Champagne Bureau, a vintage performance

Imbibe Editorial

Imbibe Editorial

07 December 2017

A tasting of vintage champagnes with Japanese food emphasised the versatility of this sought-after style

The Sommeliers
Johanna Bénitah, Clos Maggiore; Anjuli Douglas, Humble Grape
Julio Iglesias, StreetXO; Alberto Scuderi, Alyn Williams
at the Westbury; David Wrigley, Tonkotsu

Imbibe joined forces with Françoise Peretti, director of the Champagne Bureau UK, to host an intimate lunch at Anzu. The aim was to discover how well vintage champagnes work with food; in this case, Japanese cuisine. We also wanted to explore the different styles within the vintage category, such as blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs.

The first few dishes certainly highlighted the versatility of vintage champagne. Scallops with satsuma and shiso had a creamy texture but a delicate flavour, and the blanc de blancs champagnes cut through the sweet meat, while accentuating the peppery nature of the shiso.

Meanwhile, the richer, more umami champagnes such as the blanc de noirs and rosé, married with the meaty texture of the scallops. They also matched the meaty plates that followed: crisp duck and pressed watermelon salad, and guinea fowl kara-age.

‘The guinea fowl is a tricky dish to match. It’s quite gamey so needs something smoky, flinty and vinous, which is why the millésime 2002 and the blanc de noirs work,’ said Anjuli Douglas of Humble Grape.

These richer wines impressed again with the main courses. A spice note from oak-ageing on the blanc de noirs worked perfectly with salmon teriyaki, cucumber and goma. While the beautifully bottle-aged millésime 2002 paired well with a dish of wild bass. Julio Iglesias of StreetXO praised this complex,  autolytic style for its ‘nutty flavours and richness’.

Finally, the group tried pairing with desserts: caramelised pineapple and a chocolate and Guinness cake sando. ‘I really like the demi-sec with the pineapple, but prefer the blanc de noirs with the sando due to its higher Pinot Noir content,’ noted Johanna Bénitah of Clos Maggiore.

The tasting proved that vintage champagne has the complexity, structure and flavour to work extremely well with Japanese food. The richer Pinot Noir-based wines – as well as those with additional bottle-age or oak – were the most versatile here, working with fish, game and dessert alike.

‘A champagne tasting menu – matching a champagne to every course – would be a great idea to showcase how well vintage champagne goes with food,’ commented Alberto Scuderi of Alyn Williams at the Westbury.

The tasting proved that vintage champagne is not just a fantastic aperitif, but a fantastic food wine too.

The champagnes 

Champagne Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Cuvée Fleuron Blanc de Blancs 2009
Champagne Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut Millésime 2002
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs 2008
Champagne AR Lenoble Premier Cru Blanc de Noirs 2009
Champagne Pierre Gerbais Grains de Celles Rosé 2013
Champagne Lanson Ivory Label Demi-Sec NV

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