I could have started this post with a rant of how expensive the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (henceforth MFWF) events have become. It seems like hypocrisy to me that only those who can afford it have access to the masterclasses and the exquisite dinners during this festival period. Those attending already know about the chefs, the foods, the wines.. so how much more education on good food is truly available to “the others”? And that I am currently paying off a mortgage doesn’t factor into my viewpoint. But yes, no ranting today.
With the soaring Australian currency, and the seemingly never waning desire for a drop of bubbly on any occassion, champagne sales in Australia have been on the up. Australia has established itself as a key market for the French region, partly not so surprising when coupled with the dismal drinking habits of the Europeans and that one can readily pick out an enjoyable, easy-drinking champagne for $50-60.
I attended a MFWF breakfast event ($60) with Kate McIntyre MW and Martin Williams MW in attendance. Kate conducted some of the teaching and tastings at the WSET courses that I did so it was nice to see her again. Both spoke briefly during the 2 course breakfast about the basic elements of champagne – production, storage, drinking. The food was prepared by Matt Stone of Greenhouse, WA. Like me, some of you might remember Matt Stone for being the debut challanger on Iron Chef Australia who, facing off against Neil Perry, I thought should have won but didn’t. And that marked the end of my viewership of that program.
To accompany the first service of fresh fruit (orange, mango) with oats and scones with plum jam, the NV Piper Heidsieck had a light mousse texture, light lemon aromas and a touch of passionfruit on the palate. This fruity approachable style comes from the majority blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. This paired brilliantly with the fruit sugars. The NV Charles Heidsieck was tighter on the nose with brighter lemon fruit florals, but was weighter and more rounded on the palate with lemon and pear flavours. The difference can be put down to the use of pinot noir and pinot meunier for the blend, and this wine was perfect for the more filling scone and concentrated jam flavours.
As Kate pointed out, the distinct unique labels belonging to Veuve Cliquot are the arguably one of the best in the Champagne business. You would instantly recognise a Veuve Cliquot label from across the room even if you were a bat in headlights. Ok, maybe not if you were really that blinded. I think the NV Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label is one of the best valued entry level champagnes on the market, being consistently of high quality in their blends that have a bit of fruit for the casual drinker, and a bit of complexity for those who seek out that little bit more. It is a well-crafted wine that presents with layers of fruit flavours with high acidity, matching the mozzarella tomato salad very well, and taking the salty edge off the mushrooms (which were hard to have on their own).
The NV Moet et Chandon Rose Imperial was a lovely smoked salmon colour, of fine mousse texture and had a savoury aspect to it. The use of Pinot Noir in the blend imparted vibrant red berry flavours, balanced with lemon and ruby grapefruit citrus on the finish. On its own, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it much, but it was robust enough to shine through against the cured meats.
I enjoyed this champagne-themed breakfast very much, and my only let-down was there was really only 2 full glasses worth of champagne served out. Of course, there is always the question, well why promote champagne when we could/should be supporting the local sparkling producers. I suppose the non-answer is, it’s Champagne.
NB. I have no affiliations Greenhouse, MFWF and the champagne retailers.