The most suitable visual aid to be employed to accompany the presentation would be the computerised presentation in an attempt to enliven the seminar and encourage the audience to listen attentively.
The following is a structured action plan which will be adhered to as closely as possible in the weeks leading to the seminar:-
The term Champagne can mean many different things to many different people. In an attempt to gauge the audiences’ preconceptions of the subject, it would be most appropriate to start with a question:
What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word champagne?
A question such as this should stimulate the audience to do three things: Think about the subject matter, sit up, and above all pay attention. From the outset the audience feel that an air of interaction will be present throughout the seminar and so they subconsciously should pay more attention. They will also learn more if the seminar is more of an open discussion where their input is valued, than an overly didactic lecture where they are expected to listen.
As can be seen from the respective appendices, this slide features numerous quotes.
"...a white sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France."
(Collins Dictionaries, 2001)
"The fruit of three wonderful vines: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay
...sheer magic on the palate."
"A bubbly 'bevvy' perfectly suited to celebrate the next birth, death, wedding, or divorce in your family circle."
These quotes seem to suit the purpose of describing Champagne very well as they provide quite a broad perspective of views and opinions on the product. The dictionary definition is succinct and basic, while the quote from Matthew Jukes (2002), the resident wine critic for the Daily Mail suitably extends the first to offer more depth of description. While referring to the quote by Jukes, it is also pointed out that the Pinot Noir and the Pinot Meunier grapes are actually black grapes, while the Chardonnay is a white grape. The third description, penned by Jilly Goulden of BBC’s Food & Drink programme (1999) is much more entertaining and also slightly cryptic. At first glance it is difficult to decipher exactly what the meaning is of the statement, and so the audience are asked to remember it, and it shall be discussed a little later in the seminar. A statement like this also enhances the attention of the audience, they are more eager to listen as they don’t understand what the strange comment is meant to mean and so will listen longer to find out.
These three statements together provide a suitably comprehensive means by which to construct an easy to understand and remember definition of Champagne. The section on “What is Champagne” is concluded with the following synopsis:
Champagne is an effervescent white wine often associated with celebrations and special occasions. Made only in the Champagne region of France using the age-old 'methode champenoise', the product is synonymous with class and style.
An introduction such as this been described should grab the attention of the audience from the outset, and also get them thinking about the subject with questions etc.
This section of the seminar has been designed to provide a background to the Champagne industry and its patrons. Information for this section was obtained from a number of sources which will be identified where appropriate. The information to be presented had to be selected carefully, as it would be very easy to simply overload the presentation with statistics, data, and facts; but information thrown at the audience like this is much less likely to be learned. To increase the audiences level of information retention the data is kept short, logical, and relevant to the topic being examined.
The slide (see appendices) first identifies the primary age range of Champagne customers, which is 30-54, and also identifies the interesting fact that over 80% of customers are male. The next point to be made is the fact that well over half of the sales of Champagne in the UK are made between the months of December and February. This point is interesting because at first it may seem difficult to interpret why there is such a high correlation of sales in this time, however this will be discussed in more detail in a moment. (Sourced from www.champagnemagic.com)
One particularly interesting fact that will surprise the audience is the fact that socio-economic correlation does not occur among customers i.e. it is not only upper class or middle class people who are buying Champagne; in fact the customers are well spread across the social spectrum. It is a common misconception therefore that it is only high-earners are buying the product. (Sourced from www.champagnemagic.com)
The next piece of information that will appear on screen identifies the top four reasons customers gave for purchasing Champagne:
- Valentines Day
- New Years Celebrations
- Wedding Ceremonies & Wedding Anniversaries
- Births & Birthday Celebrations
(Sourced from www.champagnemagic.com)
These figures are interesting, and stimulate thought, as now the audience will have explained the correlation of sales between December and February. It can be observed from the list of reasons for purchasing Champagne that the top two entries are Valentines and New years which clearly substantiates the figures around the winter months of the year.
The next slide (Appendices 1.5) identifies the Champagne house of choice in the UK, which is Moët & Chandon, the most famous, recognisable, and widely available champagnes in the UK by far.
The slide also identifies the average price spent in the UK on a bottle of Champagne, which www.tasting-wine.com estimate at being £26.81.
These slides will give the audience a suitable background of the Champagne industry. This insight, coupled with the descriptions and definitions provided earlier should provide a good foundation for the remainder of the seminar.
It was at this section in the research stage of the seminar where a panel of four were elected to sample the Champagne that had been selected as being a prime example by which to assess the sparkling wines later.
The Champagne selected is Bollinger, considered by many to be the finest available to the UK consumer. Matthew Jukes describes it as being “…unique, faultless, and, memorable...” (2002) and goes on to describe it as being a triumph of the world famous Champagne house to continually produce such consistent quality for so long at relatively affordable prices.
This slide shall consist of a synopsis of how the panel described Bollinger.
The Champagne itself featured a unique richness and a faint yeastiness as a result of time spent in oak barrels. The Champagne itself is composed of first class fresh grapes all sourced from within the Champagne region as well as some of the finest reserve wine Bollinger has to offer. This combination makes for a fine tuned, tailor made excellence, which is unparalleled at the mid £20 price range. It is very dry with crisp and fresh nuances of apple consuming the senses.
The blend employed to create Bollinger consists of 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier which makes for a very individual, dry Champagne.
At this point it is also mentioned, albeit a peripheral issue, that sales of Bollinger have risen by an average of 5% since the millennium. It is discussed with the group that it is difficult to grasp exactly why this sudden jump in sales has occurred with a product that essentially has no major fluctuations in demand apart from the predictable annual high season. Bollinger however attribute the huge boost in sales to the fact that during millennium celebrations, many people were exposed to Champagne who might not otherwise think of buying it, or have the opportunity to taste it. Since then these new customers have decided that they might try another bottle once or twice, and by then they have acquired the taste and begin to purchase it for their occasions etc.
After sampling Bollinger and identifying its characteristics on both an individual and group basis, it is considered appropriate to assess the sparkling wines in terms of the following criterion:
Appearance After Taste
Nose (Bouquet/Aroma) Potency
(For Slide depicting benchmarking criteria, see appendices 1.7)
It is considered that these characteristics are the most suitable to use. Each panel member assigns a mark out of ten for each of the categories, and after each wines total marks have been added up, they are divided to give an overall mark out of ten. To simplify the seminar and improve clarity, only the final overall mark out of ten shall feature in the final presentation.
An Italian wine categorised as being Dolce (sweet), this was the first wine to be sampled.
The first thing that can be observed is this colour if this wine. Its depth of colour is incomparable with Bollinger, boasting only faint hues of yellow gold and straw. Although the colour was attractive it immediately appeared to be lacking any distinguishing shade or texture. This is an attribute generally attributed with inexpensive, low alcohol wines.
Its effervesce was discrete but not displeasing. The consistency was impressive while the bubbles suitably brightened what was essentially an initially a product with a disappointing appearance. The bubbles of this wine remained suitably present throughout the sampling and were surprisingly long lasting.
The aroma of this wine was both a pleasure and a surprise. Ripened apples were manifested, complimenting the peachy nose that surrounded this wine. The panel feel that this product was improving with every stage of the tasting, however in comparison to Bollinger, the nose was quite unpronounced and frail.
The entire panel were very pleased with the taste of this wine. As the aroma suggests it had no immense power or any remarkable presence on the palate, however the peach and strawberry sensations which were combined with a very pleasant sherbet like feeling. Particularly evident were the flavours of sweet peaches.
In terms of aftertaste, there was quite a short sweetness. The aftertaste quickly disappeared, which is another trait of a wine with a low alcohol content.
One factor that must be considered in a study such as this is the appearance of the bottle. The Moscato Spumante bottle is one of the most disappointing qualities of the product. The labels are bright and colourful, and don’t compare with the sophisticated and expensive labelling of the Bollinger. This bottle could in no way be mistaken for Champagne.
The potency of this wine corresponds with the aforementioned characteristics that suggest a low alcohol content such as the pale colour and short aftertaste. At 6.5% vol. it is half the strength of Bollinger. It is unsurprising therefore that it is priced at only $£2.98 per 75 cl bottle.
An Australian sparkling wine produced using a combination of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape, the Jacobs Creek was the second sampled.
The appearance is one of deep brass and old gold. The colour is remarkably prominent and crisp. This wine is much more akin to Bollinger that its predecessor with a profound texture and depth of shade.
In terms of effervesce this wine was initially extremely sporadic. In comparison to the Moscato, and indeed the Bollinger it was extremely lifeless and unenthusiastic. The bubbles were consistent but with a little time they had disappeared leaving only disappointment.
The nose of this wine suggested a huge body, with strength that dominated the senses favourably. Its dryness was similar to Bollinger and a contrast to the Moscato, with bitter apples and aged cider unmistakably manifesting stronger and stronger with each inhalation.
The panel feel that this wine was a combination of crispness and masses of assertiveness. The wine makes its presence known and invades the palate with its heavy nature. Most of the panel felt that this wine was overly tart with a brief air of unpleasant bitterness. Overall a satisfying taste with marked disappointments.
The aftertaste of this wine was displeasingly lengthy tainting the senses and affecting the taste of food consumed with or directly after the product. A cider presence dominates the palate for a long time after swallowing.
The bottle of the Jacobs Creek wine was impressive and aesthetically pleasing with dark and gold colours adorning the labels. A refreshing change to the Moscato labels. The bottle is presentable and could be mistaken for Champagne.
With a potency of 11.5% vol it is easily on a par with Bollinger, and is still very reasonably priced at only £7.00 per 75 cl bottle. One point that is worth noting is the fact that this wine won a silver medal in Belgium (2001) in its category for dry sparkling wines.
Produced in New Zealand and categorised as being Brut (dry), Lindauer was the third and final wine to be examined.
The colour of this Rosé was quite pale, but had very clear presences of salmon and coral pink. The colour itself, although a little limpid, was very pleasing and a refreshing change.
The effervescence of this wine was impressive and not dissimilar to Bollinger. The bubbles where clear and filled the glass making for a good display of colour and activity. The bubbles were consistent and quite long lasting.
While examining the aroma, the dryness of the wine became all the more apparent. This wine seemed to have a much more dominant nose than both the Jacobs Creek and the Bollinger samples. The smell was ‘sense-consuming’ and provided a kick at the back of the throat with every inhalation.
With powerful aromas usually come powerful tastes, and this wine proved to be no exception. The taste was described by the panel as being much to assertive, loud and at times edging on acrid. Some panel members remarked that it took great effort to consume the wines, however after the first glass the palate had become accustomed to the unique full body.
The aftertaste is of course very similar to the taste in that it takes over the palate, a taste that is very hard to remove easily. Its persistence cannot be overemphasised however it is not all unpleasant.
The bottle of the Rosé is suitably similar to Champagne with the appearance of quality and history and could, in the opinion of the panel, be easily mistaken for Champagne.
In terms of potency, this wine is 11.5% vol. With a cost of £7.99 per 75 cl bottle, it is reasonably inexpensive, albeit the most expensive of those examined.
After calculation had taken place, it had been deduced that the wine to be chosen as being the most suitable alternative to Champagne was the Moscato Spumante. The main reason offered by the panel was its incredible low price (£2.98 per 75 cl bottle).
This may be considered a surprise result considering its low alcohol content, limpid appearance and at times unpronounced flavour, however the panel felt that overall the taste was most suitable for persons who would not have authentic Champagne on a regular occasion.
The panel did mention however that the Moscato would be suited to small gatherings of close friends or families. In the event however where formal guests might be attending dinner, or the guest wishes to impress a little more, they would be more inclined to choose Jacobs Creek.
The conclusion took the form of three questions which aimed to summarise and close the seminar.
What have we learned?
At this time, the audience are asked to convey exactly what they have absorbed during the seminar. A number of individuals are asked at random to relay both their knowledge and interpretation of the subject which is essentially new to them. This kind of interpretation by the audience should lead to a greater understanding on the concepts being discussed by breaking away from the sometimes rigid and jargonised content of the presentation. It should stimulate individual thought and retention of information.
How accurate are the descriptions in this seminar?
What is important to note is that any description of wine, food, or any other experience is entirely subjective and pertaining only to those who form the description. Taste is a very personal experience and one that is nearly impossible to convey accurately to another person. Although it is possible to identify certain characteristics, it is rarely possible to get it right for everyone all the time. It is with this in mind that it is recommended that the audience try out the wines themselves to form their own opinions. To aid this activity, a guide to tasting wine will be provided as part of the supplementary Fact-Sheet provided.
Another point to consider is the fact that the sparkling wines identified in the seminar can not strictly be compared like for like with Champagne, for the reason that they are made using different methods of production. While Champagne is painstakingly produced to exacting standards with some of the fermentation occurring in the very bottle, with cheaper sparkling wines, it is likely that they have been mass produced and then bottled, and this method of production is reflected in the inexpensiveness of the product
Is genuine Champagne worth the extra expenditure?
Again this question is very subjective. Judging by the comments of the panel, it is very possible to obtain a suitably similar but much more cost-effective alternative to Champagne, but it depends on the situation. As touched upon earlier, cheaper wines might be suitable for informal occasions or gatherings, but when an important occasion comes around such as a landmark anniversary or birthday it is expected that the customer would be willing to spend the extra money to celebrate.
Following the conclusion is an opportunity for audience questions.
Overall the seminar was carried out very successfully on the day, and appeared to be interesting and informative. Some areas of concern were:
To aid professionalism and ease of use the presentation was designed using computer software that enabled the integration of graphics and text in an interesting format. However, on the day of the seminar the only piece of compatible computer equipment suitable for playing the presentation was extremely old, and therefore the processor was quite slow. This meant that the presentation was not displayed at its best. Some images were not displayed correctly, and animations were extremely slow compared to the original version. It is important to note this situation and bear it in mind for future reference. Presentations should be designed with this type of scenario in mind so technology has less chance failing. It could easily have occurred that the system was so old that it could not play the presentation which would have been a disaster.
The structured action plan which was designed early on proved very useful in that it resulted in a full one week to rehearse the presentation before its date. This meant that much of the seminar had been committed to memory eradicating the need for cards or excessive reading from the screen. However at the beginning of the seminar, distracting audience members caused nervousness which resulted in some slight and unnoticeable hitches. This is a common issue in situations such as these where presentations are given to colleagues, however in just a few seconds the problem had subsided as the audience became interested in the subject matter, and the seminar continued successfully.
It was part of the original plan to supply an empty bottle of each of the wines sampled as well as the Champagne to act as a visual aid during the presentation. However due to reasons beyond control this was not possible, however the seminar had been designed in such a way that they did not form a key part of the discussion, so they were not missed by the audience.
One major worry was the element of audience participation, and its influence on the success and timing of the presentation. It is necessary to involve the audience as much as possible in seminars such as this however the responses can be variable (in both length and content) and if the audience do not take the subject seriously, the participation can retract from the success of the presentation. To remedy the possibility of this type of situation, questions were scattered throughout the presentation, but they were questions which called for short or specific answers in an attempt to steer the response. This foresight resulted in very successful audience questions.
The seminar as a whole seemed to be carried out very well without any visible problems. Throughout the event, the audience appeared interested and keen to listen. The success is in no small part due to the copious planning process that took place in the weeks leading to the seminar.
At the close of the seminar the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions on the subject. The question asked was:
Who invented Champagne?
The response was as follows:
This question is one that is very difficult to answer without clarifying the question. The actual process of producing Champagne is widely accredited to a French monk (Dom Perignon) who records show accidentally stumbled across the method (known as Method Champenoise) accidentally. However wine historians believe that the actual process of producing Champagne is in fact the responsibility of the English, as records produced over two hundred years earlier than that of the French illustrate an Englishman carrying out the renowned second fermentation. So that is how the process of producing Champagne was founded, however if you were to ask who were responsible for creating the romanticism and image of Champagne as a product, the answer is undoubtedly the French. Incidentally, the reason Dom Perignon is often confused as being the creator of Champagne is the fact that he played a major role in the integration of the cork to the Champagne bottle, as opposed to rubber or metal caps which had been used previously.