Anne-Marie Chabbert is a passionate enologist who wants to change the way we drink champagne by helping us see it as a wine that can be had throughout a meal. Her business model Champagnes à Table (Champagnes at the Table) creates beautiful encounters between great chefs and fine champagnes.
What is the idea behind Champagnes à table?
Champagnes à table is essentially a vision based on a methodology with a charter of quality and references that go with tasting and selection events. My thought is that the word « champagne » covers a multitude of wine expressions. Of those wines, I’d say that 2/3 are reserved for parties, cocktail parties, weddings, birthdays and all forms of celebrations and entertainment…This is when prices start playing a role and winemakers in Champagne are having an increasingly hard time with internal and external competition (different champagnes between themselves as well as other sparkling wines from around the world). At Champagnes à Table, we focus on and work with the remaining third. I tend to classify these champagnes in the wine category. During my tasting sessions, I will grade or award one, two or three stars to the batch I selected according to what I call its “gastronomical value”, that is to say, its suitability with a particular dish. I validate this classification once I have found the dish in question or, more precisely, that “little sensory music” created by a chef who will be able to pair and “musicalize” the selected wine with a very specific dish. This is precisely what we do at Champagnes à table and it cannot be improvised.
What is your background?
I have an unusual career path; I’ve done many things, many things that aren’t necessarily part of the « normal » course. I started out as an enologist, I then worked as a specialized journalist and then went on to become a PR Officer for an inter-professional group in the Champagne region. After that, I went freelance and founded a PR agency called Stratégie des Sens, which is dedicated to champagnes. Most of the time people go from something more general to then specialize; well I’ve done the opposite. At the same time, this is what gives me great freedom to break down barriers and understand the world of champagne in its complex and diverse dimension, be it human, technical,or economic.
How do you choose the champagnes that are paired with meals?
On the one hand, the quality charter of Champagnes à Table finds its legitimacy through the foundational characteristics of the wines we work with: history of the brand, origin of the grapes, communication and technical implications of the owner or cellar master, as well as a certain effortlessness and the ability to project themselves. These are important elements, which I’m often the only to notice and which guide me when working on my classification. The other focal point is a sensory approach of the champagne that is a potential “candidate” for Champagnes à Table; I set up the “sensory profile” of the wine after one or two tasting sessions. This profile is then presented to the producer (cellar master or winemaker), but also to the people in charge of PR and marketing. This is to ensure that the descriptors of the wine are consistent and sound and can be understood by all through a common language. Once this work is done, I meet with a chef and a sommelier and together we form a highly complementary trio, where each brings their experience, their feelings and their ideas to build a unique menu for the wines that I represent.
Anne-Marie Chabbert with Guy Savoy
Who are the chefs and champagne producers that have made an impact in recent years?
As far as wines are concerned, brands like Drappier, Fleury, Moutard, Franck Bonville, Eric Rodez, Agrapart, Dehours, Bourdaire, Alain Bailly, Benoit Lahaye, Françoise Bedel, Ployez-Jacquemart, Mailly… Their wines are not only included in the lists of honor of Champagnes à Table, but have virtually been turned into a strategic goal and terroir positioning. There are sommeliers who pay attention to this and they know what they’re doing. As for the chef I’ve worked with, there arezx four firm favorites since I started the business: Alain Passard, Sébastien Bras, Olivier Roellinger and recently Amandine Chaignot. This is not only about the person and their cooking; it’s also about a much more complex alchemy between humans (on both sides), my experience and my feelings. There’s a special atmosphere in which I feel good and where I tell myself that the champagnes will be respected for what they are, that is to say, wine, and not labels of bubbly wine with all the emotional significance that the word “champagne” carries.
What are your thoughts on the policies that are out stigmatize wine?
This subject is a little beyond me because it speaks of a subject other than wine and (good) lifestyle. Issues related to human psychology and alcoholism must be dealt with by the specialists and the real problem must be addressed, which is to treat alcohol abuse. Driving a car can harm you and others, yet to date no government has prevented manufacturers from producing cars!
What are your future projects?
My dream is to train sommeliers and chefs so that Champagnes à Table can become an economic reality at the finest restaurants of France and worldwide.