“Being in estate planning, I’m curious as to how these family businesses continue and keep their relevance as
a younger generation takes over the brand, but needs to respect the name, and enhance and protect it,” says Roy Klassen, Honorary Consul of France.
Klassen spent his formative years in Calgary until leaving for university at the Facilité St. Jean in Edmonton. After law school, he spent five years working in Bermuda, and then five years in Switzerland, before joining Macleod Law in 2009.
His parents raised pheasants as a hobby, and as a youngster his first memories were learning which wine went well with pheasant, and why – is it a wild pheasant or a raised one? What accompaniments and sauce are we serving?
He remembers his first restaurant culinary experience; his mom was a French teacher and ran a program where they’d go to La Chaumiere. “She brought me for lunch, and there was that whole Les Arts de la Table – how the table was set, the different glasses and utensils, how we serve the meal – there was an aura around the meal, so it wasn’t just the food, it was taking the time to have the meal, and to appreciate the surroundings and the settings.”
In 2010, he was working closely with the French Consulate in Calgary, but in 2013 they closed the office and reinstated an honorary consul position. “I am not part of the diplomatic service, but I’m France’s man on the ground in Calgary, so to speak,” he says.
“The day after I came into the job, by coincidence, the French president arrived in Banff, so that was quite an exciting day for me, and a crash course in diplomatic etiquette,” he adds. “It was the first time there had been an official French presidential visit in Alberta. There was a state lunch, and a number of French companies came to discover Alberta and the beauty of the area.”
So what bottle is Klassen is saving for a special occasion?
He was given a new-to-him champagne last summer. “I didn’t know about it, but what was very special to me was the name “Cuvée des Ambassadeurs”. Being an honorary consul that caught my eye quickly,” he smiles.
“What I enjoyed about the first time I tried this wine was not only was it a fine champagne, it had a unique, fruity, distinctive aroma and taste to it that that in others I hadn’t really noticed before,” he adds. “It was really special experience.”
Klassen also discovered the story of General Patton, who loved champagne and set up his headquarters at the Dampierre estate in World War II. From here he freed large parts of France, including the Champagne region. And Comtes de Dampierre still continues the age- old tradition of ficelage for some wines – an early 18th century, painstaking method of tying the cork to the bottle with hemp thread.
“So there’s great history here, and what I like about these French wines is to discover the story behind the chateau and the producers; when did it change hands, how do they maintain these brands 300 and 400 years later; and the ancient traditions that go on to the next generation,” he says.
And when might he open the champagne?
“I would say this has to be a fairly special occasion. The first time I tried it I had it around the Feast of Kings, and it’s also nice either as an appetizer or at dessert time with Galette des Rois, the almond torte that is served on the Feast of Kings,” says Klassen.
“Champagne is something that it’s nice to have other people to appreciate it with; it’s a wine of celebration.”