Champagne thanksgiving
Courtesy Cattier

Mixology

For a Titillating Treat, Pair Your Turkey With Champagne This Thanksgiving

Champagne and oysters often get lumped together, but when it comes to perfect pairings, it’s hard to beat birds (particularly of the fried variety) and bubbles. And we’re not talking California Champagne like Korbel. Go for the good stuff. “The soft and creamy mouth feel and rich palate of cherry and exotic fruits in Champagne cut through the fattiness of breaded fried chicken,” explains Armand de Brignac's Chief Winemaker, Alexandre Cattier. “The experience is surprisingly refreshing.”

Jay-Z popped bottles of his Ace of Spades-branded bubbly, Armand de Brignac (which sells upwards of $300) in his 2006 music video, "Show Me What You Got," but it's the know-how of the Champagne's 13th-generation growers—the Cattier family—that transformed the celebrity bottle into a prestige brand. “Family businesses think long-term, so it’s better for Champagne,” explains Chef de Cave, Jean-Jacques Cattier. His mother, Nelly, dreamed up the spin-off brand back in the 50s with a specific Parisian customer in mind. The name “De Brignac” was inspired by a character in a novel, but they never ended up moving forward with the concept. When the Cattier family decided to add a luxury line to its lineage in the early 2000s, the CEO brought the De Brignac brand to life as a way to “pay tribute to my mother, who worked her entire life for the company,” he says.

While Jay-Z purchased the Champagne brand in 2014, he acts as a silent figure to the company that takes one hour to hand-apply labels on 20 polished, pewter bottles before they’re laid in lacquered gift boxes. Only 18 pairs of hands touch the 100,000 bottles as the grapes pass from harvest and pressing to the family’s gilded, 18th century cellars—some of the deepest in Champagne—where they age nearly 100 feet below ground. Everyone in the company referring to him ambiguously as “the owner,” while the Cattiers' manage the day-to-day details, ensuring the balance of the blend. Each cuvée is composed of a trio of vintages, and nailing the assemblage, or blending process, is like conducting a symphony, with all of the years playing harmoniously together like musicians in an orchestra. 

And 2018 is a year that will be worthy of a solo when it’s time for blending. “It was a brilliant year,” Alexandre says. A wet winter and spring followed by a dry summer made for the perfect balance. “It’s like the planets—everything was aligned,” he says. This fall, the Cattiers partnered with a close family friend for the ultimate Champagne pairing: a five-course magnum tasting menu at L'Assiette Champenoise, Chef Arnaud Lallement’s three Michelin-starred eatery near the “Champagne capital" of Reims, France. The restaurant spent well over a year alone designing the sophisticated stemware to showcase each of the five styles of Champagne, since “the aromas are concentrated in the shape of the glass,” Jean-Jacques explains. Of course, magnums of Champagne (equivalent to two, standard 750 ml bottles) aren’t reserved just for tastings; they’re perfect for family feasts during the holidays and “look extremely impressive to open for a toast or pour at a dinner table,” Alexandre says. “There is a good reason why Champagne has become synonymous with celebratory occasions.”

While one of Chef Lallement’s courses pairs blue lobster alongside Armand de Brignac’s red fruit-heavy rosé, Alexandre recommends pouring pink bubbles with everything from refined duck filet to comfort food like smoked ribs.“You would think that the iron fist of smoke and heavy red meat would completely overwhelm an elegant rosé, but the structured palate stands up to the smokiness,” he says.

For Thanksgiving, try pairing a sparkling rosé with a main course like a succulent turkey. “When the meat is not too strong, it is a perfect match with rosé,” Alexandre says. For more decadent, traditional sides like cranberry sauce and sweet potato, choose a Demi Sec, whose sweeter expression with notes of caramel and quine balances out richer flavors found in sauces and pastry desserts. Alexandre even suggests pairing Demi Sec with more exotic cuisine like spicy curry or lamb tagine.“We avoid spicy food with Champagne, but this style of Demi Sec pairs spectacularly with gamey, full-bodied flavors, since the ever-so-slightly-sweet profile of the wine completely balances the spice,” he says. “At the end of the day, food pairings come down to personal taste, preference and pleasure; you can stay on the highway or go on more funky roads without any fear.”

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