These days we take matching Champagne with a rich variety of dishes for granted, but things have not always been this simple. The culture of matching noble sparkling wine with food has evolved gradually. Taking this into consideration, it is perhaps not that surprising that the old Champenois guard used to regard rosé as a wine style best consumed by ladies and not as the perfect match for the marvellous poultry dishes the northern French cook. This is obviously prehistory, since during our visit Champagne was poured at dinner in all colours and matched with food with great skill.
Since the pairing of food and wine is approached with a nonchalant attitude in Champagne, just like in most of France, a visitor can utilise the situation by conducting personal experiments. This was my plan when I decided to find out how far you can go with rosé. Indeed, the Dom Ruinart rosé 1990 in magnum we were served at Ruinart was beautiful with smoked guinea fowl. Not a big surprise and kudos to the chef.
Another example: the Collet rosé with hefty dosage was a home run with creamy nougat pastries at Cogevi, where we enjoyed a great lunch. The boundaries were finally violated when I personally took charge of matching the cuisine with wine and tried to combine Cattier rosé with a medium-rare beef dish. An utter failure, which gave me deep gratification. I’d finally found the limits of the extremely versatile rosé Champagne.
Some of the wine and food pairings we got to enjoy during the Champagne trip were truly memorable. The toasty yet vibrant Les Aventures from AR Lenoble was a slam dunk with turbot, as one could expect. And, their Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 1996 did nothing short of wonders with Mimolette and Comté cheese. A step towards more citrus notes was the sea bream tartar with lime, apple, and kiwi which found its match with Jacquesson Dizy 2007.
The first course made it apparent that the participating members of the CWW were about to enjoy a terrific lunch with Jean-Hervé Chiquet of Jacquesson. My personal favourite dish was a particularly French one, a semi-cooked foie gras, pear, and chutney. Not only a truly pretty dish to look at, it was also a great match with Ruinart R. The pronounced acidity of the delicate wine cut through the fat of the foie gras and seemed to create many sighs around the table.
All in all, the trip provided the participants not only with Champagnes to reminisce for times to come, but culinary delights that surpassed even the expectations one can have when signing on for a wine trip in France.
By Arto Koskelo
Photo by Matt Wilson
This is an extract from the full report on the CWW trip to Champagne at the end of 2016. Members can download the full visit report here.