Champagne, great paired with food

Jun 3, 2021 • 3 mins

Usually synonymous with festivities, sometimes opened with the slash of a sabre to celebrate a victory or a birthday, champagne is also a wine that can also be enjoyed with food, but certain rules should be followed.

As far back as I can remember, champagne has always been a beverage associated with celebration, laughter and conviviality. As I grew up, it was the same story, with the popping of a cork to celebrate exam success or the offer of a place at a prestigious college. It was when I discovered the glamour of Michelin-starred restaurants that the concept of drinking champagne with food took shape in my mind.

From Château Thierry, to Reims, to the Côte des Bar, the wine producers will tell you in unison that champagne is first and foremost a wine! Before a second fermentation takes place to create the bubbles that lend it its unique character, champagne is a still wine produced in a specific area. If you are lucky enough to visit the producer of the champagne you usually enjoy with your family and friends, ask him/her if you can taste the “vins clairs” (still wines).

I have a very clear memory of an early morning tasting at Frédéric Savart's, a producer in Ecueil. Before visiting his vineyards, he kindly let me try his white wines still in the barrel. Well, wow! As soon as the wine hits your palate, you taste the magic. You forget that you are tasting a champagne in the making. Tasted blind, you would think you were in Puligny or Chassagne.

Champagne is a still wine, and the bubbles give it a unique soul.

According to Philippe Jamesse, the legendary head sommelier at Les Crayères for 18 years, "the bubbles need space to express themselves”. “They must be fine and energetic" insists the sommelier. But, when it comes to serving, which is the most important moment in the appreciation of a champagne, we are so often disappointed. There are still many bars and restaurants that treat this gastronomic wine without the respect it deserves. A wine served ice cold, in a narrow flute, can spoil an evening that had started so well.

Philippe Jamesse has been campaigning for a change of mentality for years: "Champagne deserves to be served in large glasses, with a rounded shape to follow the flow of the bubbles. For a champagne to pair perfectly with the selected dish, its serving temperature also needs to be just right. For a young Chardonnay, a temperature of 8°C preserves the wine's refreshing character, for a hot dish a temperature of 14°C really helps to set off the work of the chef."

Despite considerable efforts, the education process surrounding champagne looks as though it will be long yet exciting.