Launched on Halloween at Marcus at The Berkeley, ‘Le Cercle Brut NV, Marcus Wareing Special Edition’ is a bespoke cuvée from Gosset that is all ‘treat’ and no ‘trick’– a generous wine that is a perfect match for the entrée it was designed to accompany, and an interesting direction for Wareing, Gosset and Louis Latour Agencies who put the two parties together. Peter Dean dined with Wareing at his own Chef’s Table, the first time he had tried the Champagne with food.
The new cuvée was put to the taste test alongside four other Gosset cuvées.
As status symbols go it’s pretty high up the list to have your own Champagne, especially when it’s the real deal made by one of the most respected Houses – Gosset, no less, the oldest wine house in Champagne operating since 1584. What makes it even more special for Marcus Wareing is that Marcus, the Special Edition of Le Cercle Brut NV, is the first ever chef-bespoke-cuvée that Gosset has produced.
For Gosset it’s a natural fit in that it has always targeted the premium on-trade both here and in France; for Wareing it’s an opportunity to get an exclusive blend for his restaurant Marcus at the Berkeley; and for Louis Latour Agencies, that imports and distributes Gosset and was a lynchpin in the whole deal, it is part of the personal service it gives its clients.
Because Gosset only produces a million bottles every year it has the versatility to make bespoke blends, something it did last year with Fine+Rare so that it could offer private clients its own blend.
Like the F+R limited edition cuvée, Marcus Wareing and his team helped with the blend and the dosage; long-standing restaurant manager Michael Deschamps travelled to Gosset with Louis Latour to help cellar master Odilon de Varine make the initial blends, returning with three different dosage levels for Wareing to approve and modify.
“I was looking for a memory,” Wareing explains, “a flavour that I had had before but didn’t know what it was, a smoothness, that was not just about what was in the bottle but was to do with the way it was served – the glass and the temperature, and I realised that what I wanted was wine. I hadn’t been used to talking and thinking about Champagne as wine – I had always treated it just as bubbles.”
So how was the Champagne tasting?
Equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with 10% Pinot Meunier,- it’s mainly from the 2014 harvest with six months since disgorgement. There’s 7.5 g/l dosage in the 75cl bottle and 6g/ for the magnum.
The colour is a light straw gold; there’s an attractive nose of ripe orchard fruit, with a touch of complexity that belies its youth; lovely balance, a roundness in the mid-palate and a crisp saline finish.
We drank it with the dish that it will be paired with on the tasting menu: Scallop, apple, verbena, and roasted beef dressing from 72-hour beef (cooked at 52 degrees). The tart apple notes complemented the Golden Delicious in the dish and the acidity cut through the beef fat perfectly.
A flavour obsessive, Wareing is constantly analysing, swirling his Zalto and returning to it through the meal.
“It’s very interesting as this is the first time I have tasted it with food; there are several flavours – green apple, smoky flavours in the dish that I am also finding in the wine. But for me it’s not just about the flavour it’s also the texture, how it works with the smoothness of the scallop,” Wareing says.
As we work our way through a five course tasting lunch Wareing explains his likes and dislikes “I don’t like restaurants where they tell you how to eat,” he says after we all singularly failed to realise how to match two parts of the amuse bouche “and the waiter should not explain the key components of the dish that are written on the menu, there is an invisible line if you will underneath that is not on the menu but which explains the chemistry of the dish and more detail about the other ingredients.”
An engaging conversationalist, we discuss how he creates dishes from the inside out; his smallholding in Kent; altering the flavour of lamb fat by changing their diet; his best man Gordon Ramsay who he had a very public falling out with (“we were both just crazy chefs and all we really wanted to do was cook”); and how he’s having a bit of a ‘caviar moment’ right now (served classic with blini, chopped egg) “it takes me back to my days at the Savoy learning the classics…. the caviar with that halibut dish we just had it was just lost wasn’t it?”
We talk too about how the restaurant has operated for the past 16 years, leasing it off the hotel in ten year stretches with a five year break clause, how just 5% of custom comes through the hotel, and how when people do come on holiday at the Berkeley they are the sort of customers who rent entire floors – renting separate rooms for their shopping.
No one brings up the recent loss of the Michelin star that takes Marcus at the Berkeley from two stars to one, a subject which in the lunch setting would seem plain rude.
Instead we enthuse about the new cuvée – the way it works gastronomically, how it genuinely gives Marcus a real point of difference, and what an interesting direction it is for all parties – in effect how a new star is born.
“I think for me the thing is how this progresses, what happens next? How will the wines keep, will they all be gone in a year, the relationship as a whole.”
Le Cercle Brut NV, Marcus Wareing Special Edition is available in Marcus at The Berkeley from October 31, £120 on the menu.