Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Piper heralds Christmas

Last week I got my first proper taste of Christmas when I emerged from Sloane Square tube station and gazed at all the glamorous Christmas decorations. The trees in Sloane Square sport large tasteful twinkly stars and Peter Jones in the background is draped with lights. My short walk up Sloane Street was just as festive as I headed to Le Cercle restaurant as a guest of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne.

Piper has had quite a playful, partying image, however, cellar master Régis Camus recently received the International Wine Challenge Sparkling Winemaker of the Year trophy for the eighth consecutive time. New owners EPI, who bought the house from Rémy Cointreau in 2011, seem keen to place more emphasis on the quality of the wine itself – we were served several with dinner and they stood up beautifully (much better than the simple party pop you might have expected in the past). The wines are Pinot dominant and a generous proportion of reserve wine is included in the blends resulting in richer, complex tasting fizz closer in style to stable mate Charles Heidsieck (also run by Régis Camus).

The wines all showed well, but the highlight of the evening was Piper-Heidsieck's prestige cuvée Rare from the 2002 vintage. This was served with foie gras crème brûlée, lemon brioche and cardamom crust: all very luxurious. Finely structured with layers of complexity and, although drinking well now, it will age magnificently for several more years. (It's currently in this rather blingtastic bottle, although the new owners might tweak the packaging in future.)

The main course, roasted monkfish, glazed celery and lovage, was served with the soon to be released vintage 2006: although it was overshadowed by the Rare 2002, it was rich and muscular and a good pairing with the fish. The cheese course, chic carnation like rosettes of Ossau Iraty with mandarin (and a 'smoked Lillet' foam), worked very well with Cuvée Sublime (demi sec).

The dinner ended with the classic French pairing of pink fizz and dessert (in this case white chocolate parfait with frosted strawberries). For me, this never works as the wine isn't sweet enough, but I was really taken by the deeply coloured, bold vinous style of the Piper's Rosé Sauvage. I could imagine it with charcuterie, steak tartare or at a smart picnic. Distinctive stuff.

Piper-Heidsieck have other events planned for the Christmas season including tastings with cheese and charcuterie at Searcy's Champagne Bar at One New Change at 6.30pm on Tuesday 10th and Monday 16th December (£39). For more information mail: events@searcyschampagnebars.co.uk. Searcy's Champagne Bars will also be serving a broad range of Piper-Heidsieck by the glass.

I attended as a guest of Piper-Heidsieck and First Drinks. For information about future wine dinners at Le Cercle check their website. This tasting dinner cost £49 per head.

Piper-Heidsieck retail stockists
Brut NV Waitrose £31.99
Rare, Vintage 2002 Harrods £175
Vintage 2000 Harrods £64.95
Cuvée Sublime TheDrinksShop.com £38.69
Rosé Sauvage Waitrose £24.99

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