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Review: Champagne Seminar at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

For the fourth year in a row, we are looking forward to celebrating food and fun at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic! Mark your calendars for this special event, which takes place this year on Friday, October 18, and Saturday, October 19.

We have enjoyed the Causeway tasting booths that are the mainstay of the event during that past few years.

A Beautiful Sunny Evening on the Causeway

But there are also many fun and informative food and beverage seminars that take place over the course of the two-day event. AJ already reviewed her experience at the Modern Mixology seminar, and now I’ve got a new one to share: Base to Bubbles.

Base to Bubbles Presentation Screen

Base to Bubbles Seminar Atmosphere

The fun begins when you arrive and check in at the registration table outside, behind the hotel on the Causeway. We went ahead and picked up our wristbands, as well as my ticket to Base to Bubbles at the registration table.

While my husband milled about the Causeway to get the lay of the land, I headed back into the Swan’s conference center to find the room where my seminar would be held.

Food and Wine Classic Wristbands and Base to Bubbles Ticket

Soon, I found the right room, and the person checking guests in welcomed me to enter and take a seat.

The first thing that struck me about the set up was the ambiance. The lights were low, and candles were scattered about the room. While it made for tricky photography, I appreciated the absence of glaring fluorescent lights. The low light and candles lent themselves to a feeling of upscale elegance — perfect for a seminar about Champagne.

Room Set Up From the Back

The table at the front displayed various brands of Champagne as well as examples of the tasting plates that we would enjoy throughout the presentation.

Table at the Front

Positioned throughout the room were large monitors that displayed a Powerpoint presentation all about Champagne. And I do mean all. Its fascinating history is long and storied.

At length, we explored the origins of Champagne — how it was actually “invented” in England, the product of a happy accident! Dom Pérignon later perfected the process, which trapped the by-products of fermentation and gave the wine its characteristic effervescence.

Names for Different Bottle Sizes -- Click to Enlarge

We also discussed other sparkling wines, such as Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy. And did you know that bubbly made in France outside of the Champagne region is termed Cremant? Because, of course, only wine adhering to certain strict requirements and originating from that province is actually genuine Champagne!

Our presenter, Olivier Zambaux, was a certified sommelier and hails from the province of Champagne. Quite simply, he was the perfect host for the event with his incredible wealth of knowledge and his witty delivery. And the French accent was icing on the cake. :-)

Eats and Drinks

I think that I expected the seminar to take the format of a tasting. But instead, the elements — wine, Champagne, and foods to pair everything with — were offered, and we listened as Olivier took us through the plethora of information.

Occasionally, he would give us a cue to eat or drink, but mostly, he left our consumption to our own pace.

Seminar Tables with Place Settings

Speaking of the place settings, they were incredible! As we were seated, we had before us various plates with foods to pair with our Champagne. In addition, each place setting also featured three wines — the three varietals which make up all Champagne.

My Place Setting

And this had to be one of the most interesting things to me about the seminar. Olivier actually sought out wines made from the single varietals that compose Champagne. While Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are common enough, apparently the Pinot Meunier is rarely presented by itself.

Wines that Make Up Champagne

Central to our place settings were placemats that included a ton of information. It was a handy way to keep all six glasses before us straight!

We were invited to taste the various wines as we read what each brought to the Champagne party.

Description of Chardonnay

I was completely unfamiliar with Pinot Meunier, so this was a special treat.

Description of Pinot Meunier

It’s also a great reminder that two of the three varietals that comprise almost all Champagne are actually red grapes, not white!

And did you know that all grapes that are harvested for Champagne are picked by hand? Suddenly, with the labor-intensive processes that go into its manufacture, that price tag is starting to make a little more sense!

Description of Pinot Noir

While Olivier continued to speak about this passion-inspiring subject, servers were dispatched throughout the room. They began making their rounds with the three Champagnes that we would be sampling.

Pouring the Champagne

The three options came from some of the most well-known Champagne producers in the region. We began with the Taittinger Cuvee Prestige. This particular Champagne was the dryest of the three, with a crisp finish.

Champagne Number One -- Taittinger Cuvee Prestige

The second Champagne was a pink variety from Piper-Heidsieck — which was just wonderful. There’s something so vintage, elegant, and effortlessly celebratory about Pink Champagne!

The color was beautiful, and the flavor was full and round. My best, most earnest oenophile description? Yummy!

Champagne Number two -- Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage

Our final example of bubbly was from another well-known maker — Moët & Chandon. We sampled their Nectar Imperial.

A bold yellow hue in the glass, this one was fruity and exotic. While the Taittinger was austere and the Piper-Heidsieck playful, this one was lush and full-bodied.

Champagne Number Three -- Moët & Chandon Nectar Imperial

Side by side, it was easy to compare bouquet, color, and flavor.

The Three Champagnes We Tasted

Because we covered an enormous amount of information in a relatively short time, it wasn’t always clear which wine went with what food. Fortunately, all of the cheeses seemed to pair well with the various French (natch) cheeses.

From left to right, they were Camembert aged in Calvados; St. Andre; Brillat Savarin; and Fourme d’Ambert.

Cheese Tasting Plate

All four were insanely good. But the triple creme Brillat Savarin had me dreaming of it for days beyond, and sent me to Whole Foods searching for it!

Cheese -- Up Close

There were also chocolate-covered strawberries and wafer cookies for sampling with the Rosé and Nectar Imperial.

Sweets and Breads for Tasting

And with that, the presentation came to a close, and we had the opportunity to chat with Olivier for bit.

Overall

I am not exaggerating to say that the Base to Bubbles seminar was one of the most interesting and lavish food and beverage seminars that I’ve ever attended. The sheer variety of offerings was dizzying. But having the opportunity not only to taste three incredible Champagnes, but also the wines that comprise them, was sheer brilliance.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of the Food and Wine Classic Seminars, I heartily recommend that you seize it. With knowledgeable, entertaining presenters and incredible spreads, they are well worth your time and money.

Read more about the 2013 Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic events and opportunities here!

Booking Information

Does the Base to Bubbles seminar sound like a great time to you? Be sure to snag your spot at this year’s seminar! Book your stay, causeway tickets, and seminar tickets now before your favorites sell out!

Contact the Swan and Dolphin at 888-828-8850, and ask for the Disney Food Blog rate code on any of the packages below! :-) (Note, no discounts are being offered for these rooms, but the rate code helps them know you heard about the event from us!)

Goodies at the 2012 Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic

One night causeway with room

Includes 1-night room accommodations for 2 adults and 2 causeway event passes at check in to enjoy unlimited food and wine tastings and entertainment offered on the causeway.

Call 888-828-8850 and ask for the Disney Food Blog Rate Code: DFBFWCL1

Two nights causeway with room

Includes 2-night room accommodations for 2 adults and 2 causeway event passes for each night at check in to enjoy unlimited food and wine tastings and entertainment offered on the causeway.

Call 888-828-8850 and ask for the Disney Food Blog Rate Code: DFBFWCL2

One night causeway and seminar with room

Includes 1-night room accommodations for 2 adults and 2 causeway event passes at check in to enjoy unlimited food and wine tastings and entertainment offered on the causeway. Also includes tickets to one seminar of your choosing.

Call 888-828-8850 and ask for the Disney Food Blog Rate Code: DFBFWSM1

Two nights causeway and seminars with room

Includes 2-night room accommodations for 2 adults and 2 causeway event passes for each night at check in to enjoy unlimited food and wine tastings and entertainment offered on the causeway. Also includes two tickets per night to a seminar of your choosing.

Call 888-828-8850 and ask for the Disney Food Blog Rate Code: DFBFWSM2

Will you be attending the 2013 Fourth Food and Wine Classic at the Swan and Dolphin Resort? Leave a comment and let us know!

Disclosure: Our reporter received complimentary admission to this event from the Swan and Dolphin food and beverage team. We were not obligated to report on the event — or to give it a favorable review. As always, we provide you with the truth about what our staff thinks (that cheese really was gorgeous)! Read more about our disclosure policy here.

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5 Comments

  1. Frank Stefanec says:

    Haven’t done any of the special symposia, but this will be our 4th Food & Wine Classic. I put this on my calendar as soon as announced. It has gotten better and better each year. IMHO, it’s NOT to be missed.
    Frank

  2. Dani says:

    Though, I am a little biased, I think the Swan Dolphin Food and Wine Classic is one of Orlando’s best events… as long as you take your time. I think you really need to take your time and make a night of it, staying at the resort really adds to the whole experience.

  3. Brooke says:

    Dani — Absolutely! We had a fantastic time exploring it last year! It’s definitely an event not-to-be-missed!

  4. Brooke says:

    Frank — Agreed! I hope you get a chance to do one of the seminars. If you do, drop back by and let us know how you liked it!

  5. chris says:

    It might be a little iffy to say something is “well worth your time and money” without a mention of the price. I know the disclaimer at the end says it was comped but this was written as if the reviewer had paid $45pp, right?

    I’ve attended 4 of these over the previous 3 yrs and while fun, they’re now a bargain only relative to WDW pricing. The first year, these were a no-brainer since they were free with purchase of a causeway ticket. At $45 I’m going to be more selective – for some of these topics, I can get a better experience for less locally.

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