a community of wine lovers


Le Champagne, the wine, La Champagne the region

One of the most fascinating aspects of Champagne is the contrast between the world's most extroverted, luxurious, and exuberant wine and the Champagne region itself, which is quiet, hardworking, down to earth. In almost every wine region, local foods are natural partners to the local wines. Yet here, though Champagne is the epitome of refined elegance, the regional cuisine champenoise remains straightforward, nourishing, economical.

Monsieur René and Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy are, like Mario Fontana in Barolo, winegrower farmers with their feet firmly rooted in the calcareous terrain that gives life to the vines. After a day spent tending these cool northern vineyards, they are as likely as not to sit down to a simple country meal of salade aux lardons - dandelion leaves picked from the vineyard, served with a hot dressing of fried lardons of bacon and a dash of Champagne vinegar, followed by a one pot meal such as potée chamepnoise, a robust medley of chunks of rabbit, bacon, cabbage, potatoes and other vegetables. This is food to sit down to after a day spent in the vineyards, when fingers are chafed and numb, backs stiff and creaking. What matter that today a vigneron in this most exclusive wine region can drive a Mercedes or the newest tractor? Still, it is the land that provides, and its elemental flavours are goodenough for him.

La potée champenoise — rabbit and bean stew
serves 6

This recipe is just right for the cold snap of weather that's set to move in this weekend. Would we drink Champagne with this? Well, to be honest, we can quite happily drink Champagne with just about anything. But I would probably choose a bottle of full red wine, such as Mario's Barbera or Donatella's Rosso di Montalcino.

1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 rabbits, cut into pieces
Small joint of unsmoked bacon (soak for 1/2 hour if very salty)
2 tins white haricot beans
6 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, coarsely chopped
2 sticks of celery, cut into long lengths
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Cold water
1 small cabbage, cut into chunks
1 kg 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

Melt butter and oil in a large pot and gently sauté onion and garlic. When golden, add pieces of rabbit and allow and gently brown. Add bacon, beans, carrots, leeks, celery and seasonings. Cover with water and slowly bring to the boil. Skim off scum, cover and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add cabbage and potatoes, adjust seasoning, and cook until tender.

Remove bacon and rabbit, and drain liquid. This can be served as a soup for a first course. Place vegetables on a large serving platter. Carve bacon, and arrange rabbit on top of vegetables.

Wine: Accompany, why not, with Champagne René Geoffroy Cuvée Empreinte — or with Mario Fontana's Barbera d'Alba or Donatella Cinelli Colombini's Rosso di Montalcino.


Copyright Marc Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved
Images copyright Kim Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved

Quay Press