Champagne. Wine of kings. King of wines. It’s the ultimate cork-popping celebration wine, a welcoming aperitif before dinner and the wine with which to charge your glasses for the toast at the end of it.
But what about drinking bubbly all through the meal, matching each course to a different style of champagne? After all, didn’t Lily Bollinger drink it all the time?
Well, with the help of another legendary female figure from champagne’s fascinating history – the “yellow widow” Veuve Cliquot – the theory was put to the test in the intimate surroundings of the Wine Cellar, the new private dining room at King Street Townhouse, Manchester’s very own “baby grand hotel”.
The exclusive event was hosted by Chicago-born Ethan Boroian, the UK’s champagne ambassador for Moet-Hennessy, owners of the Veuve Cliquot brand, who described the wines chosen to match King Street Townhouse head chef Michael Campbell’s five exceptional courses.
Veuve Cliquot is named after the remarkable woman who took control of the company in 1805 after being widowed at the age of 27 by the death of the founder’s son, thus becoming one of the first businesswomen of modern times. She was, in fact, the woman who invented blended rosé champagne in 1818 – exactly 200 years ago.
She is also credited, that same year, with introducing remouage, the method by which the yeast sediment is removed from the bottle-fermented wine, leaving it clear and sparkling.
Ethan has history, too. As a contestant in The X-Factor in 2009, he met Welsh singer Lucie Jones at “boot camp”, the home of Cheryl Tweedy/Cole/Fernandez-Versini. They married in 2017 – the year Lucie represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest.
Meanwhile, back at King Street Townhouse, guests were greeted with Veuve Cliquot’s signature champagne, Yellow Label Brut NV, poured – as were all the others – into delicate tulip glasses rather than flutes to better enhance the wine’s aromas.
The pinot noir-dominated Yellow Label provided a great match with the starter, its fresh acidity balanced with powerful toasty complex flavours marrying perfectly with chef Michael’s melange of hot smoked salmon, salmon tartare, avocado and blood orange.
One of the maison’s most recent innovations, Veuve Cliquot Extra Brut Extra Old – made only of reserve wines, from the years 1988, 1996, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010, chosen for their freshness, generosity and structure and launched only last year – was paired with a highly refined, artistically presented version of pea, mint and ham hock soup. The wine, with its ultra-fine bubbles, stone fruit aromas and clean freshness on the palate, worked its special magic.
The main course pairing was a revelation: Michael’s collation of spring lamb neck with braised neck, Jersey royals and carrot purée came not with red wine, as one might expect, but with the widow’s invention of 200 years ago Veuve Cliquot Rosé NV. Pink with alluring coppery hues, the wine is made with the traditional pinot noir led Yellow Label blend completed by the addition of 12 per cent of Champagne’s local red wine, the appropriately named Bouzy Rouge.
The result is a wine with a full-bodied, structured, vinous palate which stays fresh and expressive aromas of strawberry and very ripe wild strawberries that easily coped with the strong flavours on the plate.
Dessert brought a splendid deconstructed Peach Melba, served with Veuve Cliquot Rich, so called because of its higher sugar dosage producing not only a sweeter wine but the basis for cocktails – “an entirely new fun way”, says Ethan, “of enjoying champagne. Put ice cubes in a glass, add one ingredient – maybe ginger, bell pepper, cucumber, grapefruit, pineapple, lime of even tea – and pour over floral, citrussy Veuve Cliquot Rich with its creamy finish and hey presto! Result.
I’ll drink to that.
Book The Wine Cellar at King Street Townhouse for your next private dining room party.