I'm very pleased to be writing an unexpected Blog post this week about an exciting evening spent at Hotel du Vin in Cambridge sipping my way through numerous glasses of Gosset Champagne and tasting four courses of typical Hotel du Vin, French-inspired food, each one expertly matched to a different Champagne. On Tuesday I found out that I was the winner of two places at an impressive Champagne dinner after entering a competition on the Cambridge Wine Blogger's blog. My description of my best Champagne moment caught the imagination (and heart strings!) of the Hotel du Vin team, especially sales manager Lucie, and so I found myself treated like a celebrity for the evening, wined and dined in sumptuous candlelit surroundings, and literally bubbling over with Champagne-fuelled excitement! The evening was, without a doubt, my new favourite "Champagne moment"...
Canapes and a glass of Champagne awaited us in the Library, where Philippe of the Gosset house introduced some fascinating facts about the Champagne's history, production and distribution. The rest of the evening took place in a grand exclusive dining room at a beautifully laid table. From the childlike delight at seeing my place setting labelled "Competition Winner", to the warm fuzzy glow of candlelight and glinting, fizzing glasses of Champagne sitting aside perfectly crafted plates of food, the dinner unfolded like a dream. There's nothing like Champagne and candles to make you feel like you're living in a fairytale. If you regularly indulge in such daydreams, I recommend doing so with a glass of Gosset firmly in hand in the sumptuous surroundings of Hotel du Vin. I decided they were perfect partners even before dinner was served.
We started with a bouchée of sautéed crayfish and sweetbread, matched with the Gosset Grande Réserve - an incredibly smooth, pale gold and mouth-pleasing Champagne, which dealt with the delicate crayfish and fattiness of the sweetbread very well. This was followed by the main course of pork, choucroute and Champagne jus, served with a glass of Gosset Grand Rosé, which was my favourite Champagne of the evening. Light, well-rounded and glowing golden-pink with hundreds of never-ending tiny bubbles, the Champagne's sweetness balanced the acetic choucroute nicely, proving its suitability for matching with robust savoury flavours.
Our next course was a selection of cheese from the Champagne region, or its very closest neighbours, which featured three fine examples of the local produce and showcased the versatile talents of the 2000 Gosset Grand Millésme. This Champagne was my least favourite when first tasted but was superb with the fresh, grassy flavours of the oozing Chaource and the pungent, ripe, month-old Brie de Meaux. A sweet yet salty Champagne-soaked cheese, with a rustic, aged skin and a soft, almost mousse consistency, was the highlight of the evening and definitely one to be recreated on my next gastronomic trip to France.
The evening concluded with a dessert created in honour of the Champagne region and a typically French dessert ingredient, the Biscuit Rose from Reims. Having discovered the rose-pink, icing sugar dusted boudoir biscuits on a recent visit to France along with a very pleasing (but very alcoholic) recipe for them, I was surprised to see the biscuit used only as a garnish for the tarte au sucre. However, the Champagne granité was perfect for naughtily dipping and soaking the biscuit to eat with the light, moist tart. The suggested Cognac match, the Château de Fontpinot Grande Champagne XO, added a touch of luxury and was the perfect finale to an amazing evening.
I'm already looking forward to my next visit to Hotel du Vin to sample the Bistro's new "Le Brunch" weekend menu, and will be seeking out some Gosset Champagnes from local Cambridge Wine Merchants and Bacchanalia. To find out more about upcoming food and wine events at Hotel du Vin, visit the website or follow the Cambridge hotel on Twitter.