Interview with Enrico Bernardo
What is this fascination with Champagne as the ultimate aperitif and social lubricant, as the drink for celebratory occasions etc? Is champagne truly indispensable and the best aperitif?
The fascination with Champagne is a prestige sparkling wine. This prestige is rarity, complexity and unique climates and soils that you never find anywhere else in the world. The relationship between Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with the terroir of Champagne gives an excellent result.
Can it be considered a real wine, worthy of serious study and analysis?
Yes, for sure! At one condition: only excellent Champagnes are excellent wines. Not all Champagnes, because only the Grand Crus in Champagne can make excellent wines.
Is it acceptable, or recommended to enjoy champagne during a whole meal as an accompaniment to any of the great gastronomic pleasures?
Yes, you can have, for example, vintage Champagnes around 7-8 years old to go with vegetables, fishes, white meats. The exception is – Champagne is not good with desserts.
Should one distinguish between Non Vintage and Vintage Champagnes? Does that mean that Champagnes should be matured? Presumably the complexity and character is greater and more developed.
The difference between Non Vintage and Vintage Champagne is: the vintage is the expression of one only year. It means, for example, 1996 was a cold year, you have fresh Champagne compared to Non Vintage (a blend of many years) with a quite standard taste.
Regarding these very old Champagnes – what good matching examples can you suggest? What are your favorites? In your career You have been the Sommelier du Monde, served with distinction at George V Hotel in Paris. Are there any great Champagne matching experiments that You can regale us with that You personally have discovered in the course of your career?
With the old Champagnes, you need very tasty food: mushrooms, truffles, spices, etc. My best experience was a Magnum of Don Pérignon Rosé 1990 with vinaison, cacao and black truffles.
Usually red wines and sometimes particularly high-quality white wines are decantered but is it advisable to pour Champagnes into carafes as well?
I do not like to decant Champagne because for me the effervescence is one of the most important characteristics of Champagne. I want to appreciate it each time I drink Champagne.
What are the classic combinations? Could You please set out a number of your favourite ones, e.g. with white meats and mushrooms?
Brut non vintage with gougères
Vintage Champagne with some foie gras
Blanc de Blancs with scallops
Blanc de Noirs with a consommé of beef
Champagne Rosé with a veal
Cuvée Prestige with truffles
I once read one of your articles in Le Figaro in which You stated the following and we quote: “For the festive sushis – scallop or Dublin Bay prawn – Champagne is essential. An obvious choice is Blanc de Blancs for its lightness, its minerals and its floral aroma. There are two bottles that immediately come to my mind: Diebolt-Vallois for its white flower bouquet (acacia) slightly spicy (pepper, coriander) and its velvety, gourmand, sharp butter and apple flavours. And above all the S de Salon 1996 Great Champagne from a great year, more mature, sharper, more mineral and after all stronger than the previous one. An archetype of balance.”
Is not Asahi beer or a good Chablis a better solution to this matching of Sushi with champagne?
No! As I prefer Champagne with pizza!!! The match is much better.
On a lighter and more flippant note – do You consider Champagne as the ultimate wine for lovers and the wine to consume with passion… literally?
No! Champagne is more sexy, an adventure. It is indeed more passion than love!