ROUND TABLE – LAURENT-PERRIER: Artistic licence
To celebrate Laurent-Perrier’s ongoing association with contemporary art Tate Britain played host to a tasting lunch featuring a special menu to match prestige cuvée Grand Siècle. Julie Sheppard reports
The association between Champagne and art goes back centuries, with Jean François de Troy’s 1735 painting Le Déjeuner d’Huîtres (Luncheon with Oysters) being the first depiction of a bottle of fizz on canvas. It’s no surprise then that today the vibrant world of contemporary and modern art has become a backdrop for prestige cuvée Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier.
This distinctive multi-vintage Champagne is a 50:50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend of three different vintages from different vineyards, all 100% rated, with the most recent vintage dominant and the two older vintages being exclusively Chardonnay. First released in 1960, using a blend of the 1955, 1953 and 1952 vintages, the aim has always been to fully express the art of blending and produce a consistently exceptional quality Champagne, irrespective of the component vintages.
“To a certain extent Champagne is seen as an art rather than a science,” explains David Hesketh MW, the MD of Laurent-Perrier UK. “Each year there is a different vintage and a set of circumstances that are different, so the final product is a result of blending and skill and it could be considered a work of art.” This natural synergy between art and Champagne has been further developed by Laurent-Perrier as a way of communicating with its target audience for Grand Siècle. “There is a link in terms of appreciating the finer things in life. If people appreciate fine art, they will appreciate fine Champagne,” says Hesketh.
To exploit this link Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier now works with the three leading international contemporary art fairs – Art Basel Miami, the Venice Biennale and this month’s Frieze Art Fair in London (11-14 October), where it is the official partner Champagne. “For the duration of the Frieze Art Fair, Laurent-Perrier will be working with Deutsche Bank and with the restaurants, the caterers and the VIP lounge to serve Grand Siècle,” explains Hesketh. It’s a perfect marketing opportunity to align Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier with contemporary art.
“The idea is being able to communicate with your target consumers on a regular basis in an environment that they’re familiar with. After some research we felt that the contemporary art world was the right place to develop the image of Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier and so as well as working with the main international art fairs, we work with public galleries and commercial spaces in the UK. We work very closely with the Tate and the Serpentine Gallery, as well as with White Cube and Haunch of Venison. In this way we are consistently communicating with our core customers.”
To celebrate both this ongoing association with contemporary and modern art and the launch of the Frieze Art Fair, Laurent-Perrier hosted a very special lunch at the Rex Whistler Restaurant in London’s Tate Britain. Hamish Anderson, head sommelier and group wine buyer at the Tate worked with head chef Richard Oxley, to develop a bespoke menu to match Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier. “I’m always keen on matching Champagne with food to demonstrate its versatility,” explains Anderson. “First of all the chef and I tried the Champagne. There are quite a lot of different flavours in it; it’s a rich Champagne. So we needed something quite simple in each dish to show it off.”
The first dish they devised was langoustine served with taglioni and chervil beurre blanc. “I always think that langoustines and any other shellfish like that go very well with Champagne that has a high proportion of Chardonnay, which this does,” says Anderson. “There is also a little bit of chervil in the dish, because I think the aniseed flavour is quite hard to match with wine, so I wanted to throw up a bit of a challenge – though I think the richness of the Champagne coped well with that. The Grand Siècle has this great balance between fruitiness on the one hand, which you get from the younger vintages in it and the more developed flavours that you get from the older vintages in it.”
These more developed flavours were the inspiration for the main course of veal with girolles and bubble and squeak. “To me vintage Champagne with a bit of age works really well with anything that has mushrooms in it, that kind of earthy fungal character that you’re just starting to get with this Grand Siècle. So to start off with, I wanted a dish that had mushrooms in it. Then I thought it would be quite interesting to serve veal because of that milky, slightly creamy texture.”
Before dessert, Anderson and Oxley decided to serve a cheese course. “I wanted to go for British cheese, because we’re a British restaurant and I think Champagne has quite a history of matching well with cheese. But I must say that was the hardest thing to match because I found that with pretty much every cheese we tried, if it was a tiny bit too hard or dry or even a tiny bit underripe, then it made the Grand Siècle much too dry and too short on the finish.” So they opted for Stinking Bishop. “Here the Champagne had the effect of lifting the palate and cutting though all the creamy richness.” To finish, a dessert of blackberry and apple zabaione was made using Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut rather than Marsala, to make it even lighter.
Hamish Anderson, the Tate
Daniel Brennan, Laurent-Perrier UK
Bruno Murciano, The Ritz
“The starter was excellent. At first it looked like a very simple dish, but it turned out to be very complex. You had the texture and rich taste of the langoustine, and then you had the creaminess of the beurre blanc, which was fantastic. There was a little bit of acidity coming from the tomatoes with a touch of bitterness from the herbs. So for me this dish had everything you need to match with the Grand Siècle. You’ve got a creaminess in the Champagne which comes from the Chardonnay giving a buttery lemony taste with elegance and finesse.”
Renaud Grégoire, Claridge’s
“I thought the starter worked best. The Champagne is a full grand cuvée, so it’s quite powerful. For me the flavour of the veal was a little bit too weak compared to the Champagne, but because the langoustine with taglioni was full of flavour, it counterbalanced the depth of the Grand Siècle.”
Stephen Clark, Laurent-Perrier UK
“It’s tricky to say which dish worked best, but I did enjoy the veal. There was a sweetness to the veal which brought out the sweetness in the Champagne. So they did combine really quite nicely together and there was simplicity to that process which showed the wine well. I think there is a challenge of concentration when you’re matching Champagne to a whole meal because people naturally expect change. But when you drink Champagne throughout a meal as we have done today, you will find that you feel quite light and you’re not weighed down – the whole thing is quite an edifying experience.”
Mark de Wesselow, Square Meal
“I think this particular meal really demonstrated Champagne’s versatility and the fact it can go throughout a meal. I liked the langoustine starter and the dessert the best, though the cheese was also good. The langoustine was rich and weighty and made for this kind of aged Champagne. The chervil picked up on some of the slightly herby notes that I wouldn’t have necessarily detected in the Champagne. While the tomato brought out a nice freshness and the acidity, but also the sweetness of the fruit. I thought the delicacy of the mousse was incredibly important, because it meant that the bubbles just were not getting in the way of the food and wine matching.”
Igor Sotric, Cocoon
“In order, I would say the langoustine worked best followed by the dessert then the main course. For me, the texture of the veal in the main course was too chewy for the Champagne. I was quite surprised to be served cheese with the Grand Siècle – though I’m not a fan of Stinking Bishop anyway.”
Peter Horton, City of London Club/Smiths
“My best match of the day was the langoustine and taglioni dish. The flavours of the chervil and the tomato matched the Champagne perfectly. But surprisingly the Champagne also pottered along with the cheese nicely. Very often it’s the case that white grape varieties go well with cheeses. This is only the second time I’ve had the Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier and it’s a very good Champagne in terms of balance. Age gives it depth of flavour, but it’s not too rich, not too light. It can be quite a risk to have the same wine throughout a meal, but this one worked well.”
Steve Halliday, Laurent-Perrier UK
“The first course just had the right overall balance of flavour along with the texture of the taglioni. There was a lot of sweetness in the langoustine which really brought out the development of the Champagne. But on the other hand I think there may have been a bit too much sweetness in the dessert. Overall a tasting like this really shows the versatility of the Grand Siècle and it breaks people’s perception that Champagne is only a drink for certain occasions."
Jerome Drees, Mews of Mayfair
“For me the first dish of taglioni with langoustine worked best. It was quite a different approach to have Champagne with veal – I would always normally choose a red wine for veal. Though I have to say that it’s nice drinking Champagne throughout a meal because it’s really light and if we’d had a long meal like this with red wine, we’d probably all feel like going to sleep.”
Daniel Brennan, Laurent-Perrier UK
“Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier worked very well with the various courses. It was certainly challenged – at face value one might think that Stinking Bishop wouldn’t work, but I feel the Champagne cut through the creaminess of the cheese and it was a fineb alance. I thought the main course was a real surprise – the girolles worked really well – though on paper the starter was a more likely partnership with the Champagne. On behalf of Laurent-Perrier I was delighted that we had a cross section of prestige on-trade hotels, restaurants and bars, and the consensus without any shadow of a doubt was that this is a very versatile Champagne.”
© db October 2007