The Democratization of Champagne, Part II: Bubbles and BBQ

Veuve Clicquot Champagne tames the smoke and spice of a range of barbecue dishes at New York's Blue Smoke restaurant
Jun 4, 2010

The folks at Moët Hennesy USA are at it again. First, it was frankfurters and fizz, now bubbly and BBQ.

I joined Christina Jesaitis, the consumer development manager for Veuve Clicquot, Dominique Demarville, Clicquot’s new chef de cave and Jeff Pogash, MHUSA’s director of communications, at New York barbecue restaurant Blue Smoke a few weeks back to taste a range of Clicquot’s Champagnes with a wide variety of barbecue dishes.

Jesaitis and Pogash matched selected dishes with Veuve Clicquot’s Brut “Yellow Label,” Brut Rosé and Demi-Sec. Demarville liked the idea because Clicquot’s Champagnes are based on Pinot Noir. The Brut NV “Yellow Label” is roughly 50 to 55 percent Pinot Noir.

“I understand barbecue is important in the United States, especially during the summer,” began Demarville, welcoming the group of journalists. “In Champagne we can’t do barbecue very often because of the weather.”

We started off with Memphis baby back ribs, Texas-style brisket and Texas pepper beef ribs, matched with the Brut NV “Yellow Label.” The brisket was the most “benign” of the meat dishes, so it was a good pairing. The Texas pepper beef was very spicy and a tough opponent for the bubbly. Yet it performed admirably, adding a refreshing, cleansing note from the acidity to tame the cracked pepper bite.

The best pairing was the Memphis ribs and the wine. There was a nice synergy between the smoky sweetness of the meat and the fruit and acidity in the wine. Delicious.

It was the Brut Rosé NV next, paired with apple wood-smoked organic chicken, macaroni and cheese and cornbread. Veuve Clicquot’s Brut Rosé NV begins with the same base as the Brut NV “Yellow Label” with the addition of 12 to 13 percent still Pinot Noir sourced from several villages, including Clicquot’s own vineyards in Ambonnay, Bouzy and Verzenay.

The rosé worked well with the chicken, but the surprise of the evening was how seamlessly it matched the mac and cheese. The Champagne’s full body and richness blended effortlessly with the creaminess and light cheese flavors of the classic comfort food.

Our next course offered a medley of courses and sides with Veuve Clicquot’s Demi-Sec. Greater diversity of flavors and textures were up against the sweet and honeyed notes of the wine. These matches were a little more hit or miss for me, perhaps because I am not a fan of Demi-Sec Champagne. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the bubbly with the baked pit beans and pork. The sweet-with-sweet components worked.

We finished with a Brut 1993 from magnum. It featured a gorgeous nose of mocha, toffee and toast, with freshness, a rich and mellow profile on the palate and fine length (92 points, non-blind). This ’93 seems to have developed rather quickly in the sense that it exhibited elements like a vintage that was older, yet was beautiful and really hitting its stride.

Like the Champagne and hot dogs evening, the lesson here was to be adventurous and unafraid to try different cuisines with Champagne. Think of Champagne as a wine first, especially one that is food friendly.


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