, only in the best years Duval Leroy produces the Le Femme Du Champagne. In this two circles, in 1990 and this one 1996,” to which Mr Consul answered “Let’s taste it then Josef and let me be the judge of that”.
Josef made haste as he knew that the Consul didn’t like to wait too long. So Josef peeled off the silver top and opened the bottle like he was screwing a nail out of something, which was the metal top of the bottle, and he took great care so the mushroom-like cork would not fly out. However, he was aware and felt that the cork was going to shoot out so Josef did not let go and made the professional move in taking out the bottle from the wine cooler. He turned with the bottle with his right hand out of the cork, which was held in the left hand, so in the end there was the sound of a very little “pssssss”.
That “psssss” sound always reminded Josef of a nearly empty balloon making its last breathing efforts and sometimes Josef thought of the last seconds in his life, when he would take his last breath before death.
For Josef, it was always a delight to watch the Consul tasting Champagne. The Consul had fingers like a Balinese dance mademoiselle and he moved like a Maestro who played on his Stradivari violin. The Consul took the flute at the stem and looked at the Champagne like a priest with glitter gold eyes fixed to the chalice which was filled with Eucharistic wafers and wine. The Consul was examining the bubbly pearls which came up from the bottom of the glass and he wished he could paint this like a painter who illustrates the movement of life.
The Consul’s next move was to present the Champagne to his nose. He did this with a head similar to the skull of a moving sumo wrestler, oscillating his neck before the fight. Only the Consul oscillated his glass at his nose and the fragrant perfume carried him to the fruit garden and meadows of Eden. There was lemon – candy, vanilla, coffee and hazelnut aromas. “Ahhhh” came the intriguing voice from the happy Consul and his lips which looked like the opening for a mellow kiss, kissed the Champagne glass on the rim and it parted his lips just a little bit to give way for the Champagne to flow into the mouth like golden lava.
After this, the master of tasting closed his treasure filled mouth for he wanted to taste this lava Champagne like a chef who makes a great Champagne emulsion. The Consul slurped quietly and moved his mouth slowly as he wanted to taste all that the Champagne had to give, that was supple, creamy and stylish and exhibiting freshness and a beautiful balance of fruit and acidity. The Champagne seduced the Consul right away and like all the other great tasting moments before in his life, he closed up, and did not hear or see anymore because he was with the juice of merriment and so near to God that he thought he was a wine god like Bacchus or Osiris.
This Champagne ceremony of the Consul took about two minutes. And when Josef saw the eyes of the Consul, he knew that he had chosen the right Champagne for the Consul too. Highly pleased and inspired, the Consul said to Josef in a very merry voice, “My dear, dear Josef, the Champagne is as good as if God himself had made the Champagne, as if God himself had poured into my mouth his poetry of life. Ahh, I am so content Josef, thank you for having this Femme de Champagne reserved for us”.
“Thank you very much Mr. Consul for your compliments,” said Josef with a great smile and he poured the Champagne for Mrs. and Mr. Consul so that the glasses were nicely filled. Josef wanted to leave the table but just at that moment, Mr. Consul handed him very quick a 100 dollar note to which Josef nodded seriously and thanked the Consul.
This story is an extract from an unpublished book
by Harald Wiesmann
Harald Wiesmann, Restaurant Manager of the fine dining, Asian-inspired Haute Cuisine Kayuputi and Chief Sommelier at The St. Regis Bali Resort, has a very interesting career history spanning a number of years with different roles in various countries. His 43 years of international experience has led Kayuputi to receive prestigious awards from the Wine Spectator Magazine (USA) for six consecutive years since its opening six and a half years ago, and dubbed as a fine restaurant that has one of the best wine lists in the Asian region. Harald is set to publish his book, titled “5 Years of Wine and Dine at The St. Regis Bali Resort” in the near future.