“Champagne… In victory one deserves it, in defeat one needs it!” – Napoléon
Having said that Bonaparte proceeded to uncork a bottle with his sword…
Tonight there’s going to be countless bottles sabraged at Billich Gallery…
Reading the invitation to the Sabrage Vernissage event sent personally by Christa Billich (thank you Christa), I immediately imagined and craved for such a celebration. Having experienced the continuous pandemic conflict of COVID-19 since the beginning of March; as Sydneysiders, Kent and I have felt part of the achievement. Months of the restrictions helping to keep the COVID curve so flat in our state. Yes, we did it. With new infection cases down to as low as single-digit or zero in the last few weeks in New South Wales, we deserve a victory champagne indeed!
The soirée was held on the 28th of October. Since champagne was the theme of the night, I chose a rose champagne coloured dress and my pearls to represent the bubbles. When we arrived, before we picked our champagne… Hold on! First the temperature check, followed by a COVID Safe check-in. ‘And that’s how you party these days.’ As a fellow guest said.
Our hosts, the Mr. and Mrs. Billich looked as glamorous as always. Christa wearing a jumpsuit in her signature red flattering her long legs; Charles, in a classic black and white ensemble. Due to the limited capacity for COVID Safe Event, it was a small gathering (small for the Billich standard) only select local friends and art collectors were invited.
‘Do you know why French Champagne is the best choice for sabrage?’ A quick lesson from tonight’s Master Sabreur, the lovely Rebecca from the Bubble Sisters asked during our chat. ‘…as it is made using the champenoise method. The champenoise method requires a secondary fermentation process to occur inside the bottle creating an internal pressure of up to 7 atmospheres, which is about double to the sparkling wine.’ Rebecca continued to explain. ‘Also, due to the pressure inside the French champagne, the bottles are made with a thicker glass, making it the superior choice and that’s why it’s the only type of bottle we recommend for sabrage.’ ‘Wow I did not know that.’ Surely sabrage knowledge gained, but I was not ready to apply my skills… yet.
The room was cleared in the direction of the cork and glass projectile. The first to demonstrate the art of sabrage was Rebecca; Charles also showed off his sabrage skills… well they made it look so effortlessly easy! Soon followed guests who had volunteered eagerly as the night’s sabreurs each with Rebecca’s guidance. After witnessing magnums of Pommery being successfully sabraged in awe; more fun was in store, we then moved towards the champagne tower to watch how elegantly Rebecca poured the golden liquid to cascade down those Marie Antoinette style glasses.
Christa received the first glass from the top of the tower and as she did, made a toast and gesture to welcome us all. The champagne party was reaching its height, and most everyone took the opportunity to try Pommery. Kent reappeared after taking shots from the balcony above to receive his bubbles, declaring: ‘Pommery, my favourite champagne!’ Looking very much like the cat that got the cream.
This party, small in scale compared to some of the previous extravagant events such as Erotica – The Billich Gallery 30th Anniversary Celebration, The Opening Gala of the Dali – Billich Exhibition and the more recently Surrealist – Charles Billich’s 85th Birthday Bash… Yes we are lucky enough to have been invited to them all. But true to the Billich style, this intimate gathering was not lacking in generosity or attention to detail. We caught up with some familiar faces and made some new friends too. The atmosphere was warm and high-spirited. After experiencing a pandemic, we have learnt to not take things for granted, cherishing togetherness like this – more than ever!
Champagne and caviar go hand in hand if you ask me. A table was set up for caviar tasting, beautiful blue tin boxes of Russian Beluga Caviar set on ice cubes in a large sea shell, it really was a luxurious night. Before we knew it, guests already lined up for this treat and so was I. Here comes my turn… ‘Would you like your caviar with vodka?’ That’s right, vodka or champagne, that was the question. ‘I think I’m happy with my champagne, thank you.’ So I had champagne in one hand and caviar ‘on’ the other. If you look carefully, you’d spot a big smile on my face in one of those images! Kent, swaying from French to Russian decided vodka was the best accompaniment and had never tried Beluga Noble Russian Vodka before… apparently it’s also great.
Throughout Sabrage Vernissage, we had a sneak peek of Charles’ latest masterpiece paintings such as Distancing Brings Closeness. At the soirée, Christa revealed to the Confidential journalist that the flagship gallery in The Rocks has been approved for a liquor licence and will soon be opening a champagne bar. It seems another exciting chapter for the Billich Gallery and of course, a thrilling news for The Rocks and Sydney. It will certainly be a bar like no other. ‘Never a dull moment!’ I said once to Christa. ‘We don’t do dull.’ she replied. And that is the spirit of inspiration.