Having little by little fallen out of favour, demi-sec champagne is now making a comeback. Sweeter than a Brut champagne, it fell victim to the trend of drinking champagne as an aperitif rather than with dessert, with much less being consumed as a result. Traditionally champagne was drunk at tea-time, to accompany a slice of cake, or at the end of a meal with dessert, but over the last 30 years champagne has become the world’s favourite aperitif thanks to its freshness and lightness of palate, perfect for awakening the appetite.
The champagne houses and growers accentuated this movement by reducing sugar levels, evolving from the demi-sec (sweet) to Brut and towards the current predilection for Ultra Brut (little sugar), and even Nature (no sugar) cuvees.
Once considered old fashioned, demi-sec has taken its revenge by becoming the summer drink of the moment, with Moët Ice served on crushed ice in a large glass, or with Byzantine by Gardet, and Extra Dry (sweeter than a Brut but not as sweet as a demi-sec), which is suggested served with sprigs of mint or chunks of fresh fruit; an interesting idea that gives free rein to the imagination with the possibility of numerous gourmand associations. Just one drawback, there is a tendency to serve these champagnes too cold, which masks some of the aromas.
For me, it is of course the gastronomic possibilities of these demi-sec champagnes that interest me the most. Cuvees such as Rich by Pol Roger or Philipponnat Sublime Réserve, with their perfectly integrated sweetness which leaves room for a light freshness, can happily be served with foie gras canapés or Spanish style tapas, but also with a cheese soufflé or a cold starter of goat’s cheese, honey and walnuts. Sweet and sour dishes are particularly good matches for a demi-sec. On the other hand, I would not recommend this type of champagne with smoked salmon.
Certain cheeses will also reveal all their qualities with a champagne such as Tendresse from the house of Jean Milan which combines an incredible minerality and an assertive expression of the Oger terroir with the softness of a demi-sec dosage. Finally, a champagne such as the cuvee Elixir by René Geoffroy will make an exceptional accompaniment for an apple, pear and cinnamon crumble, floating island dessert or a crème brulée with bourbon vanilla.
I hope you pass an excellent summer, and look forward to seeing you in the autumn on Plus de Bulles!