15 October 2011

Cheese and wine in Champagne

Sparkling wines are not the only ones made in the Champagne region. People also make still wines, both red and white. Non-sparkling ("still") white wines are harder to find in Champagne these days, but I remember them from the 1970s when I visited the region with friends. They're Chardonnay wines, of course. Nowadays, nearly all the Chardonnay grapes go into sparkling Champagne, because there is such great demand for champagne.

Serve Bouzy Rouge chilled

In Bouzy, where Pinot Noir grapes predominate, the red grape juice is made into either standard blended champagne, or into Blanc de Noirs — white champage made with red grapes — or, finally, into still red wine under the name Coteaux Champenois. The still red wine made in Bouzy is commonly called Bouzy Rouge, as you see in the picture above. It's a very light red wine, and the recommendations of the producer of the one pictured, Pierre Guillemette, are to put the bottle into the refrigerator for two hours, but no longer, before opening and drinking it.

Chaource cheese from the village of the same name
in Champagne

What goes with red wine? Cheese, of course. (As I write that, going through my head is the thought that white wines are also very good with many cheeses, but never mind.) What cheeses are made in the Champagne region? Several, really, but the stand-out cheese comes from the village of Chaource in the southern part of the region, near its border with Burgundy. The cheese carries the name of the village, Chaource.

A small Chaource and a Camembert, for comparison

It's a cow's milk cheese that is creamy and crumbly at the same time. The crust and the cheese inside are both very white. Chaource resembles Camembert in shape but is a thicker disk, and it's made in two sizes, large and small. It's also milder in taste. The Larousse cheese book describes the flavor as resembling hazelnuts but with some sharpness (« Saveur très noisettée bien qu'un peu acide. »).

Two champagnes of contrasting styles: a Château de Bligny
Blanc de Blancs from down near Troyes and Chaource,
and a Barnaut Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs from Bouzy
on the Montagne de Reims

When in Champagne, however, do as the Champenois do — drink champagne. It's also good with Chaource cheese, or others. Dry white wine is very good with goat's-milk cheeses, for example. Sweeter white wine goes with Roquefort or other fromages bleus like Fourme d'Ambert, Bleu d'Auvergne, or Bleu de Gex. Now I'm hungry...


  1. I notice the Champagne bottles are empty. Is that's why the photo is blurry? ;)

  2. LOL Martine!

    I, too, am hungry now! And it's only 3:00 a.m. Never mind, I'll have an early breakfast.

  3. Love your comment, Martine! Still having a bit of jet lag, chm?

    Those local cheeses look lovely, Ken.

  4. Chaource was the one that got away on our recent cheese-intensive trip. Next time! Now we're missing really good cheese. Yesterday we took the
    two-hour drive to a store with a good selection and stocked up, but didn't find Chaource. Hey, what did I expect? This IS Pennsylvania (as the state store man used to remind me).

  5. I learn so much from your posts, Ken!

  6. and i'm thirsty......mimosas perhaps!

  7. Martine, my camera lens fogged up because it was cold outside. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

  8. Excuses! Excuses! LOL

  9. I don't like red wine chilled. I prefer it at room temperature.

  10. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
    I don't buy, as you say, folks, lol !!!


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