The potential for Champagne and food pairing is nearly limitless. That being said, sometimes I am struck by particularly synergistic pairings. Last week, Cinnamon bought a McFarland’s Spring Trout and prepared some mesquite for our Lodge Hibachi and I brought home a bottle of the Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Rosé Champagne ($57.99). It turned out to be one of my top wine and food experiences so far this year.
The Paillard rose is very special Champagne. It is made entirely from estate fruit from the grand cru of Bouzy, which is the most famous village in all of Champagne for the red wine that is used in rose production. In Bouzy, Pinot Noir is the king, but the Paillard family has been plated more Chardonnay than any of their neighbors- it makes up about 40% of their vineyard. This rose is composed of 70% Chardonnay, and this gives the Champagne its dry, refined character as well as its fine minerality. Pinot Noir that is vinified without skin contact, and thus without any color represents 23% of the blend. The color and rose flavor comes from 7% Pinot Noir that is made into “Bouzy Rouge” and added to the blend. This Bouzy Rouge is very special wine indeed.
The courtyard of the Paillard family home and winery is in fact a walled vineyard or clos. This tiny parcel of less than one acre cannot be accessed by any farm equipment, so all the work is done by hand. It is this magic piece of grand cru that gives this rose its completely unique ability to have near red Burgundy power when called upon by food, yet show restrained elegance and only subtle haunting fruit on its own. It is unusual to find wines that have this chameleon attribute, and more unusual when all the different guises are so incredibly good.
When I returned home from work, I headed to our little hibachi to cook the fish. Cinnamon has fired a half load of lump mesquite in our coal chimney, and this turned out to be the perfect amount. After I had heated the grill top and given it a little oil, I put the fish which had been rubbed with Dijon salt and pepper on skin side down. A little less heat allowed us to keep the fish on the grill for nearly 10 minutes, adding smoky intrigue to the almost salmon flavor. I separated the fillet from its skin (leaving the skin on the grill) with our fish spatula and flipped it over, back onto the skin. This skin ended up being unbelievably delicious after crisping and picking up the mesquite flavors.
Cinnamon also prepared some top of the season artichokes and mayonnaise for our meal, and I grilled up some good sourdough for our starch. Artichokes are famous wine wreckers, and while I wouldn’t say that the rose went with them, it did not have the trouble that most wines do sharing a table with them. The meal turned out very nicely. After a bite of bread, the Champagne was as dry and subtle as any you could imagine, and was only haunted by the most subtle of black cherry fruit. With the trout, the power of the Bouzy rouge showed itself; this is authoritative and loaded with savory bass notes.
Cinnamon was moved to say that this was her favorite Champagne in a long time, and I am sure this bottle will end up on my list of top experiences for 2015. Looking back, I see that it made my list in 2012 with oysters… It is nothing if not flexible! If you haven’t yet tried this, it is a must for rose fans and anyone that loves a great pairing!
A toast to you!