Leading up to the event I learned two things about champagne. First off, grower produced, often considered artisanal champagne, selections can be even more interesting than the mass produced named brands that we all know. And secondly, my local New Hampshire Liquor Store does not have a great selection of real French champagne, and no grower produced bottles that I could see. I went with the Piper-Heidsieck Brut and Moet & Chandon Imperial Nectar instead. We had never had either of them so at least they were new to us!
My plans up front were to pair the champagnes with a several different foods and make two different kinds of cocktails. I gathered smoked salmon pate, smoked oysters, gorgonzola cheese, potato chips, crusty French bread and dark chocolate. We’d be leading off with hot buttered popcorn, a go-to casual pairing for a sommelier friend of ours. We hadn’t tried that or fresh French fries with bubbly yet and I guess we would find we were missing out.
The Piper-Heidsieck NV Brut has some grapefruit on the nose, citrus flavors and a long smooth finish. The balance of tart and sweet reminded us of Granny Smith apples.
The Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial is a demi-sec (semi-sweet) champagne. The aromas were focused and the flavors of honey and dried fruit were easily detected. It is sweet, but not so much so that the crispness is lost.
Both champagnes were great with the hot buttered popcorn. Something about the warm butter makes this work really well. The pairing with the potato chips didn’t evoke the same feelings but was not terrible. We could see where french fries would come into play here.
Neither of us actually liked the smoked oysters and the champagne didn’t help with that based on our experience. The smoked salmon pate however was fantastic with the Piper and a of touch of creamy dill mustard brought out a bit of the sweetness in the champagne.
The Imperial Nectar found a good pairing with some homemade raspberry jam on crusty French bread. So simple. The crispness of the champagne stood up to the combined sweetness and the jam was along for the finish. Neither champagne was a stellar match for the dark chocolate covered caramels, but the Imperial Nectar stood up to the sugar the best. No surprise.
I made two cocktails, both of which came out great. The second is one of my best tasting cocktails ever.
Ginger Lemon Bubbles
1 oz sweetened ginger-infused vodka
2 healthy dashes of Angostura bitters
Moet Nectar Imperial
Lemon twist & lemon on the rim of the coupe style glass.
Mix and serve.
Off To The Islands
1 oz St. Germain
4 dashes Scrappy’s Grapefruit bitters
Mix and serve.
The “Off To The Islands” has an incredible balance of crisp and sweet with flavors of island fruit and citrus. The "Ginger Lemon Bubbles" has a warmth from the spicy ginger with nice vibrant flavors from the citrus and bitters. The sweetness from the champagne was a nice foundation. We'll be making both of this again soon!
We very much enjoyed learning a little bit more about champagne and trying a few new to us bottles for Global Champagne Day. These online wine events seem to be quite popular and clearly give folks in disparate locations a way to share what they are drinking, where they are drinking and a bit of their lives with each other in celebration of beverages we all love!