With a moniker like Champagne Jayne, you’d be right in thinking that Jayne Powell is living her love affair with bubbles. Considered one of Australia’s leading authorities on sparkling wines, Powell runs a consultancy aimed at bringing a better understanding of champagne to anyone who wants to get closer to this romantic drink.
“Champagne is so much more than just a wine,” she says of what has been an enduring affair with the bubbles. “My passion for everything French, but most especially champagne, was ignited on my first student trip to France aged 15.”
A few years later, as a member of The Sunday Times Wine Club at university, Powell developed a decided preference for “the real thing”, earning her the nickname 'Champagne Jayne'. Sure, most of us have a drink of some kind that we a have a particular affection for, but for Powell the romance continued to grow as she incorporated her interest in bubbles into her work aspirations.
“I realised that champagne was not only fun and tasty, but also a wonderful business networking tool,” she says. Attending a Decanter magazine 1990 vintage prestige champagne master class in London during 2004 sealed her fate. “I knew immediately that I wanted to be a global ambassador for champagne and my mission would be to make this icon of luxury accessible and help people all over the world uncork business and pleasure.”
Now with two decades of champagne expertise under her belt and 10 years running her own consultancy and acting as an independent reviewer, Powell has been internationally recognised as a bubbles authority with her book, Champagnes – Behind the Bubbles, awarded the 2011 Best French Wine Book (Australia) by the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
“Champagne is a time machine in a glass, the ultimate icebreaker for any audience, a case study in luxury masstige and what’s more, champagne tastes heavenly, so naturally I wanted to spread the good word about the best wines on Earth,” says Powell whilst en route to collect her book award in Paris, and ahead of a quick trip to London to speak at The Champagne Summit. It’s hard not to feel her enthusiasm.
But what exactly does a champagne consultant do? Well, via tastings, champagne and food matching events, independently reviewing and promoting the understanding and enjoyment of champagne on all levels, Powell aims to educate drinkers on the history, variety and versatility of sparkling wines beyond the famous top end labels.
So as an authority on the subject what’s the one champagne secret that Powell would share? “Most of the time we drink non-vintage champagne,” she explains. “NV is the flagship wine of any producer and usually made from a mixture of aged reserve wines, between 40 and 80 base wines blended together.
“The sum of many parts, the final champagne therefore presents an orchestra of different flavours in your mouth, which makes champagne the most flexible partner with food.”
So with that in mind, perhaps we shouldn’t just be keeping it for special occasions. It’s certainly something to think about next time you pick a bottle for dinner. “Champagne is so versatile that you can enjoy it at any time of year, but in terms of seasonal recommendations, since autumn in Australia reminds me of summer's last hoorah in Europe, I suggest fuller bodied rose champagne styled like growers Drappier and Paul Bara, which are great paired with salmon and duck dishes (even a roast dinner), or powerful non-vintage styles like Alfred Gratien and Bollinger, which are meaty enough to match more hearty autumn dishes.”
So does the first lady of champagne have one favourite amongst the many she loves? “It really depends on my mood and my company, but if – heaven forbid – I had to choose to drink only one champagne style forever more, I think I would be satisfied with Krug as everyday rations!"
Champagne Jayne hosts a five-course lunch with Shannon Bennett for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival on March 17 in Coldstream.