Emerging from South Kensington tube station to be greeted by a cold and dark London evening, it didn’t take long, thankfully, to locate La Cave a Fromage. I literally followed my nose to the cheese shop, where the couple behind the French Bubbles enterprise warmly welcomed me. I had been invited by Stefano Frigerio to attend the Champagne and Cheese tasting evening (tickets start at £40 per person) and after a long day in the office could think of nothing more delightful than pairing two of my favourite things in life – Champagne and cheese. I was not disappointed.
The staff at La Cave a Fromage are not only welcoming but also incredibly knowledgeable and attentive about all things cheesy. With a huge range of French and British cheeses, they were proud of their shop and genuinely passionate about the idea of pairing cheese and Champagne.
The French Bubbles duo certainly know a thing or two about Champagne too, and their passion for supporting the growers directly was infectious. The conversation flowed inbetween insights from La Cave a Fromage and French Bubbles about why each pairing worked so well, and background to the grower Champagne concept.
A lively group of 20-plus people attended the tasting event, mostly couples, as well as a group of ladies post-work, and two people celebrating their birthdays in style.
We were presented with four premium Champagnes along with specially selected cheeses. A meat selection, bread and crackers were also provided, so it constituted an evening meal for me. Pairing cheese and Champagne is not common, but how often do we select a lovely bottle of red to go with our cheeseboard at the end of a meal? Why not go for Champagne for a special occasion?
French Bubbles was founded in June 2008 by Stefano Frigerio and Maud Fierobe and is the only company in London specialising in grower Champagnes. House Champagnes, which constitute more than three-quarters of sales are pitched as over-priced and lacking in “soul and character” compared to the 5,000 growers of Champagne, which own their small vineyards and produce their wine from the picking through to the bottling. “They are less expensive”, says Maud, “because they lack the huge marketing budgets associated with House Champagnes such as Moet & Chandon”. There are 261 Houses of Champagne but only 12% own their vineyards, according to French Bubbles. The Champagne is made into a specific House style, which is consistent year to year, while grower Champagne has more “unique character”.
Stefano and Maud created French Bubbles to meet growing demand and interest in artisanal wine. British consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the winemaking process and taking an interest in the provenance of the wine they drink. There is also more consideration at the point of purchase, as people may be spending less on cheese and wine per shopping trip, but shopping more regularly, according to the duo.
In 2009, the UK Champagne market dropped by 15%, while grower Champagne rose by 17%. In 2010, growers produced 23% of all Champagne and UK imports of grower Champagne stood at just 4%. Stefano predicts that demand for grower Champagne will continue to rise as people learn more about the provenance and production of Champagne, and have the opportunity to taste. As part of the French Bubbles mission to introduce the British wine lovers to grower Champagne, the company works in conjunction with some unique companies to provide original pairing opportunities such as sushi and chocolate.
French Bubbles Champagnes, tasting event tickets and gift packs can be bought directly from their website (www.frenchbubbles.co.uk). The company also provides an on-trade service at hugely competitive prices, which enables restaurants and bars to offer a wider range of Champagnes to meet different tastes, interests in Champagne and budgets. Grower Champagnes could open up French Bubbly to a whole new market of people through food pairing events, as well as a lower price and higher margin proposition for the restaurant owner. If this means there will be more affordable and delicious Champagne on the menu, then, yes, please.
Examples of cheese and Champagne pairing, as suggested by French Bubbles and La Cave a Fromage:
Champagne Waris- Larmandier cuvée Sensation
60% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Blanc, 5% Pinot Meunier
St Maure de Tourraine Goat cheese
Champagne Michel Furdyna La Réserve Blanc de Noirs
100% Pinot Noir
Loire Brillat Savarin
Triple cream cheese
Champagne Michel Furdyna Brut Rosé
100% Pinot Noir
Chaource Double cream cheese
Jambon Noir de Bigorre, South of France
Cecinas Beef leg cut smoked, Spain
Champagne Waris- Larmandier cuvée
Empreinte Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2004
Ossau Iraty matured for 3 years
French Bubbles - Free delivery over £50
www.frenchbubbles.co.uk email@example.com 0800 077 4455
La Cave a Fromage, 24-25 Cromwell Place, Kensington, London, SW7 2LD
34-35 Western Road, Hove, Brighton, BN3 1AF