A Cause for Celebration

Blanc de Blancs, Langres cheese and bread

Right after making the 100-mile trip to Montauk last week, Laura asked me how I wanted to celebrate. “Champagne,” I told her simply, before I passed out in bed.

Upon my arrival back in Manhattan, I went to Astor Wines and got a bottle of Voirin-Jumel Blanc de Blancs—a grower Champagne from the Côte de Blancs sub-region of Champagne, France.

Langres Cheese

We were trying to decide what to pair with our bottle, when I remembered a very unique cheese we had tried a few months earlier—Langres, a washed-rind cow’s milk cheese also from Champagne.

The Langres, housed in its own little wooden box, is cylindrical, with an wrinkled orange rind that almost resembles a brain, and a concave top.

So, why did I select Langres to eat with our Champagne? Well, the hollow top is designed so that the cheese can hold a good dousing of Champagne! Yes, you’re supposed to douse your Langres with Champagne.

Once you cut into the now-drenched Langres, you discover a creamy, buttery center, slightly pungent but very sweet and milky. The Champagne adds a fizzy burst to the already strong cheese. If you’re really adventurous, you can even drink the cheese-champagne mixture that remains at the bottom of the box.

Voirin-Jumel Blanc de Blancs and Langres Cheese

The Voirin-Jumel is made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes. It has a very bright, expressive nose of citrus fruits with some floral notes that are offset by a bit of yeastiness. Crisp green apples and more citrus appear on the palette, combined with a creamy mouthfeel at the end. A very brilliant Champagne for the price.

When many people hear Champagne, they think of only a handful of brand names. The big Champagne houses produce more than 80 percent of the total output in the region, yet they own only 12 percent of the vineyards. They buy most of their crop from smaller farms in the area, and blend them to maintain a consistent house-style year after year.

Cheese and champagne pairing

Even though there are 15,000 or so small farms in Champagne, only a couple thousand can afford to offset the cost of production, the rest end up selling their crop to be part of the large house’s non-vintage blends. The big Champagne brands account for 97 percent of Champagne sold in the U.S.

Because the grower Champagnes use only grapes from their own plots of land, the wines they produce are rich in terroir—the French term for the character of a particular vineyard and its soil. With many of these bottles being priced on par with or even less than the big names, the quality of the wine you get for the cost is outstanding.

Amazing Champagne for not a lot of money? Now that’s something worth celebrating on its own.

How to read a champagne wine label

Want to try a grower Champagne? They can be identified by the initials RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) in front of a number on the label. Conversely, wines made by the big houses will carry a NM (Négociant-Manipulant) on their labels.

- Ryan

P.S. Today we’re also celebrating the launch of Gilt Taste’s wine shop. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to taste their final wine selections and give my thoughts. I tasted alongside Ruth Reichl and some other fantastic folks in the industry. You can read my Gilt Taste Q&A here.

14 Comments

  1. denise
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 16:46:23

    Can’t wait to try the Langres! I think I will love it! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  2. Katharina
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 17:12:52

    That cheese with champagne sounds fantastic! Pairing things from the same region is almost like traveling to me :) And thank you for the tips on champagne. I have a family friend that has a back room full of wines and champagnes (the latter being his preference), and he always pulls out small bottles for his guests. And he goes back there repeatedly to open another one for himself lol. This post just reminded me of him :)

    XO!

    Reply

  3. baobabs
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 21:42:28

    Sounds amazing! Haven’t tried Voirin-Jumel Blanc de Blancs nor dousing my langres with champagne! Love boutique champagne labels and not a fan of the big labels. Am very fond of J. Lassalle, also a blanc de blanc. Recently also enjoyed a very drinkable Champagne at *** Le Petit Nice-Passedat that the chef has produced for his restaurant in Marseilles.

    Reply

  4. Bryan Maletis
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 14:21:22

    Great pairing with your grower bubbles, keep it up!

    Reply

  5. Sasha
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 16:46:06

    Love the cheese board! Do you mind sharing where it’s from?

    Reply

    • Smith & Ratliff
      Aug 24, 2011 @ 17:00:14

      Of course! We got ours from Murray’s Cheese here in the city, but coincidentally Gilt Taste also sells it too: Brooklyn Slate Cheese Board. We love it, and it even comes with a cute burlap bag for storage and chalk! -LR

      Reply

      • Sasha
        Aug 25, 2011 @ 12:14:16

        thank you! love the blog.

  6. michele Busch
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 18:52:47

    You two are always doing something interesting! This sounds like a way to kick off a romantic evening.

    Reply

  7. natalie @ The SoHo
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 19:49:16

    I think I could live off of bread, cheese and champagne. This sounds so interesting!

    Reply

  8. Mike @ How To Make A Smoothie At Home
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 20:49:39

    Great post. Thanks for sharing great information. Bread & champagne make a great combo!!

    Reply

  9. Habitat Providence
    Aug 29, 2011 @ 09:15:37

    I am definitely going to try Langres and douse it with Champagne. Tres chic!

    Reply

  10. Gayatri
    Aug 31, 2011 @ 04:58:15

    Oh. This is beautiful. And such a wonderful concept. Love the photos. Its now on my list of things to try. Thank you!

    ————–
    Gayatri
    Look who’s Wearing (LwW)

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Back to Top