I had the great pleasure to be one of nine at an all Cuvee Louise Champagne Dinner with the fascinating Mrs. Nathalie Vranken. Pommery teamed up with Dinner by Heston at the heart of Crown Towers to create an intimate dinner to showcase what this cuvee has to offer. I went into the evening with no predisposition to what I’d be tasting, having not had the privilege to try much of Pommery’s prestige cuvee prior to this event. But what I do know is, Louise is not just a name but the reason this Maison exists. This prestige cuvee was first produced in 1979, dedicated to Madame Pommery’s daughter Louise. The Cuvee is pure, low in sugar and uses unique processes at every stage of production to express the Avant-guard woman who inspired it.
There is a lot to say about high powered Parisian women. Their strong quick wit, class and most importantly, their undeniable presence. All of which was clearly projected when I met Mrs. Vranken. She was everything I hoped she would be. She spoke of the Champagne as if it were alive and a part of who she is. Mrs.Vranken is first and foremost a true business woman, taking the helm as Co- Owner and head of the Marketing Division at Vranken- Pommery Monopole. But what I found refreshingly different about her is she is true to her brand and lets everyone fashion an opinion of the Champagnes for themselves as she joined us as a guest and not the host of the evening. The line-up was above all things an experience – for each course we had two Champagnes to compare.
We kicked off the dinner with the Louise Brut Nature 2004 alongside the Brut 2004. As the Champagne was poured Madame Vranken said “Of all the Louise Cuvees the Brut Nature is the only bottle with a transparent label, because the wine is itself naked”. I love zero dosage Champagnes for many reasons, but for that exact reason I love it most. Without added dosage it cannot hide any flaws, and you see the wine as it is. It was interesting to see the same vintage in the Brut and Brut Nature side by side as they both possess great freshness and length. Their colour was very comparable with yellow shades, and slightly green reflections in both. The Brut had more of a rounded, silky, rich texture, with more depth in the palate than the nose let on, with almond butter and biscuit notes. The Brut Nature was intimately tenser with focus on zest and floral notes and kept that linear minerality through the palate.
The next course we got to see something very special, the 2002 Brut alongside the 1996 Brut. What made the 1996 so special was only 30 bottles were ever brought into Australia and only 60 bottles in Asia Pacific. Excitingly we got to see the last of it. The 96 was full of reflection and had a beautiful amber hue, but once poured it was quite tight and took a bit of time to open in the glass. Mrs. Vranken gave a flawless description whilst we waited until it was perfect to drink, “This Louise is shy, more conservative and takes time to open up to you, like all great women she’s worth the wait”. Once the wine had time in the glass she described the pairing of the 1996 and the matched dish of Cod in Cider sauce as “Terre et Mer”, the perfect balance of land and sea, and the nose as a “perfect French breakfast”. I couldn’t agree more. The 1996 had complete bold richness, with the 2002 being a much younger wine having a lot more freshness, a touch of toast, but it’s rich complex texture and fine structure stood out to me the most. Even though considered dry it feels soft, and is so well integrated with elegant hints of apple, apricot and layers of minerality. When it comes to longevity this Champagne hasn’t aged a day and continues to show such great freshness.
The next duo of Champagnes for the evening was the 2000 Louise Brut Rose and the 1999 Louise Brut served with perfectly cooked venison and blotted cherries, again proving that Champagne can be just as good of a food wine as any other wine style. The Rose was slightly amber with delicate salmon hues much lighter than I expected. The nose was beautifully sophisticated complimenting the blotted cherries in the dish, with hints of strawberry, white fruit and biscuit notes. The palate had great length and complexity, medium bodied to back up the venison and much more boldness than I expected. The 1999 took on slightly more matured flavours with toasted brioche, golden apple and lemon zest, but still maintained its youthful structure with long length and a flourish of minerality, upholding the delicate Louise style. We continued to have the 1999 with a serving of cheeses and the 2000 Rose with a dessert, Tarte of Strawberries.
I was very impressed with the expertise and the thought put into the food parings. The team at Dinner by Heston and the Pommery team put on a fantastic dinner and it won’t be long before I go back. Overall this dinner was beautifully done, from the outstanding quality of Champagnes we got to see, to the remarkable stories told by Mrs. Vranken. All the while seated in a divine private dining room with the glimmering backdrop of the Melbourne city skyline. The Louise Cuvee will be a new love in my life and I look forward to getting my hands on more.