Matching Champagne with food: a feast with fizz
Author: Edwin Dublin
While many still wines have well-established pairing suggestions – Malbec and steak, Chablis and oysters – sparkling wines aren’t always what spring to mind as an option for food matching. Yet, as our London Shop Manager – and in-house Champagne expert – Edwin Dublin discovered during a dinner hosted in our cellars last month, many Champagnes pair just as wonderfully with food as their still counterparts.
In recent years, Champagne houses have been keen for consumers to see their famed product as an alternative to still wines when matching with food. Indeed, prestige cuvée producers now often launch new vintages in collaboration with Michelin-starred chefs around the world. So, for this event, there was as much interest in this aspect in the room, as there was in the prestige Champagnes themselves.
Starters, fish and classic Champagnes
The evening began in epic style with the 2008 Dom Pérignon. Its characteristic toast-and-brioche notes were beautifully held together by a noticeable (but never harsh) acidity. This was seen by all as the perfect appetiser to begin the evening, with cheese gougères a delicious addition.
We began by playing with the traditional “white wine with fish” pairing. On offer were two Blanc de Blancs Champagnes: the 2010 Dom Ruinart and 1995 Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires. These were paired with a brill in moilée sauce with langoustines.
The contrast in maturity was itself a point of interest. The Charles (the original “Champagne Charlie”) was a reminder of how long great Champagnes can develop and drink for. Its delicate pungency on the nose and light tertiary palate notes danced evocatively with the brill. The Dom Ruinart (named after the uncle of Ruinart’s founder, Dom Ruinart – a colleague of that other famous monk Dom Pérignon – provided a bright foil to the richness of the brill dish, thanks to its relative youth.
A vegetarian course with sparkling
The next course brought us to briny depths, with Leclerc Briant’s 2017 Abyss, Brut Zéro. This artisan producer practises organic and biodynamic viticulture. As part of the team’s ethos, they return this cuvée to the sea for nine months’ post-production ageing in bottle, in a holistic nod to their terroir’s origin.
The bottles’ exterior ends up with barnacles and other marine life growing on them – still present when purchased! We sampled this alongside morels, truffles and white asparagus, a dish that brought out the light salty tang in the champagne alongside its gentle light red and citrus fruit notes.
Rosé Champagnes and the main event
The main course of Iberico pork belly and loin saw us still exploring the depths, with the 2018 Abyss Rosé counterpart to the Brut. This was widely agreed to be a definite “food wine” – which is Leclerc Briant’s intention for most of their Champagnes. Primarily Chardonnay with a portion of red wine that adds colour and fruit, its mineral character with violet top-notes worked particularly well with the loin.
We also enjoyed the Fleur de Miraval ER2 alongside the main course. A collaboration between artisan champagne producer Rodolphe Péters and the Brad Pitt-owned Provence estate Miraval, its more lifted wild strawberry and pomegranate notes proved a stylish match to the sweeter pork belly.
Champagne with cheese
The final course paired two 2013 prestige cuvées, inspired by an esteemed British prime minister and a Tsar respectively: the Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill, and Louis Roederer’s Cristal. These shared a richness from the late burst of sunshine of this vintage, with the Cristal at this stage reflecting the coolness which preceded this with a mineral, rapier-like core.
Both were excellent foils to a Comté (my favourite Champagne and cheese combination). A Waterloo cheese did marginally favour Cristal, while and a Keen’s Cheddar leant towards the Winston.
This was a suitably flavoursome end to what had been a glorious evening of great Champagnes, all with stories to tell, alongside a beautifully-curated menu that showcased the often-fascinating results of Champagne and food matching.
We regularly run tasting dinners like the one described above, in our cellars at No.3 St James’s Street. Browse a full list of what’s upcoming here.
If you’re interested in more content around food and wine pairing, browse our current articles here.