Very sad to hear the news (yesterday) that celebrated chef and restaurateur Joël Robuchon has died after a long battle with cancer. He’s the man whose restaurants have been awarded more Michelin stars than anyone else – they hold 23 round the world currently. I have been lucky enough to meet him, and eat his sublime food, twice in the past five years, on both occasions at Veuve Clicquot’s ‘Hotel du Marc’ in Reims.
The first occasion was in March 2013 where after an extraordinary lunch, I sat with him on the sofa and he modestly talked me through the recipe for arguably his most famous dish, pomme purée truffée (Robuchon lunch produces magical combinations ).
I saw him again in March this year when Veuve Clicquot ran a week-long celebration of rosé to mark the creation of what the house calls “the world’s first blended rosé champagne”. This happened in 1818 when Madame Clicquot broke with the established tradition of using a ‘Teinture de Fismes’ – a preparation of elderberries boiled in cream of tartar – to make pink champagne, instead choosing to blend some Bouzy red wine with her classic white champagne, so initiating the modern method of rosé champagne production.
After a morning masterclass at Clicquot’s Hotel du Marc in Reims, with head winemaker Dominique Demarville showing examples of the red wine blending options Clicquot has for non-vintage rosé, vintage rosé and La Grande Dame rosé, we sat down to a lunch specially prepared by Joël Robuchon and his team to match Clicquot wines, including the current La Grande Dame Vintage Rosé 2006.
This is a wine of great complexity which evolved gracefully, never disappointing, through a series of Robuchon dishes including an artichoke and foie gras salad, which looked wonderful (see picture) and, unlikely as it sounds, seemed the perfect match for this wine. A dish I will remember for a long time. The man at the stove knows what he is doing.
Robuchon’s finishing masterstroke was to marry a simple, but not that simple, blanchette de veau with superb 1955 magnums of Bouzy Rouge which Demarville said came from one of the three best vintages of the 20th century, the other two being ‘47 and ’90. His creative genius will be sadly missed.
The fact that I’m not generally a huge fan of rosé champagne is borne out by the lack of pink fizz in my own cellar. Given a choice the same money will mostly buy you a far more interesting bottle of vintage champagne, in my view. I’m particularly attracted to the more winey, Burgundy style Pinot Noir driven pinks that age attractively and work surprisingly well with food, particularly things like duck or pigeon.
It’s not so long ago that pink champagne consumption moved up and down like a yoyo as it drifted in and out of fashion. After a couple of years of sales growth, consumer interest would fall away and this discouraged producers from taking the category seriously and making the necessary investment in pink production. Quality was distinctly variable. It’s hard to pin down the specific catalyst for change, but generally warmer summers in France’s most northerly vineyard certainly played an important part. You need ripe black fruit, Pinot Noir Continue reading “Pink Champagne for Valentine’s & Mothers’ Day”
Found this report in the Daily Telegraph online which claims to have discovered five ‘health-benefits’ from drinking champagne. While readers of this blog will need no encouragement to open a bottle of fizz (and we all know champagne is good for the soul), I feel it deserves closer examination.
When Dom Pérignon launches a new vintage, winemaker Richard Geoffroy likes to bring along some other bottles so you can compare and contrast. When I met up with him last month, as well as the soon to be released 2005 vintage, we tried again the so called ‘P2’ 1998 Dom Pérignon, the second release of DP that comes onto the market after further lees ageing (typically another 8 to 10 years) and now really showing its considerable class. We also looked at the latest Rosé release, the 2004, comparing that with the ‘P2’ pink from 1995, fast becoming my favourite vintage of that decade and these days regularly outclassing most ‘96s.
This was a great chance to look at how pink DP develops and evolves and in this short video I ask Richard to talk about the two rosés and their differences.
When I was organising the in depth tasting of Blanc de Blancs champagnes, vintage and unvintaged, for the on-trade magazine Imbibe last September, I was questioned if there was an all Chardonnay Dom Pérignon cuvée to include in the mix. No I said, winemaker Richard Geoffroy would never do that, for him DP is all about blending the two pre-eminent varieties grown in Champagne’s vineyards, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Contrasting their different characteristics in a roughly 50/50 blend is what makes Dom Pérignon special, you couldn’t make a single vineyard or single varietal Dom Pérignon, he leaves that territory to Krug.
Contrary to what I said yesterday originally in this post, Dom Pérignon still isn’t making a Blanc de Blancs style. The wine I tasted this morning with head winemaker Richard Geoffroy was in fact the regular, if we can call it that, first release of the Dom Pérignon blend from 2005. And while the blend by coincidence has a relatively high 60% Chardonnay portion to 40% Pinot Noir, it is still a blend of the two, not a Blanc de Blancs.
We also tasted the the second release, newly dubbed P2, of Dom Pérignon 1998 which is now really strutting its stuff as well as two DP rosés, the new 2004 and the re-released, sublimely complex 1995 rosé, the first ‘P2 rosé’ (although there was a re-release of the 1990 DP rosé in 2010). There will be more about these wines shortly, although the new 2004 white Dom Pérignon will not be commercially available until around April. There’s also a short video with Richard talking about the two rosés that will be put up on the site in the next few days.