The Toronto Wine Elitist Cabal ™ held its first-ever Champagne and Fried Chicken event this past weekend. This event has been on the radar for a while and we finally pulled it off. Fellow TWEC ™ members Mike Grammer, Jay Shampur, David He and Mike’s friends Brian and his wife Betty gathered at Mike’s condo for this monumental inaugural and hopefully not last event.

Never in the history of food and wine since Sauternes and foie gras and red wine and grilled steak has there ever been such a perfect pairing as fried chicken and Champagne. I could kick myself that we never got around to doing this sooner in our 10+ years of existence. I guarantee we won’t be waiting another 10 years to pull off the next one. On with the show:

STEPHANE COQUILETTE CUVEE DIANE GRAND CRU BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT – Our first aperitif Champagne was provided by Mr. Grammer and was rich gold color in the glass. Delicious sweet red apple flavors followed by baked brioche. Pretty much a liquid apple pie. I was 100% certain this was Pinot Meunier based. Absolutely delicious. So I was quite shocked when I looked at the bottle label. A Blanc de Blancs? Really? This acts nothing like any other Blanc de Blancs Champagne I’ve ever had before. Intriguing behavior.

CHAMPAGNE CHRISTOPHE MIGNON ADN DE PINOT MEUNIER BRUT NATURE – First wine provided by Jay. This is a grower’s Champagne that Mignon grows on a tiny 6 hectare field with strict biodynamic processes to the point where he strictly follows the lunar cycles for harvesting, tirage and disgorgement. Dry, crisp and refreshing, this was like biting into a fresh new green apple. It actually became even drier and tarter as it warmed up in our glasses. This was stunning and I loved it – but it acts nothing like a Pinot Meunier based Champagne I have ever had.

At this point, I swore that Mike was trolling all of us and had switched the bottle labels on us. 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs is always tart, crisp, dry and full of fresh green apple flavors. 100% Pinot Meunier is always richer, sweeter and full of red apple flavors. So how were these bottles each doing the exact opposite? I was just fascinated by these two Champagnes.

JM SELEQUE SOLESSENCE BRUT NATURE – Brian and Betty contributed the next grower’s Champagne. Grown on a domaine of 7.5 hectares and fermented in a combination of steel vats, oak barrels, casks and ceramic egg. No dosage. Everyone loved this. Mr. Grammer voted it his WOTN and Jay said it was gorgeous. Unique lemon-lime soda nose. Perfectly balanced red and green apple flavors with light brioche and superb mousse and texture. Exceedingly well made. I find myself agreeing with Michael’s vote.

At this point, we adjourned to the table for our fried chicken dinner. We ended up going with Popeye’s regular and spicy fried chicken, spicy fries and buttermilk biscuits. This was my first time ever doing this pairing, and I reiterate what I wrote above: never in the history of wine and food pairing has there ever been such a perfect match. Even better than foie gras and Sauternes and blue cheese and Sauternes and I consider those absolutely perfect pairings. My biggest fear was that the oil in the fried chicken would ruin the Champagne. Instead, the umami flavors only elevated the Champagne flavors to an even higher degree even as the Champagnes cleansed out our palates. Were it not such an unhealthy idea, I would be happy to do this pairing every night for the rest of year. Wow. This could be dangerously addictive.

SOUTIRAN 2012 GRAND CRU BRUT – This was my contribution and I had extremely high expectations for it – none of which were met. It was heavy on the palate with virtually no fruit flavor and very yeast forward. I kept hoping it would improve in the glass but I had given up on it by the end of the night. So disappointing. And that was that. Except for…

By coincidence, I had to get together with Mike again the next day with different friends for a different afternoon get-together. So Mike served me this again and it was a completely different story. Light on its feet, bright crisp acidity, green apple and unripe pineapple flavors. This was great. In fact, so much so that I was 100% certain Mike had served me the leftover Solessence and I asked him if there was any Soutiran left over to try in the vain hope that somehow it had gotten better.

That’s when Mike informed me that I WAS drinking the leftover Soutiran and my jaw dropped. What the what?!? How on Earth did it transform so much overnight and why wasn’t it showing this well the night before? No idea, but I can tell you all this. If this was drinking this way the previous night, the Soutiran and not the Solessence would have been the WOTN. Mind blowing transformation here.

DHONDT - GRELLET "DANS UN PREMIER TEMPS… " BRUT – Grower Champagne from husband and wife team Eric Dhondt and Edith Grellet with their son Adrien serving as winemaker. 50% Chardonnay, half fermented in barrel and the rest in tank, 30% tank-fermented Pinot Noir and 20% tank-fermented Pinot Meunier. Base vintage is 70% of the blend with the remainder a perpetual reserve started in 1986. This has a great lemon drop candy nose. Crisp, tart and refreshing. Very very close to the Solessence. Brian notes that it has flavors of brioche, lemon curd and lychee fruit. I found this to be the single best match for the fried chicken.

GARDET CHIGNY-LES-ROSE BRUT TRADITION – This Champagne had a bright nose and decent crispness to go along with its light apple and brioche flavors, but it was immediately obvious that it was less complex than all the previous ones which were independent grower Champagnes. David noted that it’s very clear that it was an aperitif level Champagne. Certainly very tasty and drinkable. Just outclassed by its brethren tonight.

NICOLAS MAILLART 2017 MONT MARTIN PREMIER CRU – Our final Champagne of the night was 100% Pinot Meunier from a single 1er Cru 1.8 hectare plot in Villers Allerand. The vines were planted in marl and limestone from the Thanetien period in 1972. This leans more towards the sweet fruit side like our first Champagne and Brian noted that it has a very unique orange note to its flavor which really differentiated it from the other bottles. He was right and I would have loved to try this with a fruit based dessert.

That concluded our Champagne lineup but not our wine lineup as Mike opened up a bonus red to top it all off with:

ZAHA 2016 TOKO VINEYARD EL CORTE – Co-fermented blend of 78% Malbec and 22% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Argentina. Sweet pencil lead nose and sour cherry flavors on the palate with well integrated tannins and a touch of sweetness. It was like a much lighter California Cabernet. Definitely punches far above its weight, as Mike revealed it was a mere $20 CDN a bottle. I would have guessed a price much higher than that. A definite quality bargain and a good reminder that a low price doesn’t necessarily mean low quality.

And thus concluded the first ever TWEC ™ Champagne and Fried Chicken Night. I can’t wait to do it all over again. If you haven’t done so before, you definitely have to give this pairing a try.


Great notes and lineup! My wife and I first met on New Year’s Eve so every anniversary we celebrate with champagne and a boatload of French fries. (And quite often throughout the year too now that I come to think about it.). Maybe we’ll add some fried chicken to the next one!

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Thanks as always for posting notes and pictures, Tran. Michael Wright was with us in spirit :grin:. It was a pleasure to host you, Dave, Jay, Brian and Betty for the evening, taking inspiration from something Leslie Fisher used to do on an annual basis (one of which I was fortunate to attend).

The Stephane Coquillette has special meaning for Dave and I since I am fairly sure we met one of the family members long ago at Don Cornutt’s place. Agree with Tran’s notes, this was decidedly on the sweeter side, though no lack of interest. A significant contrast with the Christophe Mignon, which showed very forthright and lean with apple skin and lemon peel notes and a distinct and alluring bitter end note

Brian and Betty brought the Seleque. It’s been a very long time since I had one from here and clearly too much time has passed. I noted to the group that for me, perhaps more than any other wine, I look for texture in champagne more than aromatics or flavours. This had a beautiful, suave texture that still exhibited requisite power. It was nearly sublime.

Tran’s Soutiran didn’t show too much vivacity on the night of, it was a pleasant sipper type. I didn’t taste myself the next day, so a very interesting observation from Tran here.

Dave brought the Dhonot-Grellet. Never had one from here and while it had plenty of drive, it was also rather monotone and the aroma, in particular, seemed somewhat muted. I did pick up the brioche notes but not any of the other fruit flavours mentioned. I did get some herbaceousness later.

Brian and Betty also brought the Gardet. This is such a reliable drink. It has a definite and accessible floor with good bubbles, good mix of apple and lemon juice,and a nice, solid finish.

In addition to the Mignon, Jay also brought the Maillart. For me, this unfurled slowly and the last sip had the most going on. I got the sense that a decanter would have done this some good. It had some conversational quality in the mouth and ended up being an intriguing champagne…and maybe my # 2

I did open the Zaha, a mix of Malbec and Cab. I lamented that I should have drunk these 2 and 3 years earlier as the balancing freshness had disappeared and this presented almost clumsily fruity and sweet. However, the next day saw it sort itself out---- a bit, anyway. For $25 or so a bottle, I really had no complaints.


Mike. You and Dave met the son, Louis Coquillette at my house. He is Joel Knox’s godson and now helps a little with running the family business but spends most of his time as a notaire. I think pretty soon he will be the notaire for a large part of Champagne. A brilliant young man.

What a great writeup Tran and IMHO you can’t do better than fried chicken and champagne. Popeyes is a personal favorite of mine. Beautiful bottles of very interesting bubbles. Say hi to Dave and Jay!

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Oops. I was thinking of our recent Blind Wines dinner where Mr. Wright was present and got them mixed up. Sadly, he did not join us this time around but we’ll make sure to grab him next time. And I corrected Brian’s wife’s name which is Betty and not Debbie (hey, at least I got the rhyme correct) in my original post as well.

Exactly as I thought, Don! I didn’t know he was Joel’s godson, though. Hope all is well with you and the family. We’re figuring out our weekend to come down, will certainly let everyone know.

I am rather shocked to hear that the fine palates of the Toronto Wine Elitist Cabal ™ has never done this pairing before!? This is a once every couple of months thing at our house :slight_smile:


What can I say, Scott? I am a lonely sophisticate living amongst the barbarous hordes here in the north.

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yeah, and your NHL team with no cap space and the first round of the playoffs a month out. Hmmm…

See you next weekend, Grammy Grams. :heart_eyes:


Popeyes and champagne happens about one every two weeks in this household. Easily my favourite champagne pairing!

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Wait, not in a minivan? Zero likes for you.

Sensational post! And a great group of unusual champagnes. Well done!

Popeye’s chicken is boss, but those biscuits are garbage. So frustrating. I prefer the “mild” chicken with a good hot dipping sauce; the spice on the spicy version is not great and tends to clump. Hot honey is the ticket


This. I don’t miss the biscuits at all but I found it worth experimenting to discover that I can eat the fried chicken without my blood glucose spiking so long as I throw away about 2/3 of the breading.

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Popeye’s fried chicken (I do love the spicy) is wonderful. What’s a shame is the red beans and rice has been changed, and is now tasteless garbage.

But fried chicken and Champagne is the :bomb: