Francoise Peretti is the director Champagne Bureau UK, which aims to provide both professionals and champagne consumers with information about the Champagne region and its unique wines. StyleNest managed to catch up with her to find out her expert tips on how to buy, serve, and enjoy one of our favourite drinks, and how if her role involves as much champagne drinking as we hope it does!
Can you tell us a bit more about how you came to be where you are today, and what inspired you to follow a career in champagne?
It’s very much a New York story. I had moved to NYC after my Master in Political Science and was teaching French at The Alliance Française when a friend of mine called to say there was a (very!) junior position at The Champagne Bureau US. With great naiveté and total lack of vision (or curiosity!) I replied that I knew nothing about PR or Champagne and that there was no point in going to the interview…. Retrospectively, a touch of Dick Rowe maybe…. From the day I joined I’ve never looked back and Champagne has been an endless source of learning, joy and meeting the most wonderful and inspiring people
Champagne is often seen as one of the most decadent drinks to indulge in, but with so many options it can also be intimidating choosing a bottle. What advice would you give StyleNest readers when shopping for a bottle of bubbly?
Of the 5,500 growers and 300 Champagne Houses who produce Champagne in the region, 156 Houses and 208 vignerons export to the UK, the leading export market in volume for Champagne. Add to this, the fact that each Champagne has a house style. A useful tip is not to be afraid of asking for expert advice from shop assistants. Start with providing information on the style of still wines you enjoy drinking, on the occasion you’ll be drinking Champagne; the number of guests and your budget. Armed with this information, shop assistants will be able to guide you towards the style of Champagne that suits best your taste and the occasion.
For those who might be entertaining, how is it best to serve champagne at home?
Champagne is a very ‘happy’ wine which turns any occasion into a celebration. It is immensely versatile. Everyone loves a glass and each time I entertain at home I can see how delighted my guests are at being offered Champagne. I usually serve it at the aperitif with easy-to prepare chunks of Parmesan or some home-made Parmesan crisps, bowls of cherry tomatoes, goat cheese on melba toasts, potted shrimp or smoked salmon in croustade. It’s a very simple yet elegant way to entertain which saves you from slaving in the kitchen.
Are there any food pairings that go well with champagne?
Many! Some of my favourites are langoustines with a crisp blanc de blancs Champagne (100% chardonnay); Fish & chips with Non-Vintage; Slow cooked lamb with a Vintage Rosé; Goat and sheep cheeses with a NV Rosé; and finally pudding with sweeter styles called Sec or Demi-Sec.
What would our readers be surprised to know about champagne?
It only takes 30mn to chill a bottle of Champagne. Many people are surprised to hear that the bottle will chill faster in a bucket filled with water, ice and salt as the salt lowers the water’s freezing point. This is the fastest method to chill a bottle of Champagne.
What is a typical day for you at the Champagne Bureau UK, if there is one!
I know you expect to hear Champagne…Champagne…Champagne! Well, not quite but we bask in Champagne wine education and aim at spreading the word to UK consumers, trade and media alike. If I’m lucky I’ll have a business lunch – with a glass of Champagne.
How would you spend your perfect day off?
I relax best in town engaged in cultural pursuit. I love the cultural and culinary scene London offers and even after 30 years I can’t get enough!
How would you describe your style? Any favourite designers or brands you like to wear?
Black! I wish I could say colours as I love them but not on me. I like simple yet beautifully tailored clothes. I love Prada-individuality and the way I feel when I wear it. I much admire Anya Hindmarch. Her bags are beautiful, whimsical and always cleverly engineered. Fragrance-wise, I’ve recently discovered a niche fragrance Anima Vinci with the most inspired Founder, Nathalie, who like me originally came from Corsica. Her Corsican Soul candle has all the fragrances of the island we both love.
France is well known for its fantastic pharmacies and their cult beauty products. Is there anything you like to stock up on whilst there, or any other favourite products or particular routine that you like?
Pharmacies are a French-phenomenon, maybe because we can be ‘slightly’ hypochondriacs and we love talking about our ailments (very un-British!). My go-to products are: Bioderma hydrablo serum, Avène Cicalfate, Erborian BB Mask, Esthederm Lift & Repair and – not from a pharmacy – Valmont and Sodashi.
You must travel to the Champagne region of France quite often. Any tips on how our readers can get the best out of a champagne tasting trip there?
Experiment and drive around the region along La Route du Champagne itinerary. It will take you to delightful villages, stunning vineyards, historical places. The region is so rich in history. But for me it is the people, the champenois, who make going there a real treat. Visit the chalk pit cellars (Crayères) which go back to Gallo-Roman times and are only located in Reims, walk along the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, admire medieval Troyes and picturesque Châlons-en-Champagne. Experience legendary champenois-hospitality by visiting Houses and Growers’ cellars. Lose yourself to discover the magical world of Champagne.
Other than the Champagne region, what are your favourite travel destinations and why?
Though I grew up in Paris, Corsica where my family originated from, is the place I keep holidaying. I love the scents, the rugged landscapes, the sunshine, the deserted beaches (even in July), the hospitality and the simple yet flavourful food. For me it’s the ultimate holiday destination.
And finally, what is your life motto?
Never look back ….and drink Champagne!