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"When you have food with wine, when you get the right combination, everything's magic, the wine tastes better and the food tastes better.”

Champagne Dinner in the The Cellar at The Spoke Club with Master Sommelier Jennifer Huether

Nicolas Feuillatte wines held a beautiful Champagne Dinner on Thursday night, and SheDoestheCity was invited to join in. Canada’s only female Master Sommelier, Jennifer Huether, lead the small group through a five course meal paired with five Feuillatte champagnes. If, like me, you reserve champagne for New Year’s Eve and your Mom’s 50th birthday party…then you’ve been doing it wrong! The range of flavours and sweetness in each of the champagnes proved, when done properly, the drink can be paired with any course.

As our plates were laid out, Jennifer introduced each champagne, discussing tasting notes and blends. My favourite champagne was the Brut Rosé, which was paired with a wild mushroom ravioli with black garlic tuilesand niagara gold cheese for the vegetarians and razor clams with prawns for the meat eaters.

After dinner Jennifer and I had a chance to talk about her work as a sommelier. Jennifer explained that her career began with a love a red wine, but she was won over to the white side by a good friend, a chef and wine lover, who paired some small dishes with white wines. She was “completely blown away by the food and the interaction with wine, and how much I actually liked the wine in the end, when it was paired in the right way, with the right food.”

Out of interest Jen started taking courses at her local college, not suspecting it could become a lucrative career. After 12 years of training, she completed her Masters. When I congratulated her on being the only female sommelier in Canada, Jennifer was humble, and hopeful for the future: “[I’m the only one] so far! We have some fantastic females in the country, so it’s just a matter of time before we have a couple more!”

Jennifer noted the plethora of job opportunities available to sommeliers: “There’s the traditional restaurants ones, where you’re buying and selling wine for the store, but the wine business is a big business, and there is a lot of opportunity and diversity.” When we spoke, Jennifer had just arrived home after weeks of travelling; she has a few more weeks at home and then is off to France. She has two young children at home and notes that “it can be a challenge travelling, especially if you have a life at home, but it is exciting. And it is a glamourous business, and you do get to eat at fabulous restaurants and meet really interesting people all over the world.”

Jennifer offers advice to novice wine enthusiasts, saying, “Often times we drink wine in isolation. What a lot of us are failing to recognize is that wine, ideally, is meant to be enjoyed with food. When you have food with wine, when you get the right combination, everything’s magic, the wine tastes better and the food tastes better. And it’s better for your digestive system! So in North America we have a habit of tasting in isolation, but enjoy it together and be adventurous!” Jennifer also noted that contrary to popular practise, champagne is not necessarily best served ice cold. She suggests letting champagne warm up a bit, and serving it in a wine glass rather than a flute in order to let it breathe.

In the end, Jennifer had only good things to say about the evening and Toronto’s food scene: “Tonight [at The Spoke] has been awesome, the chef nailed the matches with the different styles of champagne. Toronto has just exploded in the last couple of years, in terms of the international food scene, we’re there. There are all kinds of great restaurants here, and I’m trying to keep up! There’s just so much. It’s a very exciting time to be in Toronto.”

Nicolas Feuillatte wines and champagnes are available at LCBOs all around Ontario. Their prices range from about $40 to $200 a bottle. (Maybe save the latter for something really special…like your Mom’s 50th birthday?)

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