The Phoenix was the perfect setting with which to complement one of the world’s most iconic champagnes for a delightful dinner that had the award-winning kitchen brigade under the artful eye of Executive Chef Daniel Debattista serving and volleying with the creations of Bollinger. This classic champagne house, well know to be ordered by Mr. Bond at crucial moments displayed its 007 characteristics in fine fashion with live tasting notes supplied on the occasion by Bastien Mariani from Bollinger who had flown in from the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay especially for the evening.
Bastien has travelled the world educating on the advantages of luxury products, and for the evening had selected four elegant examples to pair with the four dishes, as well as a Special Cuvée en Magnum to get the evening underway accompanied by an interesting assortment of Blinis, Mushroom Palmers and Gougers, as we all milled and thrilled about the evening ahead. The Blinis in particular brought out the special in the Bollinger Special Cuvée topped with keta caviar and a sauce vert. The salmon roe simply seemed to pop in the champagne bubbles and set up very nicely the anticipation to try La Grand Année 2008 which was to be the star of the show, La Grand Année 2008 En Magnum and Bollinger Rosé En Magnum.
Such has been the demand for bottles of the recently launched Bollinger La Grande Année 2008, Mentzendorff, the Champagne house’s UK agent, has “pressed pause” on the release of magnums and Jeroboams of the fizz, so the Malta tasting was indeed to be a real and rare treat.We learn that there are two sub-categories of Champagne: “brut” and “demi-sec”. Different types of Champagne range between demi-sec and brut, depending on how much sugar cane is in them.As we process this new information, the Bollinger La Grand Année 2008 arrives, with the acidity and bubbles that are the charms of Champagne, and perfectly paired to a Citrus Smoked Monkfish, while the savoury spice of a Piment d’ Espelette was enhanced by mussels, cucumber, basil and of course bubbles.
Next La Grand Anée came this time with Grouper that melted in the mouth with tomato, fennel and marjoram. Here is a Maltese dish, ‘Aljotta’ to rival anything from a Mediterranean kitchen. The lively and refreshing taste enhanced by the vintage fizzing wine which goes perfectly with all kinds of fish. Regal and heroic it has some sublime elements which lifts every experience to new heights.
Again local produce allows Bollinger La Grand Année 2008 En Magnum to reveal in the stuffed local Rabbit a delicacy and richness of flavour which was truly an epiphany. Ham hock, carrot ‘tajine’, peas and an inspired black olive stracciatella made this the hero dish of the evening and a worthy accompaniment to the structured crispness of the wine.
In the same way that Special Cuvée stands apart from non-vintage Champagnes, Bollinger Rosé is an exception for Rosé Champagnes. What is more, it is a relative secret, as Bollinger did not release a non-vintage Rosé until 2008 and the quantity produced is quite limited. The wine begins as Special Cuvée and then Bollinger’s specialty as the Pinot Noir producer in Champagne takes centre stage, as the red fruits that join the conversation dance vibrantly, the finish has just a hint of perfectly ripe tannin, and the deep complexity of the wine shines through transparently. Here it was able to shine paired to Mgarr Strawberry tart.
Made from 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Chardonnay from 18 different crus, Bollinger’s cellar master, Gilles Descôtes, describes La Grande Année 2008 as “structured and rich in texture with creamy effervescence, delicate bitterness and a long saline finish”. The same could have been said about this exceptional culinary evening finished with Delamain Cognac ‘Vesper’, from Champagne’s finest terroir, the evening star.