I wonder if there is any coincidence that in the year I was born, the Champagne Academy gained four more Houses? It might explain my natural affiliation to the wine of kings and king of wines. Food for thought.
Upon meeting some of the Academy ‘Old Boys’, I gain an insight into this fascinating organisation, originally set up to celebrate everything about Champagne. We’re talking; history, production, marketing, and of course, taste. Every year, a small group of grape-mad individuals from the hospitality industry and wine trade trot off to Champagne for a week of immersion in this region and everything it produces. It is ‘the’ course to go on, and following the trip, one would never look at Champagne in the same way again. Let’s see if I can put it to the test.
There are 16 Houses in the Champagne Academy, and that is exactly how this annual dinner is about to start; by tasting all 16 of them. I think I have died and gone to heaven. Krug seems an appropriate place to start, however I am surprisingly underwhelmed. Trusty old Bollinger swiftly recovers the situation. Two unexpected stars of the tasting are Ruinart and Pol Roger. This evening in the Rosewood Hotel is starting to look very rosy indeed!
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2004, en Magnum, no less, is matched with a delicate strawberry risotto and langoustine. The risotto is almost floral and my little crustacean friend is beautifully cooked. What a perfect pairing for the creamy Belle Epoque. Another Magnum, please!
One of my favourite things about this event is each Champagne’s introduction whereby the vintage and food pairing is explained, followed by a round of applause as the Champagne enters the room. Talk about making an entrance.
Scilly Isle spider crab with wild mushroom jelly and almond oil is complemented by pretty perfect Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé NV. The almond oil subtly marries the punchy mushroom flavour with the juicy crab meat beautifully. The PJ is going down like a homesick mole.
Surprise of the evening has to be GH MUMM Cuvée R. Lalou 1999. I’ve never been a raving MUMM fan, but I am now. It is matched with saddle & loin of rabbit and ragout of haricot beans. Baked beans with vintage Champagne? Yes! The rabbit is moist and jam-packed with flavour and the beans really are worlds apart from their 57 variety pals. A humble hearty main indeed.
PIPER-HEIDSIECK Cuvée Sublime is served with the biggest hunk of Roquefort going and nobody is shy about getting stuck in family-style. The clue is in the name here; sublime.
Just when we’re about to wave the white napkin, an all singing all dancing ‘Petit Four Extravaganza’ appears along with more Champagne. Naturally. Who needs tea and coffee?
Five Very Kerri things about the Champagne Academy;