“Bubbles Before Swine” Champagne and Charcuterie
“Bubbles Before Swine”
Champagne and Charcuterie at the 2012 Charleston Wine and Food Festival
By Laney Roberts
Champagne needs no definition. Charcuterie, however, may need an introduction. Beginning in the 15th century, this craft was originally intended as a means to preserve meats before refrigeration. It has since developed into its own branch of cooking devoted to prepared meats (usually pork) in products such as bacon, sausages, pates, terrines and confit. The resultant flavors and textures make charcuterie plates a stimulating experience. That experience is elevated when paired with champagne.
Thanks to EAT THIS! I was able to enjoy just such an experience. The “Champagne and Charcuterie” event, hosted by the Culinary Institute of Charleston, brought together six beautiful Grower Champagnes selected by Kevin Pike of Michael Skurnik Wines of New York and six gorgeous bites created by Jason Houser of Meathouse of Charleston. The pairings were perfect despite the fact that they were all accomplished via email. Kudos to the talent of the aforementioned gentlemen!
I loved that the event celebrated the philosophy of local and sustainable. As diverse and distant as Champagne, France and Charleston, South Carolina are, they both share the commonality of pride of place. For France, it is a pride in the unique terroir that produces the most sought after sparkling wines of the world. Grower Champagnes are a delightful microcosm of the bubble industry. They are produced from the grapes grown on the small acreage of the farmer who is also the vintner. The output is limited and very reflective of the place in which it is grown. Unlike mass produced champagnes, these sparklers do not pander to the sweeter tastes of the New World market and are not usually dosaged (the addition of sugar). They are boutique wines that I felt privileged to taste.
For South Carolina, it is a strong pride in the tradition of farm to table. Jason Houser sources his pork from one farm. They are heirloom varietals of hogs - Tamworth and Berkshire. They are fed from grains raised and milled, without preservatives added, on the farm next door. In addition to the grain, the hogs are allowed to forage for themselves and the seasonality of their foraging - for instance acorns in the fall - produces unique flavors in the products that Houser produces throughout the year. Truly, his pork tastes of South Carolina.
All tastes were wonderful and so unique, but the palate is subjective and two parings stood out for me. The Pehu-Simonet “Selection” Brut, N.V. was paired with a fennel pollen salami and white bean hummus - the creamy, earthy nuances of the hummus and the hint of anise from the fennel made the bubbles dance while the meatiness of the salami struck an amazing bass note to the pairing. The Aubry Rose Brut, N.V. was paired with country pork pate with pistachios and pickled cucumber - a head on collision of flavors with well matched acidity and contrasting textures. Gorgeous! And then there was the dark horse - Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” Brut, N.V. This was my least favorite of these impressive champagnes, but when paired with the creamy note of the well executed chicken liver pate and the double down acidity of the pickled mustard seed, the sip was sublime.
All of the wines featured in this year’s Wine and Food Festival are, at least for the time being, available at Whole Foods in Mt. Pleasant. Shoppers Advisory: Not one of these bottles retailed for under $40. As for those gorgeous pork products, Jason Houser and Meathouse will be hawking his wares starting April 7th at the Marion Square Farmers’ Market.
By the way, this is one of the “Under $100 Alternatives” from EAT THIS! At $50 this event was a bargain. Hopefully next year this one will sneak under the radar and remain at this affordable price. Don’t miss it!