Gosset, the oldest wine house in Champagne, has launched its third Matchmakers competition with a workshop at Le Cordon Bleu London.
The competition brings together junior sommeliers and young chefs, challenging them to create an award-winning champagne and food-matching combination. The exclusive tasting event, hosted by Xavier Rousset MS and Gosset’s Bertrand Verduzier, saw the winners of the two previous years present their winning pairings and talk about their experiences in the competition.
2017’s Gosset Matchmakers
The winners of last year’s Gosset Matchmakers sommelier Raphael Laurent and chef Ambra Papa showcased their pairing with the Grand Blanc de Blancs – a dish of ricotta di bufala and Sicilian almond gnudi, with Cornish lobster, poached pear and violas.
It was inspired by Papa’s Tuscan heritage, Laurent’s French culinary tradition and the seasonal menu at Petersham Nurseries. The duo said they were trying to ‘find every element that could pair with the champagne’ and the dish worked beautifully with the champagne, bringing out the floral element.
Its aim, Verduzier told Imbibe, is to discover the vision of the next generation of chefs and sommeliers in the UK, and better understand how they feel about champagne and food matching.
The Gosset winemaking style is characterised by minimal intervention, extended ageing and no malolactic fermentation, which preserves the natural acidity of wine and makes the champagnes ideal for food matching.
‘People still see champagne as a celebration drink – something you drink before a meal, at Christmas or offer as a gift, but there’s much more to champagne than that,’ he said.
‘We are Gosset, the oldest winery in Champagne, and we are very strongly terroir led, so we propose wines that are naturally suited to food pairing.’
Along with Gosset’s Grand Rosé and Grande Réserve, Varduzier presented the house’s three mono-grape champagnes: Grand Blanc de Blancs and its two most recent offerings, Grand Blanc de Noirs and Grand Blanc de Meunier, which are both limited edition.
‘This year, the theme is very much the mono-grape varieties,’ Verduzier said. ‘It’s the first time in our history that we’ve had three single varieties isolated in three different blends.
Verduzier explained that the 2007 vintage produced beautiful Pinots – both Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir – and these, respectively, make up Gosset’s two most recent releases.
The Grand Blanc de Meunier, which the sommeliers showed a particular interest in, launched last month. The wine is made from 100% Pinot Meunier from fully south-facing terroirs around Épernay, and is aged on the lees for nine years.
‘We wanted to show that Pinot Meunier can age and, by consequence, develop complexity,’ said Verduzier.
‘Pinot Meunier makes a great food wine, because it has a great texture, spice and different layers of fruit. It’s the combination of its fruitiness and the minerality of the soil that’s very interesting. It’s quite rare to have a wine of this type in Champagne right now.’
The Grand Blanc de Noirs, released last year, is the first blanc de noirs in the house’s history. A 100% Pinot Noir cuvée, it is, again, predominantly made with 2007 wines and aged for a minimum of nine years.
‘We didn’t want to go for what was expected – a big fruity wine – we wanted to keep to the Gosset style with finesse, delicacy, a bit of sharpness and minerality in the background,’ said Verduzier. ‘It’s another fantastic food wine, because it has nice structure, depth and minerality, it’s well concentrated, with fresh attack and great length.’
The final champagne showcased was Gosset’s Grand Blanc de Blancs, which was chosen by the winners of the two previous years. The Food friendly cuvée is a non-vintage blend of Chardonnay sourced from the Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims, with the latter providing structure, while the former adds finesse.
The perfect match
So what is Gosset looking for in its perfect pairing this year? Verduzier stresses that they are keen to see something ‘adventurous’ that goes beyond the classic pairings of blanc de blancs with seafood, oysters or foie gras. Pork and veal, he suggested, could be good options for the Pinot Meunier and the Blancs de Noirs, as well as Malaysian and south Asian dishes with softer spices.
‘There are great, and less usual, ingredients in the sea as well. Urchin, for instance, could be very interesting as an ingredient because of the iodine, which would resonate with the minerality in the champagne.
‘In Champagne, we have campania chalk soil made up of sediments from when the sea withdrew 80 million years ago, and it’s very white and porous and has a kind of savoury, iodine, liquorice taste, which is a characteristic that’s often revealed when you keep the wine on lees for a long time.’
How to enter
Entries for the competition are now open. Five teams will be chosen to recreate their dishes in Le Cordon Bleu’s London kitchens on 4 September at an event hosted by Gosset and Louis Latour Agencies.
Competitors will be mentored and judged by some of the country’s top sommeliers, and the chef-sommelier pair that has made the best match will win. The coveted prize is an exclusive behind-the-scenes trip to Gosset in Champagne, an incredible opportunity for any sommelier or chef (yes, that means you!).