Media Conversations

Celebrating Champagne

“When Sommelier David Mangeat poured the Champagne we’d selected into a decanter, I was shocked. I was at the Michelin one-star restaurant Les Berceaux in the center of Épernay, a two-minute walk from the grand Avenue de Champagne and its succession of famous Champagne houses.

“The Champagne was Gosset’s Grande Reserve Brut. A nonvintage bottling, this is usually a pop-and-pour proposition. But the decanting brought additional depth and richness to the wine, making it a perfect companion to the lobster.

“I’d come to Champagne to see how the region’s chefs match their food to the local wine when not every sip celebrates a special occasion. If the chefs here don’t understand the keys to pairing Champagne and food, no one does.

“Two days earlier, Chef Pascal Tingaud had given me a complete lesson in Champagne pairing in his kitchen at the Moët & Chandon entertaining house known as Le Petit Trianon.

“’If a pairing works, the Champagne and the food make music,’ Tingaud says.

“That means getting many elements just right. And according to Tingaud, aroma and texture are the keys to success.

“You must be able to smell the food and the wine without either dominating the other,’ he says. ‘You must create a synergy between the texture of the wine and the texture of the ingredients. Weighty ingredients need a weighty Champagne.’

“Salt is the common, essential ingredient, Tingaud says, sprinkling sea salt liberally over a dish of oysters with fennel.

“But, he says, ‘it’s much easier to match most foods with Cham­pagne than with still wines,’ as Champagne is less dominated by terroir-driven, distinctive flavors.

“Simplicity came up again and again when talking to chefs about Champagne pairings. ‘No more than three ingredients in the dish,’ says Tingaud.

“Dominique Giraudeau, chef at Le Grand Cerf, a Michelin one-star restaurant outside Reims since 1992, concurs.

”’You have to keep the cooking sober, simple,’ he says. ‘Not too much sauce, let the ingredients do the matching.’

“At the end of every meal, the chefs would insist that Champagne and sugary desserts go together. I maintain that they don’t, not even with the sweeter demi-sec styles. Outside this fairytale region, there is a limit to Champagne’s versatility.

“So eat your dessert, and then to cleanse and refresh your pal­ate afterward, pour yourself a final glass of Champagne. Then you can rightly say that Champagne can go from the beginning of a meal right through to the finish.”

WINE PAIRING

Gosset NV Grande Reserve Brut Decanting and Immediately pouring into glasses brings out the fruit in this wine, its freshness cutting through the rich lobster. Don’t worry if the Champagne loses some bubbles, it makes it even better with the dish.

Roger Voss, December 31, 2015
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Celebrating Champagne