The Insider’s Guide to Summer: Top tips from David Hesketh, Master of Wine and UK Managing Director
Ahead of the Champagne Moments Masterclass at Taste of London which launches this Wednesday, we sat down with David Hesketh, Master of Wine and Managing Director of Champagne Laurent-Perrier UK to get the inside scoop on Taste of London and his top Champagne serving tips for Summer.
- This is Laurent-Perrier’s 11th year at Taste of London, what is it about this festival that keeps visitors coming back?
London’s culinary landscape has grown incredibly over the past decade, matching Londoners’ love of different and emerging food trends. Given this enthusiasm, it’s no surprise that an event like Taste of London – which offers access to an unparalleled and constantly evolving range of world-class cuisine – is going to be a firm favourite in London’s summer calendar. As a Champagne house which has always been deeply linked to gastronomy, particularly in the UK, we are always delighted to continue to support Taste of London and the multitude of culinary talents also involved.
- What can visitors expect from Laurent-Perrier’s champagne moments masterclass?
They can expect a fun, relaxed experience which will talk them through selecting the optimum champagne for any occasion, how the grape composition, time in the cellar and bottle size all influence the flavours experienced. This will all be accompanied by four of our exceptional cuvées paired with fun and innovative dishes from Bob’s Lobster.
- As part of the masterclass, you’re working with Bob’s Lobster this year –Why did you choose to work with them, what makes champagne and seafood such a good combination?
It is partly my desire to erode the formality that can surround champagne consumption. Without doubt a bottle of Laurent-Perrier served on a fine restaurant with food prepared by a renowned chef is very special. But equally a glass shared over Bob’s signature Lobster roll, with a friend in Borough Market on a Saturday lunch-time can be just as special and great fun too.
In terms of aroma and flavour champagne is generally restrained while on the palate the key component is crisp acidity. This combination is perfect for pairing with fish. Champagne really comes into its own with meatier fish such as swordfish, or fish in a cream or butter sauce. A good choice would be a Vintage such as our recently released 2006 as they have the weight and body necessary to match the fish and their crisp acidity will cut through any cream. The classic pairing with oysters is Champagne as they go incredibly well together. Raw oysters are somewhat delicate and can have mineral and metallic flavours. The Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut with its own unique minerality seems to combine with these flavours to enable the lighter and more subtle flavours of the oyster to come through. The other classic pairing for me is champagne and caviar. Go for a crisp dry Champagne so as not overpower the salty caviar.
- Outside the masterclass, what else are you excited to see at Taste of London?
Before we leave the masterclass, the thing that gives me most pleasure at Taste is people coming up to me, telling me how much Laurent-Perrier means to them. Usually there is a special moment in their lives that has been framed by sharing a bottle of Laurent-Perrier and usually the Cuvée Rosé. It is seeing how when they drink it again they relive those memories. That is for me what makes champagne unique.
Outside of the masterclass my favourite part of Taste is striking agreements with friendly chefs: I prevent them becoming thirsty and I don’t go hungry. It helps having such a desirable product with which to barter. This year, we’re delighted to share the fruits of these friendships with our new FT Weekend Laurent-Perrier Summer Menus. 12 bespoke menus from some of London’s most prestigious restaurants and including a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne.
- What are your top 5 tips for enjoying Champagne this summer?
- Keep it cold – To achieve the best temperature a little planning is helpful. In advance store the champagne in a cool place and then place on ice for 20 – 30 minutes. This should give the perfect temperature of 8 – 10oc. Failing this a fridge will be fine but try not to over chill as it subdues the aromas and subtle flavour of champagne. That said, when in doubt, too cold will at least warm up. Served too warm it will never reach the optimum temperature. Avoid any festive functions that pre-pour half a glass and top up when guests arrive. This is just lazy and results in lukewarm champagne. You deserve better.
- Open your bottle carefully – First things first: a cellar master has spent at least three years crafting the mousse and creating the bubbles. So why oh why shoot the cork out of the bottle and spray a third of it over bystanders? The best way is remove the foil, loosen the wire cage, hold the cage / cork and base of the bottle and twist the bottle not the cork, gradually easing the cork out of the bottle. You want to hear a whisper as the cork comes out not a head turning pop. A top tip is then hold the bottle a 45 degrees for a few seconds and this will stop the champagne from foaming out of the bottle. At Laurent-Perrier we have tradition – If you share a bottle with a friend: one person keeps the cage, the other the cork, when you next meet, failure to produce the cork or cage means it’s your round.
- Experiment with different food pairings – The most important rule to remember when pairing any food and wine is whatever a person thinks is a good match, it is! Given the very subjective nature of food pairing, my view is if it works for you then that’s fine.
- Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path – While our benchmark Rosé with its delicate berry-fruit flavours and exceptional freshness is always a fantastic option for Summer’s warm temperatures, our extra-dry Ultra Brut or gentle Demi-Sec are also worth discovering.
- Have fun! – Above all champagne is renowned as a drink of celebration but don’t get constrained by thinking it has to be a ‘special occasion’. It’s a drink made for sharing and has a unique ability to make any moment special, be it the end of a busy week, or simply because the sun is out. Just make sure you have a bottle at the ready.