Thirty years ago, a 16-year-old named Dan Buckle worked a summer job installing the irrigation system at a budding Yarra Valley winery that was then little more than a building site. Today, Buckle is senior winemaker at that same winery: Domaine Chandon.
“Life takes its funny turns,” says Buckle, who grew up on the Mornington Peninsula where his father tended a hobby vineyard. Working at restaurants during uni prompted him to revisit his dad’s interest in grapes. Buckle embarked on a winemaking degree “and never looked back”.
Domaine Chandon has genuine French heritage. The founders of
Moët & Chandon searched worldwide in the hope of finding an ideal climate in which to apply Champagne expertise to local varieties. Victoria’s Yarra Valley had just the cool climate that was needed. The bold redesign of its cellar door and restaurant won an Asia Pacific INDE.Award (in The Shopping Space category) and won the Australia & Pacific Bar award at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in the UK.
The team regularly hosts a masterclass on all aspects of sparkling-wine production at the vineyard – something Buckle hopes helps correct some common misconceptions.
“People often think of sparkling wine as a before-dinner thing, or a party thing,” he says. “It’s actually terrific to have with a meal, and can go really widely across different ranges of food.”
We asked Buckle for his guide to pairing sparkling with food.
Cuvée with fancy fish and chips
Sparkling wine and fish and chips? Buckle says it’s a winner. “We really love fish and chips with sparkling,” he says. “It’s marvellous. “The acidity in the wine complements seafood and helps cut through the saltiness, keeping the pairing delicious.”
While the pairing still works with your favourite finds from your local fishmonger, at Domaine Chandon executive chef Joshua Smyth has an elegant spin –a Chandon Cellar Door Release Meunier Cuvée 2014 with a main of fried silver whiting fillets, served with lemon mayonnaise and pommes frites with rosemary salt and aioli.
Rosé with duck
Pairing a rich meat with rosé allows the wine’s innate fruit notes to offset the gaminess of a dish like duck.
“The red berry flavours that come with the pinot noir [grapes] in rosé – cherry and redcurrant and cranberry – are a really nice offset alongside duck,” says Buckle, who likes the restaurant’s confit free-range duck leg with truffled polenta, wild-mushroom civet and baby spinach, with a Chandon Vintage Brut Rosé 2014. “Duck with cherry sauce is a classic French dish,” he says, “so this replaces [that] with a wine that has a strong cherry element.”
Cuvée and risotto
“Risotto can be a little bit heavy,” says Buckle. "But sparkling wine brings a lightness to it. It’s really refreshing.” Smyth pairs the Chandon Vintage Blanc de Noirs 2014’s aromas of red cherry, plum and raspberry with a pumpkin and pecorino risotto, finished with mascarpone.
Dessert-style sparkling and cheese
Some people reach for the chocolate when it’s time for dessert, but sparkling – like the new Le Petit Chandon – also goes well with a classic cheeseboard. “It’s just beautiful with blue cheese, like a bit of Roquefort or gorgonzola,” says Buckle. “You’ve got that salty cheese and the sweet wine, and the combination just goes so well together.”
For all its daily pairings, sparkling wine is still synonymous with momentous occasions. “Every bottle we produce is going off to someone’s celebration or marks a little moment in people’s lives,” says Buckle. “Sparkling is special like that.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Domaine Chandon.