Drake Hotel - The Magic of Champagne

Club International

Monday, October 22, 2007

With Chef Rotisseur Bernard Fiemeyer* and Maitre de Table Hotelier Martin Wormull


The Magic, Myths and Legends of Champagne

By Vice-Chargé de Presse Honoraire Jon DeMoss

The Chicago Baillage enjoyed an evening devoted to various nuances of Champagne at Club International in The Drake Hotel on October 22, 2007. The dinner was planned by Maitre de Table Hôtelier Martin Wormull, the Drake’s Director of Operations, and provided an opportunity to experience attributes of Champagne that are often overlooked. The evening began with various hors d’oeuvres accompanied by Laurent-Perrier Brut, non-vintage, served from double magnums. The large format bottles provided a fresh and festive beginning to the evening’s adventure.

Martin Wormull has a special interest in Champagne and served as Narrateur des Vins throughout the evening explaining that the first course “foie blonde” terrine would be accompanied by a Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Demi Sec NV served from a decanter specially designed for this purpose.  During the years 1660-1670 in France, demi secs were routinely served in this manner, and that in fact the dryer finishes of Champagne did not evolve until much later. This demi sec proved to be an excellent combination for the terrine and the service from the special decanters contributed significantly to its enjoyment.

The next course provided an opportunity to compare a Champagne with a California sparkling wine from the same producer. Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Premier, NV and Roderer Estate L’Ermitage Brut, 1999, were served side by side with pan-fried scallops with sea urchin beurre blanc. There was a division of opinion as to which of these two excellent sparklers was the better accompaniment for the scallops. 

A roast turbot fillet accompanied by two flutes of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Yellow Label Brut, NV provided the next subject of discussion.  One flute was filled from a traditional 750 ml bottle, and the other was from a magnum. The subtle but distinctive taste differences in these two glasses were appreciated by everyone. A large majority of diners preferred the Champagne from the magnum finding that it provided slightly more complexity.

The fourth course consisted of two different preparations of Squab accompanied by Dom Perignon 1999 from the same bottle but in two different glasses. One glass was a Riedel flute designed specifically for Dom Perignon.  This distinctive glass bore both the Dom Perignon crest and signature, and contained a small dot indicating the correct fill level. The other glass was a large Bordeaux style red wine glass. The larger glass allowed for a considerably improved appreciation of the nose for this great wine, while the flute provided a better viewing of the wine’s bubble development. Each glass style offered its own benefits in enjoying this excellent Champagne.

A Bollinger “La Côte aux Enfants” Coteaux Champenois, Ay Rouge 1999 was poured with the St. Marcellin cheese. This wine is entirely Pinot Noir, which is normally the largest component of most Champagne blends, and is only produced once every four or five years. Only 3925 individually numbered bottles were produced in 1999, twenty four of which came to the United States. We drank twelve of them!  The opportunity to taste this wine was quite unique.

The dessert course of poached pear with spiced almond biscuit was accompanied by a Champagne Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut NV. This Champagne is somewhat unique in that it is produced with no sweetener dosage whatever. Tasted by itself, this results in a somewhat tart taste lacking the one or two percent sugar addition of a Brut. However, this Champagne proved to be an excellent accompaniment for the desert. Martin Wormull observed that it appeared to magically change from very dry when tasted by itself to something approaching a demi sec when drunk with the dessert and then back to very dry after the dessert was finished.

Accolades were vigorous.  Special thanks were awarded to Chef Rôtisseur Bernard Fiemeyer, the Drake’s Executive Chef, who had provided the food descriptions.  Maître de Table Hôtelier Martin Wormull, was loudly applauded for planning this most interesting presentation of Champagnes, providing numerous insights into the fascinating world of Champagne.
Bailli Jane Tracy then announced that the six special demi sec Veuve Clicquot decanters would be auctioned off to raise money for the Young Sommelier candidates.  Chevalier Frederic Lane successfully conducted the auction which concluded a truly sparkling evening in Chicago.