Britain has an insatiable appetite for Champagne
; in fact we are the region’s premier export market. We love it, especially as an aperitif or as part of a celebration and whilst the French enjoy this bubbly beverage in the same way, in the Champagne region it is drunk throughout a meal and not just at the start.
Typically made up of three grape varieties, one white and two red (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) Champagne is made by a special method of double fermentation which is the natural secret to getting the bubble in the bottle.
You can enjoy Champagne as non-vintage, vintage and special cuvee in both white and rosé – the special cuvee being the top blends made by most Champagne houses and of interest to those keen to splash out on something exclusive, for example, Cristal from Louis Roederer or Dom Pérignon from Moet & Chandon.
Champagne producers have perpetually endeavoured to entice the consumer towards the delights of champagne with all kinds of food, but like all these things, the best way to enjoy the drink is to follow the rules of the region. Centuries of cooking and winemaking usually gives you a great indication of what goes well with the wines of the region.
If you ever go to the Champagne region you will most certainly be recommended to try Champagne and Foie Gras. While it is inevitably the definition of culinary decadence and a luxury experience, the two complement each other superbly due to the acidity of the Champagne and the richness of the Foie Gras.
There are also some delightfully creamy cow’s milk cheeses that are local to Champagne, such as Chaource and Chaumont. The same rule applies here, with the creamy cheeses offset by the acidity of a glass of Champagne making a perfect combination. Champagne, and particularly within the region itself, is often enjoyed at the end of a meal in France as a pick me up for the palate and often with the aforementioned cheeses.
When it comes to meat you will see a lot of dishes being cooked with Champagne - Coq au Champagne being a good example, but there is also a strong Flemish influence in their cuisine, given the region’s close proximity to the Belgian border.
For dessert you will see often see gaufres (waffles) on the menu alongside some hearty game dishes such as Venison and wild boar. It is amazing how good Champagne stands up to strong flavours - especially if there is a lot of Pinot Noir or Pinot Meurnier in the blend of the wine you are drinking.
Hopefully the above gives you a sense that Champagne is actually much more versatile then many would have you believe. It is worth experimenting with some of the flavours local to the region in order to fully discover how the drink we normally associate with parties, is best enjoyed.
Are there any Champagne and food combinations that you particularly enjoy? Tell us about them.
To read about the places to visit in Champagne click here or to read CellarVie Wines’ interview with Taittinger winemaker Loïc Dupont click here.
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