As evening began to seep into the pale night sky, I found myself sitting on a spacious, finely-crafted glass table. To the left, were ladies in fine dresses, chattering while sipping liquid from their tall glasses. To my right, two gentlemen, talking excitedly, who seemed like best friends. I looked down to my own glass of champagne, then I slowly lifted the cup to savor what was a first-time experience.
Let me begin by stating how grateful I am to have been invited to this event. An unexpected chain of circumstances have enabled me to attend such a thing. Essentially, it was an experiment made in Jia, Shangri-La, to see if Jakartan bloggers can dive into the grounds of fine wine. The difference was, we were served the a peculiar kind of wine: champagne.
Forgive me if I sound snobbish, but a misconception (which I truthfully had also) must be addressed. Tall, neatly groomed, and polite, Henry the French wine dealer raised up his voice. “Champagne, in simplest terms, is sparkling wine. Anyone can call theirs sparkling wine, but only Champagne can be called by itself when it is made in – you guessed it – Champagne, France.”
“It’s pricey because it’s a limited-availability type-of-thing,” I thought. Then I realized the amount of effort to procure these bottles from France to the table that I sat on. And the cost. And the logistics. Cue internal, “whoa”.
In a short timespan afterwards, came the food and its wine pairings. Four out of five dishes that were served contained duck, perhaps a nod to Jia’s status as a contemporary Asian restaurant. From the crowd favorite Signature Peking Duck, to Truffle Paste E-fu Noodle (truffle with duck, imagine!), to the eyebrow-raising Roasted Duck with Fruit Salad, we clearly had no shortage of poultry to eat. It was great to taste crispy, meaty, savory duck in each dish, regardless of the adventurous combinations they had. To break the monotony, Jia served a Praline Bavaroise topped with Bourbon Vanilla ice-cream (a definite tongue twister) as dessert – which was truly needed to even out the savory duck. The thing was sweet, crunchy, and refreshingly cold. Magnificent.
Yet the highlight of the night were undoubtedly, the champagne. All five were Nicolas Feuillatte brand bottles. All with different taste in room temperature. All with different stories behind them. One can try the same champagne and taste different flavors depending on what the temperature it is. The levels of flavor in each were astounding to an inexperienced me, especially when the realization hits – that they all come from the same ingredient: grapes. As a whole, it was an epiphany; an introduction to the world of wine. Not a bad thing to have had when you’re 21.
Lastly, there was a message that the Henry, the French wine dealer, told me. I will close on his paraphrased message:
“Champagne should be enjoyed by everyone. Every bottle of champagne has a different story, or a different process in its making. It makes me sad that not many can experience what is essentially, fermented grape. I simply believe that champagne is meant for everybody, because those who haven’t tried, are missing out on this wonderful thing.”
Jia Shangri-La, Contemporary Asian Dining
Address: Shangri-La, Jl. Jend. Sudirman No.kav. 1, Karet Tengsin, Tanah Abang, Jakarta Pusat
P.S.: glad to meet @henjiwong and @timothyfelix in the event! 🙂
Photos by Jeloy Tirie