Champagne terrific

When it comes to Old Year’s send-offs then fizz is a given – only this year I’ll be forgoing the supermarket party pops and splashing out on a bottle of The Good Stuff instead.

Don’t get me wrong: South Africa has plenty of The Good Stuff and even though we are not permitted to call it champagne, some of our locally made méthode cap classique (MCC) wines are every bit as fabulous as the French region’s finest.

I’ve come to the realisation that I do drink rather a lot of bubbly, but what’s not to love? For me it has to be brut or brut rose, but I can’t deny there are some sweeter ones being made that are light-years away from the sickly stuff they still insist on serving at many weddings.

Though I do love our South African MCCs it is always a treat to enjoy the real deal – a bottle (or four!) of proper French champagne.

One such occasion arose earlier this month when the Radisson Blu Hotel and French brand GH Mumm held a champagne and food pairing for media and other guests.

What a sparkling occasion it was, hosted, as we were, by the charming Sixtine de Laleu from France, sent here by her bosses from Pernod Ricard to promote the GH Mumm brand in South Africa.

It’s not going to be a hard sell: not only does the stuff taste superb but the age-old French brand, though fairly new to South African consumers, is hardly an unfamiliar sight on our small screens. Who has not seen those Formula 1 speed fiends cracking open a massive bottle of red-ribboned GH Mumm on the podium, then liberally spraying everyone in sight?

The red ribbon (or cor don rouge) on Mumm’s label was styled after the French Grand Cordon of the order of the Légion d’Honneur – the highest decoration in that country.

GH Mumm is also the official champagne at several major horse racing events – in South Africa it has replaced J&B after nearly 40 years as naming sponsor of the Met, to be held at Kenilworth in the Cape on January 28. So strong is its association with celebration in sport that GH Mumm has appointed Usain Bolt as its “CEO” (chief entertainment officer!) to feature in a huge international campaign.

Another interesting fact shared by De Laleu is that the brand was founded in the French city of Reims in 1827 by the Mumm family who, ironically, were not French but German.

Our starter of citrus and vodka- cured salmon with a scattering of berries, cucumber and lemon-grass jelly was paired with the lively GH Mumm Brut Le Rosé – a fine match not only in flavour but also in the subtle shades characterising both dish and drink. This bubbly clearly loves seafood!

Next up was a palate cleanser in the form of a champagne granita served with melon. It elicited much oohing and ahing thanks to the clever dry ice “nest” around the glass – in this case it was “look, don’t touch”!

GH Mumm’s complex and elegant Cordon Rouge Brut accompanied the main course of pork belly with earthy root vegetables, mushrooms and smoked apple puree.

Finally it was time for a soothing two-tone vanilla and mango panna cotta – a milky dessert ideally paired with the delightful GH Mumm Le Demi Sec (semi- sweet). It would probably suit most light desserts, but best avoid it with chocolate, says De Laleu.

What made our meal all the more special was that it was prepared by the Radisson Blu’s pastry chef, Mthobeli Ndaleni, whom everyone calls “Sunshine”. Sunshine started at the hotel as a kitchen porter in 2013 and quickly worked his way up the ranks.

Judging by what he conjured up for us at the tasting he has a bright future ahead of him!

Champagne in numbers
  • One million is the number of bubbles in the average glass of champagne.
  • Bubble size in champagne and sparkling wine can vary from between 0.4mm and 4mm.
  • Those of 1.7mm across result in the highest number of droplets evaporating at the surface of the drink, maximising the experience of flavour.
  • 4°C is the optimum temperature to cool champagne to ensure its delicate flavours are not overpowered.
  • 1844 is the year Adolphe Jaquesson invented the muselet (wire cage) to prevent corks from accidentally blowing out. – Numbers The Telegraph

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