La Fête du Champagne 2016 was another successful event celebrating the wines of Champagne in the company of 28 houses and growers at the New York City-based event. Founded by Peter Liem and Daniel Johnnes, the festival includes a series of seminars hosted by industry experts in addition to exclusive dinners and a gala lunch, all with the aim of deepening the knowledge and love of Champagne among consumers and trade members alike.
As media sponsors of the event for the third year, The World of Fine Wine attended the Grand Tasting at The Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, speaking with consumers, producers, and other members of the trade. The producers included the most prestigious houses alongside some of the most highly rated and recherché growers—Jacquesson, Krug, Larmandier-Bernier, Georges Laval, AR Lenoble, Louis Roederer, and Ruinart, to name only a few.
Daniel Johnnes highlighted the changes made for La Fête 2016: “We made a real effort this year to change the program a little bit; add to the program, make it exciting and make it really alive so it’s not static. We don’t want people to come to the same thing every year; we want to introduce new seminars, new winemakers, and a new program.”
Executive sommelier David Gordon of Tribeca Grill and chef sommelier Patrick Cappiello of Pearl & Ash/Rebelle headed up and organized the collection of sommeliers from around the city that came to assist at the event. During the Grand Tasting we discussed how the event was going so far.
“It’s going great,” David affirmed. “We’ve had a large turnout of about 500 people, which is really exciting, and people seem to be in very good spirits, [although] that usually happens after a few glasses of Champagne! And the sommeliers are having a nice time, too.”
Patrick commented on the combination of big houses and growers. “Over the past 10 years there has been a big focus on the growers and smaller production teams,” he said. “But the thing about La Fête is that there’s representation of all of those things. It’s always really exciting to check back in with the big houses and also having them side by side with some of the small growers.”
To have 28 top Champagne producers together as a collective is extremely rare, particularly with the opportunity to taste so many at once and to see the vast range of styles.
David discussed the advantages for sommeliers in attending the event. Each sommelier can get to know and learn more about the individual Champagne producer that he or she is working with on the day, as well as meeting fellow members of the trade throughout the event. “What I take away the most from this event,” he enthused, “is the camaraderie of having all the sommeliers work together, and them meeting and working behind the table with the growers.”
Thomas Pastuszak, wine director at the NoMad Hotel working alongside Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, spoke to WFW during the Grand Tasting. We discussed the event and what it means to be a sommelier there.
“It’s definitely a highlight of the fall. Amongst the sommelier community we all work long, hard hours at our restaurants, and we don’t necessarily have the chance to get together and see one another. It’s a great social opportunity and to work on the same team as though running a restaurant.”
Speaking on the World’s Best Wine Lists, Pastuszak added, “I think it’s amazing to be able to get recognition for a wine program.
“It’s a great time to be in the wine industry as there’s greater recognition for what the personalities of a wine program can do in the restaurant.”
Next year is expected to be equally special, and we don’t doubt that the level of quality and engagement will remain as high as it was in 2016. Champagne producers and sommeliers will soon be contacted about the event, and each year a few more are added to the mix. But before that there will be another exciting edition of Daniel Johnnes’ original event that helped to inspire La Fête—La Paulée de New York, March 7–11, 2017.