Champagne Collet and the epicurean spirit

Sep 23, 2020 • 5 mins

True to its Epicurean spirit, Champagne Collet has made gastronomy its cornerstone. For almost a century, this Aÿ champagne house has been celebrating the art of food and wine pairing with a rarely seen enthusiasm. In honour of its commitment, it created the Prix Champagne Collet du Livre de Chef in 2013 which, each year, is awared to a book written by a chef. The award aims to highlight the importance, or rather necessity, of placing culinary art on an equal footing with champagne, as one cannot exist without the other.

Olivier Charriaud, Champagne Collet’s general manager, explains the genesis of this unique project in Champagne. “When looking back at the journey of the founding fathers of our champagne house, I was amazed and inspired by everything that they had accomplished, and with such little means. They travelled far and wide to attend trade fairs in order to make their champagnes known and it made me realise that we needed people other than ourselves to talk about the quality of our wines in order to get them out there. I immediately thought of gastronomy, how a chef shares his savoir-faire and experience and how it is very similar to what we do. We too are artisans who create a great product by hand! It’s embedded in our DNA. Our cooperative was one of the most active in its support for the appellation in the 1920’s and it is these same values of tradition and respect that we are hoping to share through this award”.

The brand’s new concept is a first in Champagne. Having joined Collet in 2011, motivated by a love of their champagnes, Olivier Charriaud came up with the idea of creating a chef’s book combined with a dinner during which each selected “chef-author” presents three recipes to a jury of eight personalities from the world of wine (journalists, photographers, publishers). The first edition took place in 2013. “Five years on and I’m very proud of this award and feel that it perfectly sums up who we are. It’s a very personal project” explains Olivier Charriaud. “We strive to ensure that the project is sincere and of the highest quality, and we are pleased to have achieved just that. It also clearly shows our passion for craftsmanship which makes me very happy indeed. We are at the boundary between these two professions which reflect the epitome of excellence and French savoir-faire”.

Grégory Marchand, chef at Frenchie restaurant in Paris, was selected by the jury in 2017 for his book, “Frenchie”. His instinctive cuisine focuses on regional produce and is characterised by his trademark tangy flavours combined with innovation, surprise and pleasure. Trained by none other than Alain Ducasse, his career has taken him to New York, London and Hong Kong, a journey which has broadened his horizons and lent his cuisine its diversity.

He carefully selected every ingredient that went into the creation of these original recipes for champagne Collet. His unusual dishes were presented to the jury at a dinner held in Paris. Each dish was, of course, paired with a different cuvée from champagne Collet. The awards ceremony was followed by a dinner created by the four awardwinning chefs from previous years, held in the Chapelle des Beaux-Arts in Paris, much to the delight of the 130 guests who attended the event.

Although this seems evident today, history has not always been so kind to Champagne and its art-de-vivre has not always been able to shine as it does today. Champagne Collet was established in 1921, rising up from the ashes of the famous champagne riots of 1911, making it the oldest cooperative winery in Champagne. It still attests to this same solidarity and united spirit today. With the Roaring Twenties as its legacy and embedded in its DNA, Maison Collet continues to strive for innovation whilst crafting its champagnes with rigour, originality, quality, passion and determination.

It sources its grapes from 800 wine growing families across 160 communes in Champagne resulting in an extremely diverse palette from which it is able to fine-tune its selection of crus for each blend. The attention to detail is clear to see in every stage of the production process, from the harvesting right through to disgorgement. In order to produce well-rounded wines, worthy of their reputation, Collet chooses to age them for longer than is required by the appellation. This extra ageing allows each wine to develop its full aromatic potential and complexity resulting in a final blend of perfect precision.

These original food and champagne pairings have proved to be a resounding success. There are not many champagne houses that are able to pair 13 different cuvées with a meal, from the appetizers right through to the dessert! Even the most seasoned gastronomy lovers will be smitten by these well-structured yet approachable champagnes, each enhancing a particular moment in the meal whilst stirring up emotions deep inside us.

The extra-brut Premier cru makes the ideal partner for seafood, whilst the brut art déco Premier cru is perfect with red meats. The Collection Privée, a vintage champagne aged partially in oak barrels, is an interesting choice for spicy dishes whereas the Rosé is great with lobster. The ‘Esprit Couture‘ prestige cuvée is given pride of place in this culinary smorgasbord. This cuvée, ideal with pigeon and duckling, is composed of predominantly black grapes grown in a selection of the finest hand-harvested Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. It is aged in the cellars for seven years and presented in an original handmade bottle.

Collet also remains committed to promoting young talent which it does through its partnerships with the Gault & Millau Young Talent programme and the Jean Delaveyne award (run by the Association des Toques Françaises). It also supports the events organised by the Académie Culinaire de France.