Cheshire Life and Alderley Edge Hotel Champagne Oscars 2011
PUBLISHED: 15:53 09 January 2012 | UPDATED: 15:35 26 April 2016
Veuve Clicquot was the toast at this year's Cheshire Life/Alderley Edge Hotel Champagne Oscars dinner WORDS BY RAY KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
The night they invented champagne – at least as we know and love it today - fell in the year 1811. And two centuries to the exact year later, the Cheshire Life/Alderley Edge Hotel Champagne Oscar was presented to the great pioneering champagne house that invented it.
So when the magnificent silver and gilt trophy, was awarded to Veuve Clicquot amid great ceremony at what has become one of the most glittering events in Cheshire’s social calendar, it was in the way of a very big thank you. And happy anniversary!
1811 was the year of the Great Comet, visible to the naked eye for 260 days. It was also the year that Reims’ Great Widow – La Grande Dame, Nicole-Barbe Clicquot, née Ponsardin – oversaw changes in the method of making champagne that transformed its style from a sweet, cloudy wine with big bubbles to the elegant and sophisticated fizz we now relish.
Her husband François had died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) at the head of a company variously involved in banking, wool trading, and champagne production. Under Madame Clicquot’s control, the house focused entirely on champagne, and thrived.
The trophy, hand-crafted by Warris & Company of Sheffield, silversmiths entrusted to care for the FA Cup, was presented to Christina Jesaitis, Veuve Clicquot’s senior brand manager in the UK by Ahmet Kurcer, general manager of the Alderley Edge Hotel and Louise Allen-Taylor, editor of Cheshire Life at the start of a five-course black-tie gourmet dinner.
Christina, recently arrived in the UK from Montana in the United States, said: ‘What’s amazed me most is just how much champagne the British actually consume!’ And she very quickly realised that bubbly’s greatest fans are concentrated you-know-where. A national wine merchant once revealed that more champagne was sold through its Alderley Edge branch than anywhere else in the UK.
It was that fact, together with the desire to deliver a light-hearted riposte to the blinkered views of London-based food and drink writers, that led Mr Kurcer and Cheshire Life’s former editor Patrick O’Neill to hatch the Oscar as a reward to the producers of the champagne most enjoyed by hotel guests during the previous 12 months.
Veuve Clicquot, with its elegant, poised and rounded style, impressed the judging panel led by Mr Kurcer and comprising Mrs Allen-Taylor, award-winning independent wine merchant Ruth Yates, recently named 16th most influential figure in the UK wine industry, entrepreneur Max Essayan, businessman Charles Ledigo, David Garlick of wine company D&D International and Ray King, Cheshire Life’s food and wine writer.
Four Veuve Clicquot champagnes were featured before and during a dinner which underlined the talents of head chef Chris Holland and his brigade, whose innovative culinary skills have earned the Alderley Restaurant its third AA Rosette, putting it among the nation’s top ten per cent.
Veuve Clicquot’s iconic signature style, Yellow Label Brut NV, accompanied canapés served on arrival in the Hotel’s Laurent Perrier Suite, while the dinner’s opening course, hot foie gras parfait, Muscat jelly and truffle honey, smoked duck rillette and quince jam, was partnered by the label’s elegant prestige cuvée, La Grande Dame 1998.
Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2004 was poured with sous-vide organic salmon, textures of avocado, langoustine bubbles, potted shrimp and crunchy wild rice and the company’s sister bodega in Argentina provided Terrazas Reserva Malbec 2008, a silky red packed with mulberry fruit, to complement loin of welsh lamb served with confit shoulder hot pot, charred leeks, black truffle and preserved tomato purée.
After an inventive cheese course comprising whipped Welsh brie with walnut crumble, fruit tagine cannelloni and sherry vinegar, Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV, utter sophistication in a glass, accompanied dessert, a tasting of tangerine, pannetone glace, champagne and redcurrant espuma.
Will champagne change again when the Great Comet returns? Who cares – it’ll be 4900 AD.