Gina Lyons.

Champagne has more famous quotes attached to it than any other wine. Interestingly, most of them are by women.

The most famous of these is from Lily Bollinger of Bollinger Champagne, who said, “I drink Champagne when I’m happy and 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 I'm thirsty."

Other notable quotes can be found from Madame de Pompadour, Coco Chanel and Bette Davis. So I guess it’s not unusual that our own Gina Lyons is playing her part in advancing the interests of this wonderful beverage.

Lyons, an engaging and articulate presenter, has formed a company, A Vine Affair, that demonstrates and extolls the virtues of Champagne and caviar in private homes and corporate venues. Trained in the fashion industry, she spent a great amount of time in Europe and Asia. As she entertained clients at dinners, she found their knowledge of wine was much greater than hers. She took this as a challenge and spent any free time she had studying wine and visiting wineries.

Champagne, in particular, piqued her interest and became her passion and raison d'être. After she completed Level 2 of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust program, she began virtual tastings. Coincidentally, when the Covid-19 pandemic prevented Champagne principals from traveling, she approached several Champagne houses to seek sponsorships for her virtual tastings. She quickly formed partnerships with Billecart-Salmon, Charles Heidsieck, Louis Roederer and others.

As the pandemic slowed, Lyons delved into the world of in-person private and corporate tastings. A resident of Sarasota, and a Florida native, her territory ranges from Miami to Tampa and includes in-home events, boat tastings and professional presentations at Hyde House in Tampa.

Her events are far more involved than the wine tastings we are used to. She sets up a true professional seminar with the appropriate stemware and provides a two-hour discussion of Champagne, including a comparison of two to four types of Champagne.

Interestingly, she disdains the use of the flute or tulip glass, and features high-quality white wine stemware, because she believes the wine shows its nuances far better in the wider glass. The Champagne houses she represents do the same.

This is a one-woman show, since she brings the wine, glasses, tasting mats, menus, learning packs, water, spittoon, napkins and chips. She does the entire setup and breakdown herself, except for very large groups, when she uses assistants. The cost for an event for up to 10 people starts at $1,200 and goes up from there, depending on the wines used. (Recently, A Vine Affair has returned to virtual tastings only.)

For an added expense, Lyons offers three aquavirgo caviars with the Champagne and discusses the nuances and compatibility of each. And her well-designed website, A Vine Affair, offers caviar and Champagne through a partner retailer.

For many years, Champagne and sparkling wine producers tried to counteract the image of Champagne being just a special-occasion drink. With experience and extensive testimonials, Lyons seems intent to change that.

Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.

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