Meet The Dame Of Champagne

I drink it when I’m happy. I drink it when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless of course I’m thirsty.          (Madam Lilly Bollinger – London Daily Mail, October 17, 1961)
The Champagne Dame - Kyla Kirkpatrick

The Champagne Dame – Kyla Kirkpatrick

If the ‘dream job’ truly does exist – then my friends, Melbourne-based Kyla Kirkpatrick surely must have it.


The Champagne Dame lives a fairytale life of glitz and glamour, jet-setting across the globe spruiking the virtues of the most powerful champagne brands in the world.


Her indulgent masterclasses have a cult following – both in Australia and abroad – and for good reason as we came to discover during her exclusive appearance at Moama’s stunning new bar and restaurant, Junction, at the weekend.


In a sell-out event, Dame Kirkpatrick led her captive audience on an elaborate journey through Champagne’s elegant and illustrious history, offering a rare glimpse into the lives of those families and names so synonymous with the ‘nectar of the gods’.


Champagne royalty like Pol Roger, Dom Perignon, Laurent Perrier, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Dom Ruinart – the Champagne Dame introduced us to them all.


Through her eyes and exquisite narrative, we visited luxurious and exclusive champagne houses and clinked glasses with famous wine makers – discovering exactly why champagne is the world’s most enigmatic beverage.


And then came the tasting…..Oh boy, the tasting.


A 1531 Grand Aimery to open the set, followed by a non vintage Pol Roger, a 2004 vintage Pol Roger, a Chassany D’Arce Rose and a Laurent Perrier Demi-Sec to round out the ultimate of tasting experiences.


And Dame Kirkpatrick didn’t just talk the talk – she came with party tricks too.


With a clean swipe of a sword she sliced the top off the bottle of an expensive champagne, and used a stemmed glass flute to delicately pop the cork of another.


And for those curious about the correct way to open a bottle of bubbles, blowing the cork through the roof of the house is not the answer.


“The metal cage must remain intact, and it is the bottle that should be twisted, not the cork,” the Dame explained expertly through demonstration.


“When it comes to corking a bottle, champagne should sigh like a lady, not scream like a whore.”


Despite appearances, life wasn’t always Parisian men, private jets, luxury boats  and glamour for The Champagne Dame.


Kirpatrick grew up in a working class family in regional Victoria’s Bacchus Marsh, spending summer holidays camping with her family on the river at – you guessed it – Echuca Moama.


“Mum and dad had a caravan at Cottonwood – we thought that was fabulous. Every summer we would come up, dad would bring his little boat and we would spend our days by the river. We were used to a very simple life, so those holidays were the most exciting times. As children, we never went to restaurants, we never had take away food and we were never allowed to have a take away lunch order at school. There were no luxuries whatsoever in my childhood.”


Kirkpatrick’s parents – who now live permanently in Echuca – have never been champagne drinkers. In fact her mum is a teetotaler and her father a devotee of the amber brew.


Her first encounter with champagne came at the age of 21, after she moved to London to carve out a career in finance.


“I was with my boss at a really fancy restaurant in London. I was 21 years old and I’ll never forget looking down at those prices on the menu.”


From that night onwards, Kirkpatrick’s fascination with champagne blossomed into an obsession and ten years ago she turned her back on her career and moved to Champagne, near Paris, to become a full-blown champagne connoisseur.


And what led her to that life-changing point?


“My nose and my heart,” said the Dame.


“There was no real game plan. I sort of turned on my heel. I think it was that I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I don’t respond well to being put in a box. I didn’t think twice about turning my back on my career and I think that’s definitely reflective of my personality type – I’m quite risky and I really just go with what I want to do without thinking about the consequences.

“Maybe in the back of my mind I thought I could take a job at a champagne house, worst case scenario. I didn’t know what the possibilities were. It unfolded so very naturally, that everything just fell into place. I’ve got to say that first experience, that first eight months in Champagne, in Paris, was one of the most amazing times of my life. I would never, ever be able to replicate that – it was incredible.”


It’s hard to believe there could be a downside to a career as magnetic as this one, however Kirkpatrick admitted the long hours could be grueling.


“I’m very careful of complaining about that because I know that I have a job that I love. I earn good money doing what I love and I’m really lucky to have wonderful clients and such strong repeat business and obviously working with such a beautiful product is amazing. But that said, I do work really long hours. I know people just think I turn up at a show and I drink champagne and tell all these wonderful stories and that’s it, but you know I work from six in the morning until 10 at night doing all the little things that I need to do to get this show to you.”


And has life for the Champagne Dame changed in the past two years since marrying the man of her dreams and becoming a mum to her precious baby girl?


“It has changed. Even just the way that I’m perceived when I’m in Paris has changed. I mean let’s be honest, the French men are the French men and they don’t really care whether you have a husband or a baby. But there’s certainly not as much flying around on private jets and in French boats these days. There is that definite consideration when I go to Paris now that I’m leaving my husband and baby behind and on some trips they’re coming with me. So things have changed, but they’ve changed for the better too because I have such a kind and loving husband and he’s really given me a platform to take my love of champagne to another level. I truly don’t think that I would be as successful as what I am now without him and that stability that he provides.”


2015 is destined to be another huge year for the Champagne Dame, and one of many firsts.


She is working on her inaugural book and her life is to be the subject of a pilot documentary about champagne.


“I’m really excited about the book. It will focus on champagne and culinary paring and there’s nothing else quite like it on the market. Champagne has always been considered a celebratory wine, something that you would start with. But I believe it’s so beautifully complex that it really comes alive with food. It just takes it to a whole other dimension and I want people to start thinking about drinking champagne during the meal and not just as a starter.”


But the biggest highlight for the year, the Dame says, will be her launch into the Asian market in July.


“Asia Pacific is going to be a huge opportunity for me. They’re not big champagne drinkers yet. At the moment their palates are quite immature, but they are very hungry for education and for learning. They love luxury and they love the western life so once they adapt to the style of champagne, then it will be a huge market.”


And no interview with Australia’s Queen of bubbly would be complete without her personal recommendations – so here they are.




The Champagne Dame’s top picks….


The go-to champagne:

Pol Roger Brut Reserve – an exquisite and beautifully balanced champagne. A real crowd pleaser.



Favorite high-end champagne:

Dom Ruinart prestige cuvee. The vintage that I love is 1996 but anything from Dom Ruinart is incredible.



Best champagne for those on a budget:

Laurent Perrier non vintage. A beautiful, elegant champagne if you’re on a budget.


xx Lee – The Splendid Word