Roger Jones used to think that Champagne Pommery was something of a one-trick pony. That is, until he was invited to a special cuvee tasting at Sketch in London, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pommery’s prestige Cuvee Louise. Duly inspired by Cuvee Louise and Cuvee Louis and the way they paired with the complexity of Pierre Gagnaire’s cooking, Jones then decided to test the more modestly-priced Champagnes from the portfolio back at his top restaurant The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. He experimented with a variety of dishes before arriving at some stunning pairings to go with the Pommery Blanc de Blancs and the latest arrival the Louis Pommery English Sparkling NV.
Although the Louis Pommery English Sparkling is currently made from grapes sourced from Hattingley, their own vineyard in Hampshire will soon be producing the goods.
Over lunch at Pierre Gagnaire’s Sketch restaurant we were presented with a stunning food and champagne matching experience by Pommery hosted in The Millicent Fawcett Room. This room pays homage to Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, a British feminist, who in 1869 spoke at a public meeting held at 9 Conduit Street calling for the enfranchisement of women.
My hosts were Julien Lonneux CEO Vranken Pommery UK and Clement Pierlot, Chef de Caves Champagne Pommery. The youthful Clement Pierlot, who has been with the Pommery team since 2004, took over oenological development in 2014 and became Chef de Caves in 2017, taking over from Thierry Gasco who now focuses on the US and English Pommery Sparkling Emporium.
We were greeted with a glass of Pommery Cuvee Louise 2002, highlighting the delicacy that Cuvee Louise delivers in memory of Madame Pommery. The precision of the bubbles streaming to the surface, the gentle minerality, citrus flavours of lemon and pink grapefruit with an underlying purity of precise white Provence peach. On the finish there is a refined elegant burst of tiny red berries. This is a very restrained wine (note the more forward 2004) but nevertheless an exceptional experience.
The first course of Raw Marinated Blue Fin Tuna /Tonnato Cream/Crunchy Vegetables /Pear and Roquefort Ice Cream was certainly a brave combination but it worked perfectly with Pommery Cuvee Louise Brut Nature 2004.
Clement Pierlot called this a ‘Naked Wine’, trying to showcase the purity and clean reflection of the juice with little intervention. Great precision, focus and a linear feel, dried citrus zest, white flowers, very restrained and refined. However, when combined with the rich tuna dish this wine flowers perfectly, with the flavours blossoming.
Pommery Cuvee Louis 2004 This has a rich biscuit fragrance, on the palate there is an expression of nutty flavours, the freshest hazelnuts and almonds, balanced with a buttery yeasty nuance. To me this is richer than the Louise 2002, but with the Sea Urchin Bisque/Scottish Hand-Dived Scallops/Foraged Herbs and Plants was a classic match. The intensity and purity of the flavours from the sea urchin with the sweetness of the scallop was perfectly matched to this seductive wine.
Pommery Cuvee Louise 1999 Surprising how youthful this wine is, but that is the trademark of Pommery. Although this tasted more mature with a heavier brioche background, the focus and purity shone through especially with the main course of Whole Roasted Milk Fed Lamb.
Pommery Cuvee Louise Rose 2004 On the nose a beautiful fragrance of Fraise de Bois (wild strawberries), raspberries and blackcurrants; this evolves with some spices and gentle floral notes. There is a depth and complexity to this Rose that you rarely see and whilst it was served with Pierre Gagniere’s (XXX) beautiful ‘Three Miniature Desserts’, I also noted how well it went with the lamb. I love the texture and richness (restrained) of this wonderful aged Rose, layers of flavours just ooze from the glass, this is also a Champagne that drinks perfectly on its own.
Pushing the pairing envelope back at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn
Of course Cuvee Louise is not your daily go-to Champagne tipple, so what else have Pommery in their stable? Well back in my own kitchen I played around with a couple of their more modestly priced wines.
Pommery Blanc de Blancs NV is certainly one of the best value Blanc de Blancs that I have had, full of citrus fruit and white flowers, with a hazelnut twist in the background, easy drinking, it is fine and elegant but has enough complexity to carry the spices. I matched this to a Venison Saddle enhanced with Indian Spices. I have always highlighted how good Chardonnay is with Curry and this Blanc de Blancs is the ultimate match to this dish.
Louis Pommery English Sparkling NV Crisp orchard apples, delicate gooseberry, bright and full flavoured, a touch of sweet fruit, lovely acidity and freshness, easy drinking…. classic English sparkling. This I matched to Tempura Pembroke Lobster with chilled Thai Tea.
Pommery has certainly made an impression on me from naively thinking it was a one trick pony, promoting its Pommery “Pop” to large global establishments, it does in fact produce a wealth and breadth of quite exquisite Champagne and Sparkling Wine. The Louis Pommery is currently made from grapes sourced from Hattingley, but their own vineyard (Pinglestone, Alreford) in Hampshire will soon be producing the goods. .