Like many of us, Melbourne's Lupo head chef Stu McVeigh likes to kick off a celebratory meal with a glass of champagne. “It’s common to think about champagne as a start-of-the-meal drink, and it’s certainly great to serve with oysters or some crudo,” he says.
But British-born McVeigh – who saw plenty of champagne being poured when he worked at the swanky, Michelin-starred Square restaurant in London – reckons the drink is more versatile than it’s generally given credit for. “Champagne can enliven almost any main meal,” he says. “If you understand how different champagnes are composed, meat pairings start to make a lot of sense.”
We asked McVeigh – who was one of this year's Broadsheet Kitchen mentors – to pair four meats with different champagnes from the Moët & Chandon range.
“White meat works particularly well with a fruity champagne like Moët Impérial,” McVeigh says. Created in 1869, Impérial blends more than 100 different wines, resulting in a citrusy drink with nuances of gooseberry and blond notes such as brioche and cereal.
“I’m thinking a roasted chicken would pair well,” McVeigh says. “The crusty skin will really pick up those brioche and oat nuances, and the richness and fattiness of the whole bird will go really well with citrus notes in the champagne. To cut through, some fermented garlic will give the dish a really deep umami flavour, and then spring peas for a hint of sweetness.”
McVeigh advises that aged duck pairs fantastically with rosé. Your best bet is a wine that contains notes of red fruits like wild strawberry, raspberry and cherry.
“In reference to the red fruit in a wine like Rosé Impérial – and to give it a little bit of funk – I’d serve the duck with cherries, a cracking beetroot purée and some Sichuan pepper to pick up those notes of spice through the wine,” he says. “You could even swap the cherries for blackberries to give it some little pops of acidity with sweetness at the same time.”
Try serving a pork dish with a champagne that amps up tropical fruit flavours. Moët Ice Impérial, the first champagne especially created to be enjoyed over ice, incorporates fruits such as mango and guava, which McVeigh recommends pairing with an Asian-style salad. “I’d go with a sticky-pork salad with a really good depth of flavour,” he says.
“The pork would be marinated with palm sugar and fish sauce then fried and served with pickled vegetables, green mango and crushed peanuts. A dish like this hits all those wonderful notes in Thai cooking – sweet, sour, salty, spicy – and Moët Ice Impérial will complement that combination marvellously.”
McVeigh chose Grand Vintage Rosé 2009 to pair with the most unusual meat on his list: the oft-misunderstood pigeon. “This is a beautiful vintage,” he says. “A pigeon dish would work really, really well with the pinot noir base – it’s a slightly more mature-flavoured meat but it eats really well.”
The vintage’s berry-focused bouquet also contains hints of candies such as marshmallows and caramel apples, plus notes of nutmeg, dried fig and black cherry. “I’d serve the pigeon with toasted buckwheat, figs and sour cherries, almost like a toasted muesli,” McVeigh says. “It’s a super-textural dish: you’ve got the lovely rich, velvety pigeon and the really crunchy, fruity, slightly spicy notes through the accompaniments.”
This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Moët & Chandon.