The first time I tasted champagne, I was on an exchange trip with a family in France and it’s a wine that I have come to love. So, I was delighted that my first review for the Central England Cooperative’s ‘We like Wine’ community was actually for champagne – a bottle of Aubert et Fils Brut, a non-vintage cuvée from Épernay.
Champagne, which can only be called that if it comes from the strictly limited appellation area of Champagne in France just north-east of Paris, is usually associated with celebration and good times: birthdays, weddings, Christmas, New Year, graduation and most occasions related to success. As I live near Newmarket, any win on a decent horse seems to be the perfect excuse for a bottle of the bubbly stuff! In this country, we usually drink champagne as an aperitif and lighter wines like this one are really best drunk this way. In France, it’s not uncommon for it to be drunk throughout the meal. Perhaps we should try this more often as the fizz and high acidity of champagne makes a brilliant palate cleanser and will cut through heavy cream based sauces. Paired with strawberries and cream as a dessert wine, it’s perfectly delicious.
So, back to the Aubert et Fils. It’s a non-vintage, i.e. the baseline will be drawn from a number of different years, and a blend of the classic trio of champagne grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. We found it to be full of lively bubbles, quite light in colour with a fruity, almost perry-like, flavour. It normally retails at £20.99, although when we bought it, it was on offer at £13.99. This made it good enough value for us to try out a few of our favourite champagne-based cocktails. A drop of crème de cassis in the base of the glass and topped up with this champagne made the perfect Kir Royale. We also tried a classic champagne cocktail with 3 drops of Angostura bitters on a sugar lump, a half measure of Cognac and 2 1/2 measures of champagne. Swap the Cognac with a drop of bourbon and you end up with an Americana. Unfortunately, we then ran out! Our advice; invite some friends round, stock up on mixers and a few more bottles of Aubert et Fils and have a ‘make your own champagne cocktail’ party. Perfect canapé? How about making up your own fresh dill cream cheese, spread it onto some German rye bread, cut into squares and top with smoked salmon?
Just to share a personal touch….every time my partner and I have shared a bottle of champagne over the last eleven years, he has written the reason for the celebration on the cork, cut a slit in the base and inserted a £1 coin. Well, it’s one way to save towards your pension : ).