Taste Champagne

Taste Champagne champagne fr

Champagne

Everyone has heard of champagne, but fewer people realise that in order to be physically labelled as such, it must be produced in the Champagne region of France – so true champagne can be easily differentiated from the many other varieties of sparkling wine popular today. The primary grapes used in the production of champagne are black Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, but also white Chardonnay. Sample champagne to your heart’s content at the Route de Champagne en Fête, held every August in Aube. Festival-goers can purchase a ‘flute passport’ which grants them entrance to tastings at all the participating vineyards.

Potée Champenoise

Originally peasant food and often using leftovers, most regions of France will have their own version of this hearty meat stew; in Champagne it’s called potée Champenoise, and salt pork or ham hock is typically used, together with sausage, bacon, onions and a mixture of root vegetables. Everything is cooked together slowly over several hours, et voilà.

Dry-cured ham

Not to be confused with jambon d’Ardenne from Belgium, jambon sec des Ardennes is a French dry-cured ham that’s been produced in Champagne since 1793. The pigs used must be born, raised and slaughtered in the department of Ardennes, and fed a diet of at least 75% cereal. The raw ham is kneaded and rubbed by hand with a blend of salt, sugar, potassium nitrite and spices (including juniper berries) before being cured for at least 45 days, and then aged. The whole process takes a minimum of nine months. Jambon sec d’Ardennes has a characteristic deep red color and a fruity aroma reminiscent of melon. Its firm texture makes it easy to slice and attractive to serve, though it can be bought whole, either boned or boneless.

Cheese

Champagne has a couple of very good cheeses worth trying on your visit. Chaource is a soft cows’-milk cheese with a creamy, slightly crumbly texture and encased in a white rind. It is matured for two to three months but many people like to eat young Chaource, when the rind is hardly formed. It’s best paired with wines such as Chablis as well as champagne. Langres is also made from cows’ milk and has held AOC status since 1919. It’s similar to but milder than Epoisses, slightly salty with a strong aroma. After five weeks of maturation, it’s typically consumed between May and August but also tastes excellent from March through to December. Try it with a red Burgundy as well as Marc de Bourgogne or champagne.

Pink biscuits

Les biscuits roses de Reims are some of the oldest French biscuits – local residents are fond of dipping them into a glass of champagne, since they don’t break when moistened. The recipe for this tasty treat dates back to the 17th century, when a Champenois baker wanted to take advantage of the heat of the bread oven in between batches. He had the idea to create a special dough and bake it twice; the word "biscuit" literally means "twice-baked". The little cookies were originally white but the vanilla beans used to flavour them left unappealing brown spots, so the baker used a natural red dye to cover them. Buy them from Maison Fossier in the city, who have been making them since 1691… or if you want to have a go at making them yourself, follow the recipe below!

 

Ingredients
4 large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1.5 cups flour
1/3 cup cornflour
1 tsp baking soda
Drop of red food coloring
Powdered (confectioner's) sugar for dusting
Pastry bag with 1/4-inch smooth tip

 

Method
Preheat the oven to 300°F (180°C). Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a bowl using a hand blender on increasing speeds over a period of 5-6 minutes. Beat in two of the egg whites for another two minutes, and then the remaining two egg whites and the food coloring for an additional two minutes until the mixture begins to form stiff peaks.  Sift the flour, cornflour and baking soda into the bowl, folding in gently with a spatula. You want a final result that is smooth and uniform in colour. Scrape it into the pastry bag. Cover a baking tray with wax paper and grease it with either butter or non-stick spray. Squeeze out strips of the mixture that are 1/4-inch wide (about as wide as your finger) and around three inches long. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (You don't want the biscuits to start browning though, or else they won't be pink!) Sprinkle with more powdered sugar and bake for a further 12-15 minutes.  After removing from the oven, immediately cut the edges of the biscuits so you have even rectangles.Serve with a semi-sweet champagne and enjoy!

 

Sloe gin

A 40% liqueur made with sloes (the fruit of the blackthorn), Prunelle de Troyes sloe gin is still made using its original recipe in the Cellier Saint-Pierre distillery opposite Troyes cathedral. The building was occupied by wine merchants in the 1800s and has been owned by the Formont family since 1933. Prunelle de Troyes has been distilled since 1840 and won a gold medal at Paris’ International Exposition in 1900. To make it, the sloes are ground and macerated in alcohol before undergoing a double distillation. Try Prunelle chilled as a digestif, as a cocktail with champagne or on a sorbet or frozen nougat (“le trou Champenois”).

 

Things to see

Point of interest