Gosset Matchmakers is a competition like no other. Open to anyone who has been in hospitality for less than five years, teams consisting of a sommelier and a chef must work together to create an inspiring match for Gosset Champagne
This year’s judging panel consisted of:
- Will Oatley, managing director, Louis Latour Agencies
- Melody Wong, head sommelier, D&D London
- Xavier Rousset MS, restaurateur
- Matthieu Longuère MS, wine development manager, Le Cordon Bleu London
- Chantelle Nicholson, chef-patron, Tredwells, London
- Robyn Black, editor, Imbibe UK
It was brains that won it this year – literally. A trip down memory lane for inspiration, well-thought-through flavour pairings, an imaginative take on textures, a cerebral presentation and a dish of, well, actual brains that was the perfect foil for this year’s chosen Champagne – Gosset Grand Rosé.
Sommelier Joshua Castle and chef Myles Donaldson of Noble Rot, London (main image) romped home in this year’s Gosset Matchmakers competition with their dish of calves brains, seared in brown butter. It was a stunning match for the Champagne and, according to the judges, was the stand out dish of the day.
Read on for more details on their winning entry and to find out more about the other finalists and their pairings.
A note on this year’s wine
Each year the Champagne to be matched in the competition changes and for 2020 it was the turn of Gosset Grand Rosé. The wine is bursting with notes of fresh strawberries and strawberry jam on the nose; while on the palate wild red cherries and redcurrants abound alongside a hint of grapefruit. In the mouth, the wine is well structured with a tension between freshness and fruity roundness.
This year’s final took place at Le Cordon Bleu London’s Fleet Street venue, Cord, in early October. Competitors and judges all adhered to the Covid-19 rules in place at the time and all necessary precautions were taken to keep everyone safe.
The finalists had to present their dish, one they believed perfectly matched Gosset Grand Rosé, to the judges on the day and also create a dish from a box of mystery ingredients that paired brilliantly with Gosset Champagne Brut 12 Ans de Cave a Minima.
As in other years, the competition was tight and standards were high. There could only be one winner in the end however, no matter how tough the judges found it to make a decision.
Noble Rot, London
The team: Sommelier Joshua Castle and chef Myles Donaldson
The dish: Calves brains, seared in brown butter with lardo di Colonnata, fresh cobnuts and Champagne vinegar.
The inspiration for this dish came from Castle’s father who is a psychiatrist. ‘He’s studied brains his whole life,’ Castle told the judges, ‘So here’s my study in brains too’.
In partnership with chef Donaldson, the two used the creaminess of the lardo and the fresh, nuttiness of the cobnuts alongside the soft, rich brains to create a dish that blew the judges away. It was served alongside the Champagne, which they served at a slightly warmer 'white wine' temperature (10-13 degrees).
‘Original, creative and a perfect foil for the Champagne,’ said the judges. ‘It cuts through well and the wine doesn’t disappear at all.’ It was a wine and food pairing where the whole was truly greater than its parts and the judges voted unanimously for it to win the big prize this year.
From the mystery box, Castle and Donaldson wanted to use the ingredients to create a dish that could bring out the yeasty, savoury quality of the Gosset Champagne Brut 12 Ans de Cave a Minima. They produced a dish of poached leg of guinea fowl and trompette mushrooms that ‘worked really well’ at bringing out the orchard fruits and hint of saltiness in the wine, said the judges.
The Fordwich Arms, Kent
The team: Sommelier Elliott Ashton-Konig and sous chef Kieran Bellerby
The dish: A King and His Pearls
This dish was an ode to Gosset’s long and great heritage and the links between it and royalty, using turbot (the ‘king of fish’). It was poached and served with Cornish caviar and monk's beard to enhance the salinity and minerality in the wine. However, it was the dish from the mystery box where the duo really impressed the judges – guinea fowl glazed with orange marmalade, trompette mushrooms and butter sauce. ‘There are so many layers of flavours in this dish, it keeps on delivering and really shows off what the chef can do,’ one judge commented.
Gosset Champagne Brut 12 Ans de Cave a Minima and the mystery box
This year’s finalists had to make a dish from ingredients found in the mystery box to perfectly pair with Gosset Champagne Brut 12 Ans de Cave a Minima. As with their main competition dish, this is not about which plate of food tastes the best but which makes the best match.
Gosset Champagne Brut 12 Ans de Cave a Minima is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, which has spent 12 years on the lees before being disgorged in 2019. It is fresh and elegant with aromas of peaches and summer orchard fruits, citrus peel and liquorice. On the palate, notes of blood orange, lemon and ginger appear. The finish is long with a hint of saltiness, characteristic of the House style.
Among other items, the mystery box this year contained a whole guinea fowl, fresh trompette mushrooms, Romanesco, kale, cox’s apples, chestnuts, Brillat savarin cheese, orange blossom honey and pearl barley.
The Fat Duck, Berkshire
The team: Sommelier Nikos Emner and chef Dawid Koszykowski
The dish: Smoked eel, caviar and buttermilk sauce with lovage oil.
Emner and Koszykowski chose smoked eel as they felt the sea flavours made a great combination with the richness of the Gosset Grand Rosé, while the smoky notes worked well with the chalky minerality of the Champagne. The lovage oil, made from just the leaves of the plant, gave a sharp, yeast-like taste to match with the yeasty profile and citrusy nose of the Champagne, while the fried and salted seaweed, which accompanied the eel, worked well with the carbonation of the wine.
Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Derbyshire
The team: Sommelier Matthew Davison and chef Alice Hill
The dish: B.R.U.T
Standing for beetroot, roe deer, umami and truffle, B.R.U.T was a dish rooted in Derbyshire, with the roe deer sourced from the Chatsworth Estate. It was a dish of venison tartare, with chewy beetroot, nasturtium, truffle oil, caramelised girolles, miso mayonnaise, artichoke crisps, miso cured egg yolk and a beetroot taco. For this dish the wine itself was decanted before serving in order to ‘release and soften’ some of the red fruits character to act as a balance for the venison.
The team: Sommelier Lise Donier-Meroz and chef Kieran McGarrigle
Dish: Once upon a time, a king who loved swimming in Champagne…
This time the wine was used in the dish itself. The team served poached and steamed Cornish turbot with a white sauce made of the roasted bones of the fish and reduced Gosset Grand Rosé, infused with rosehip juice and its vinegar. This was accompanied by a Morecambe Bay shrimp mousse in which the shrimps had been cooked in toasted Champagne yeast oil, in tribute to the wine’s time on the lees. The intention was to ‘showcase a unique marriage between some of the UK's most noble ingredients and France’s most prestigious drink,’ the pair told the judges.
How the competition works
This is the fifth year Imbibe UK, Gosset Champagne, and Louis Latour Agencies have joined forces to bring you this unique competition and in that time it has become one of the most hotly anticipated events of the year. The competition is special because it isn’t just about the food itself but about the magic of the pairing between dish and wine.
Teams made up of a sommelier and a chef that have been in the industry for five years or fewer can enter. Due to the pandemic this year, we decided to open up the competition to all sommeliers and chefs whether currently in work or not.
As in any year, the first step is to attend a tasting of the chosen wine for the year’s competition – in this case Gosset Grand Rosé. This year thetasting happened online of course, led by Gosset’s Bertrand Verduzier. Following this, competitors fill in a form detailing their chosen dish telling the judges what it is and why they believe it will make a perfect paring with the Champagne.
Judges then whittle down the entries to five teams who are invited to attend the final where they make and present their chosen dish as well as another created on the day from a box of mystery ingredients to be matched with another Gosset Champagne, this year Gosset Champagne Brut 12 Ans de Cave a Minima.
A big thank you
A huge thank you to everyone involved in this year’s competition who worked so hard to make it happen despite the challenges brought by the pandemic.
A massive congratulations to all our finalists for making it so far and, of course, to our 2020 Gosset Matchmakers winners: Noble Rot’s Joshua Castle and Myles Donaldson.