Entries are now open for this year’s Gosset Matchmakers – the competition where young somms team up with young chefs to create an inspirational food pairing with these top-class champagnes.
If you were thinking of entering, or encouraging one of your colleagues to enter (and you totally should because it’s a lot of fun with great prizes), we thought you might like a few expert tips to get you started.
So we asked cellarmaster, Odilon de Varine, and head of marketing, Thibault de Mailloux, for the killer facts that prospective candidates needed to know about Gosset and its wines – and how this might affect how you go about matching them with food.
1. Gosset is the oldest wine house in champagne
Gosset was founded in 1584 – so for the first 150 years of its existence champagne didn’t even exist! But that heritage is still part of the house’s thinking today.
‘We always speak about making wines first, and then champagne,’ says Thibault. ‘The bubbles are just there to enhance the wine.’
Throughout our conversation, the word ‘vinous’ comes up again and again. It’s a useful key-word to bear in mind when you start to drill down into what’s in the glass.
2. Gosset does not do malolactic fermentation in any of its wines
Acidity is a key part of the character of any champagne. Many houses allow their wines to go through malolactic fermentation – when appley malic acid converts to softer lactic acid. But not Gosset.
‘The way we try to explain it is that our winemaking approach preserves all the natural freshness and aromas of the grape,’ says Thibault. ‘Lactic acid is not part of the grapes when you harvest the fruit. So we block it for all the wines.’
Odilon also points out that, with climate change, there is probably the same amount of acidity in a non-malo wine now as there would have been in a malo wine 30 years ago.
3. The wines spend a long time on lees
Gosset’s wines spend much longer ageing in bottle than the stipulated minimum for the appellation. In fact, they spend six months on lees even before they are bottled! This extended contact with the dead yeast cells gives a creamy richness, rather than an overt ‘bready’ character, that wraps around the bright wire of the wine’s non-malo acidity.
‘It’s always about balance,’ says Odilon. ‘Balancing acidity, body and roundness.’
4. There’s a lot of subtlety in the wines
It’s important to distinguish between power and weight. ‘We believe our wines are powerful in terms of aroma, which doesn’t mean they are heavy,’ says Thibault. ‘The acidity opens up the palate to be able to appreciate the extreme complexity.’
Odilon, meanwhile, focuses on the nature of the perlage.
‘For us the bubbles are just there to allow the wine to express itself,’ he says. ‘We have very fine, delicate bubbles. We want the wine to be there before the bubbles.
‘The palate-cleansing aspect of our champagne is very important,’ he goes on. ‘It prepares the palate for more flavours. That’s why we work a lot with salinity – and a small bitterness that helps to clean the palate.’
Again, the term ‘vinosity’ seems appropriate.
5. Explore the balance between red and white grapes
Gosset’s Grande Réserve brut is typically evenly split between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (about 45% each) with 10% of Pinot Meunier. But It changes every year. ‘A recipe is the exact opposite of winemaking,’ says Odilon. ‘The grape varieties are tools [to create a consistent style].’
Nonetheless, the more or less equal balance of red and white grapes can make for some interesting opportunities when it comes to matching, allowing you to pull out elements of freshness, aroma or florality from the Chardonnay, or richer more red-fruit elements from the Pinots.