Spring was in the air this April (in Los Angeles, not Paris or even Epernay) at the enchanting Sunset Marquis where Nicolas Feuillatte Champagnes were being poured for lunch. Nicolas Feuillatte, the #1 best selling Champagne in France is looking to take over the world one heavenly palate at a time (starting with us stateside Francophiles!).
Chef de Cave, Jean-Pierre Vincent was the special guest, and we were able to coax some secrets out of the down-to-earth Frenchman, but first the menu (prepared by the Marquis’ chef Guillaume Burlion) paired with the sparkling Champagnes :
with Blanc de Blancs* 2004 and Brut Vintage 2004
Ravioli of Foie Gras in a Sauternes Sauce
with Cuvee Speciale Vintage* 2000
*40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier
Roasted Chilean Sea Bass in a Bacon Crust with a Caviar Sauce
with Cuvee 225 Vintage* 2003
*50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay
Wild Mushroom Coated Filet Mignon of Venison with Braised Endives, Fresh Pea Fritters, Gilroy Crème Sauce
with Palmes d’Or* Brut Vintage 1996 in Magnums
*Palmes d’Or is Vincent’s masterpiece and is an elegant creation
50% Chardonnay from 3 Grand Crus: Chouilly, Cramant, Mesnil-sur-Oger and 50% Pinot Noir from 5 famed Grand Crus: Bouzy, Verzenay, Ambonnay, Ay and Verzy. And one non grand Cru: Mongueux, always a favorite of Vincent.
Molten Chocolate Cake with Fresh Berry Coulis
with Brut Rosé Non Vintage
Each of these versatile Champagnes smoothly accompanied each course in a never-ending cascade of flavors in various shades of Rosé, with hints of apricot, strawberries to caramel and woodsy splendor.
After dessert Jean-Pierre graciously discussed his inspirations with us.
Here are the highlights:
WWW: After 34 years, you are #1 in France and #5 in the U.S. what does it mean to you?
JPV: It’s incredible. Because when I started to work in 76 at the Centre Vinicole de la Champagne and (with) then in 86 when we acquired Nicolas Feuillatte, we started with 500,000 bottles. At that time, we thought maybe it’s possible to sell 1 million, but now we sell more than 9 million. We ask ourselves why? I think because the wine is good, it’s modern, we are not so sophisticated, we like to drink, I think NF is not a snobby Champagne. I’m very proud.
WWW: In the U.S. we drink Champagne for special occasions – not everyday, do you think it’s different in France?
JPV: It’s the same in France. When I am at home I drink Champagne as an aperitif, but I normally drink wine with food. When we spend a day or lunch with Champagne it is magic. You don’t get tired or sick from it – I don’t know why but it really is magic.
WWW: I agree.
WWW: The Palmes d’Or – your masterpiece blend– what do you look for when you are blending it?
JVP: When I blend the Brut I am respecting the consumer; When I blend the Vintage I am respecting the Sommelier; When I blend the Palmes d’Or I respect my choice. Doing the Palmes d’Or is the only way to do the Champagne I love. It is not the problem of the consumer or the market, it is the wine I want. It is not easy to produce a million bottles, but for me it is good to do the wine that I like. For me it’s an easier wine to do. The Brut is very difficult, the Palmes d’Or the Prestige Cuvee is easy – I take the best of the best. Today the Palmes d’Or we are drinking is 14 yrs. old, and very well balanced.
(a long talk about expansion and Champagne politics which I will spare you)
WWW: Woman and Champagne – there is something about why we love it so much, being a French man, can you help us understand that?
JVP: There is a saying that a woman who drinks Champagne is more beautiful after than before. Champagne is magic. When we have a dinner, everyone is laughing, everybody is having a good time, I think women like that. Men do too, but men are very straight…I think Champagne is good for women.
WWW: You are in the world of Champagne and have a good life with your family there – which is like a dream for most people – what do YOU like to do to relax? Where do you like to go?
JVP: To relax I have a new thing now – a granddaughter – which is good for relaxation (he laughs) – I hope when I retire that I can stop “tasting” and just be able to drink –simply. I play golf, I read, I do other things, when I retire, I want to travel to relax – I have a passion for photography, I hope to do that – I hope to go fishing. Golf is good – only to face the small ball – I hope to have the possibility to that – just focus on the ball.
WWW: Do you have a favorite place in the world?
JVP: (no hesitation) San Francisco and New York. I had a chance to go to Polynesia – it’s expensive but very beautiful. In France, I like Brittany, it’s wild, I like Corsica, it’s different, but I prefer Brittany – it’s sunny, I like it very much. I like France because it is so beautiful. I like Ireland, Reunion, places like that. In a few days I am going to the Alps for the fresh air and relax. I love nature, I am not an ecologist, but I love to be in nature and photograph. In the beginning I wanted to work in the forest, but…ended up in Champagne…next month with my daughters we will spend 2 weeks in Brittany, in the north. I am looking forward to that.
WWW: Thank you Jean-Pierre. Have a wonderful trip.
Winewomanworld is happy to say that The Centre Vinicole-Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte uses 100% green electricity and 100% of the waste is recycled!