Tasting & Appreciation
The leaves are falling and the days are turning colder. Suddenly your taste buds long for pasta, veal blanquettes, coqs au vin, roasts, frying pans sizzling with mushrooms, flans - in a word, wholesome country cooking.
By their nature vintage brut Champagne, mature blanc de noirs or mature rosé Champagne are the perfect accompaniment to robust, spicy foods and smoky, roasted, animal flavours.
These wines of Champagne are suffused with the taste of the terroir. They have a robust aroma thanks to the dominant pinot noir and meunier grape varieties and are usually deep golden yellow in colour. Their scents evoke images of the underwood, ripe fruits and wheat. They are fleshy, full and long in the palate.
Serve any combination of terrines, pâtés, ham and jellies in aspic. These are ideal to wake up the palate in preparation for stronger tastes to come Serve them with mature Champagnes mostly based on black grapes.
Pride of place must go to beef and duck, whether grilled, roasted or slow-cooked in a stew. To make them even more divine, add a distinctive pinch of ‘hot’ spices or herbs (black, grey or white pepper, coriander, chervil, parsley ...).
Brut Champagne, vintage blanc de noirs has the power to make grilled or spit-roasted meat taste even richer, and to ’sharpen’ the taste of dishes with a moist or even greasy texture.
Blanc de noirs Champagne and mushrooms -ceps, morels, truffles - always go well together, revealing a host of tastes and aromas.
Game and game birds are the basis of distinctive, robust dishes that go best with more mature, vintage Champagne.
Serve desserts made from ripe fruits, with a grainy, crispy even crunchy texture.
Mature rosé Champagne or demi-sec Champagne have the substance and vigour to make them seem ‘smoother‘.
Your appreciation of a rose Champagne, tender or passionate, subtle or generous, will vary with the time of the year, the event and the food it accompanies.
This is wine of conviviality: a group of friends enjoying a single dish, a summer buffet laden with little dishes (mezze for instance), an intimate dinner for two or a refined gala occasion.
Rosé Champagne wines have a flamboyant joyfulness that combines with dishes of unfamiliar flavour and fragrance to create new, warm and refined harmonies, of sweet and sour flavours and the suave, delicate, mellow aromas of coloured spices and mysterious herbs.
Once precious commodities, these spices now form part of everyday cooking. Some of them, including pepper, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg, were first shipped back from distant shores several hundred years ago and were vital ingredients of French classical cuisine. Others are a more recent innovation as people have come to discover and acquired a taste for more exotic cuisine based on traditional dishes with aromas and flavours calling for wines of expansive bouquet and dazzling colour, like rosé Champagne.
Currys, tajines, satés and other dishes from the East or Far East go beautifully with rosé Champagne provided you maintain a sense of balance and avoid overwhelming the palate with ’explosive' combinations. The finest harmonies have a subtle, balanced rhythm based on warm but never fiery spices.
Choose mild and/or sweet spices that soften the taste of dishes with delicate aromas: vanilla and cinnamon as well as ginger (powdered), nutmeg, cardamom, saffron, cumin, coriander (grains or powder), curcuma and aniseed. Consider pasta based on seeds such as almonds, sesame, peanuts and coconut.
A mixture of mild herbs and spices: Madras and Colombo curry powder, garam-massala, allspice. Fruit and vegetable chutneys. Soya sauce.
Hot and fiery spices. Use minute quantities of paprika, red and green peppers and caraway. If the recipe calls for whole pepper corns, choose pink corns that are more aromatic than spicy. Be very sparing with garlic, spice in leaf form or as fresh roots: curry leaves, lemongrass, tea, mint.
Herbs and spices with excessively pronounced flavours such as peppers, dill, fennel or celery, dishes based on spicy condiments such as Tandoori pasta, Vindaloo curry and Kashmiri massala, oils based on peppers such as harissa and (lndian) chilli, pickled vegetables
These rosé Champagne wines, vinified by blending, brut or even demi-sec, call for rounded, mellow, smooth flavours, such as sweet and sour sauces and those containing saffron; sweet and savoury dishes, based on honey or cinnamon and mild spices (pink pepper, nutmeg); tajines with dried fruits such as apricots and prunes; white meats, either glazed or made into dishes containing suave fruits such as pineapple, figs and coconut; caviar or conserve of summer vegetables (tomatoes and aubergines); fish and shellfish, either curried, wrapped in brioche or made into stuffing; nuts and seeds (almonds, pistachios and sesame). Tender, suave rosé Champagne goes well with the warm dishes typical of the Middle East, North Africa, India and China.
These brut rosé Champagne wines, vinified by maceration on skins, non vintage, reveal themselves through rather more flowery, lively fruit aromas. They go best with deep water fish that tastes of the sea, either steamed or lightly fried then seasoned with the freshest spices (aniseed, ginger, cardamom) and served with crystallised fruits such as lemon or with crispy vegetables (carrots, courgettes, radishes, bean shoots). Fresh and light rosé Champagne goes beautifully with Far Eastern foods such as sushis, sashimis and tempuras from Vietnam, Thailand and Japan.
These vintage rosé Champagne wines, vinified by blending, mostly with black grapes, need robust food packed with flavor: tasty ‘red‘ meats such as duck, pigeon, beef and lamb seasoned with warm (cumin, saffron) or 'hotter’ spices (white, grey or black pepper) and served with pulses (chickpeas beans or lentils). Also stews, marinades, saté and tajine seasoned with more pronounced spices such as coriander and chervil. Powerful, fleshy rosé Champagne goes best with Middle Eastern or North African cuisine.
These accomplished, refined rosé wines, old vintages or ‘cuvée spéciale’, need practically no accompaniment. Bring out their special nature with dishes of delicate simplicity, subtle fragrances such as - orange flower water, rose water, rare fish such as Japanese fugu, spices of indefinable flavour such as ginger, lightly marinated shellfish as kebabs or simply lightly sautéed with salt and pepper, thin slices of lightly sautéed whitish meats sprinkled with mild spice. Complex, mature rosé Champagne calls for oriental dishes of the most refined kind.