Bubbles at The Balmoral – Champagne Tasting with Régis Camus

“I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
 Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
 When I have company I consider it obligatory. 
I trifle with it if I’m not in a hurry and drink it when I am, otherwise I never touch the stuff unless I am thirsty.”
― Lily Bollinger (and one of my favourite quotes ever!)

Piper Heidsieck's multi award-winning Chef De Cave - Régis Camus at The Balmoral Hotel

Piper Heidsieck’s multi award-winning Chef De Cave – Régis Camus at The Balmoral Hotel

We were lucky enough to be invited along to meet Régis Camus from Piper-Heidsieck for a Champagne tasting at the Balmoral Hotel to celebrate the launch of a new 2006 Vintage Brut which will be available in the UK from November in Harrods. Alas, I was unable to make it but the trusty ‘Bees’ stepped into the breach on this one and this is how she got on…..

“It’s evocative of momentous events and good times, very good times. While most of us think of champagne as something for celebrations, Régis shares Lily’s thinking when it comes to the fizzy stuff.

 I was really interested to hear that Régis thinks we need to look at Champagne as a wine. And that even those of us that say they don’t like champagne, just need to find the taste and style they prefer just like a wine. During the tasting he even recommended serving vintage Champagnes out of wine glasses to let them breathe. So now we don’t even need any special glassware to enjoy some bubbles!

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On this theme I was keen to know his thoughts on champagne and food matching, so it’s not just consigned to an aperitif before switching to wine when the meal starts. And he shared with us some great recommendations, it turns out for each new line they introduce at Piper-Heidsieck the team do a food matching with 56 different types of food. And yes, there are the more obvious ones of caviar and smoked salmon, but there are also many types of cheese, cured meats and oysters in there.

Some suggestions I’m keen to try out are champagne with a wonderful creamy risotto (perfect for the winter months). I also hadn’t thought of Asian dishes, particularly sushi and duck (Peking and also L’Orange were the ones recommended) that work in perfect partnership. Most cheeses work well but Régis warned us against strong cheese and meat flavours that would overpower the delicate flavor.

Is there anything that doesn’t go well with Champagne I asked? After many years of experience he told me asparagus and chocolate are the two things most difficult to match but that almost anything else can create the perfect marriage of support and contrast between champagne and food.

Piper Heidsieck's (soon to be launched in Harrods) new Vintage Brut 2006

Piper Heidsieck’s (soon to be launched in Harrods) new Vintage Brut 2006

And the 2006 Vintage Brut? Well, it was produced in a year of contrasts (just like the Scottish weather). The heatwave in July led into an August of violent rain storms and hail which obliged the winemakers to adapt and to be patient. But the light, airy effervescence with notes of apricots, red berries and a hint of spice were certainly worth the wait. Drinking this with friends over the weekend before a Halloween party led to a unanimous thumbs up, this is one I’ll definitely be looking out for!

I now have a slight crush on Régis, know a LOT more about champagne and have been given the green light to follow in the footsteps of  these wonderful ‘bon vivants and drink more champagne, on any normal day that simply needs a bit of brightening up!  What more can a girl ask…..”

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