Cheshire Life and Alderley Edge Hotel Champagne Oscars 2014

Ahmet Kurcer, Louise Taylor and Steve Brandwood

Ahmet Kurcer, Louise Taylor and Steve Brandwood - Credit: Archant

The corks were popping and glasses clinking when diners toasted the house of Laurent Perrier, the winner of this year’s Alderley Edge Hotel/Cheshire Life Champagne Oscar award

Champagne Oscar

Champagne Oscar - Credit: Archant

It was a case of a great champagne ‘coming home’. The Alderley Edge Hotel’s Laurent Perrier suite provided the glamorous - and most appropriate - setting for the award of Cheshire’s esteemed 15th ‘Champagne Oscar’ the House of Laurent Perrier.

The Grande Marque, founded in 1812 and ‘reborn’ in 1945, last won the Oscar in 2005. This accolade was devised by Alderley Edge Hotel general manager Ahmet Kurcer and former Cheshire Life editor Patrick O’Neill as a light-hearted riposte to London critics who think only the capital matters. The following year what was then the hotel’s newly developed banqueting suite and dedicated bar were named in its honour.

As with many great Champagne houses, Laurent Perrier owes its continued existence to the endeavour of determined women. Its name was forged by Mathilde Emilie Perrier, widow of Eugène Laurent. Her daughter Eugenie Hortense Laurent inherited the marque in 1925 and sold it in 1939 to Marie Louise Lanson de Nonancourt who kept it alive while her two sons fought for the French resistance.

Laurent Perrier was chosen as 2014’s deserving Oscar winner by a panel of judges led by Mr Kurcer and comprising Louise Allen-Taylor, editor of Cheshire Life, award-winning wine merchant Ruth Yates, businessman Charles Ledigo, wine expert David Garlick, Dr Brendan Smith, Dr Jo Emery, Max Essayan and Ray King, Cheshire Life’s food and wine writer.

Laurent-Perrier Champagne

Laurent-Perrier Champagne - Credit: Archant

After the coveted silver gilt trophy, specially commissioned from silversmiths Warris & Company, had been presented by Mr Kurcer and Mrs Allen-Taylor to Laurent-Perrier’s UK ambassador, Sales Director Steve Brandwood, more than 100 guests enjoyed a sumptuous six-course gala dinner featuring a range of Laurent Perrier champagne styles.

Laurent Perrier’s flagship Brut NV en Magnum, served with welcoming canapés, was followed by the house’s legendary Rosé, its beautiful colour resulting naturally from fermentation of the juice on the red skins of pinot noir grapes. Laurent Perrier Vintage 2004, ‘a wonderful harvest in terms of both quality and quantity’, paved the way for sublime Grand Siècle, ‘blended from the best grapes grown in the best vineyards in the best years and aged nine years’. Delicate and sophisticated LP Ultra Brut and rich, slightly sweet Demi Sec made up a sparkling sextet.

The dinner was also the Champagne Oscar swansong for the Alderley Edge Hotel’s head chef Chris Holland, who has joined Lancashire-based SousVideTools in the role of Chef Director. Chris began as an apprentice at Stanneylands Hotel and joined the Alderley Edge’s brigade from Mere Golf and Country Club as a junior sous chef in 1996.

Ten years later - nurtured by Mr Kurcer, who has a remarkable record for developing and promoting ‘home-grown’ talent - Chris became head chef and soon realised his ambition of winning the restaurant three rosettes, a distinction he has followed up with other accolades such as Best Cheshire Restaurant for the hotel’s new brasserie as well as North West Chef of the Year for himself and a place on BBC Great British Menu.

His last Oscars’ menu was a fine example of Chris and his long-serving brigade’s skill and dedication to local and seasonal ingredients. A starter of superb maple cured Goosnargh duck with racy fruit flavours of preserved apricot jelly, hibiscus and orange was followed by juicy hand-dived scallops complimented by celeriac purée, langoustine glacé, brown shrimps and dill. For a sensuously late autumnal main course, slow-cooked breast of Guinea fowl was partnered by truffle-cooked ballontine of the leg, confit of leek and cep purée.

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The cheese course featured delicate set Parmesan and herb cream, unpasteurised cow’s milk Comte cheese, pear and watercress and caramel tonka bean panna cotta, textures of fresh plum and sheep’s milk yoghurt sorbet provided a dessert of admirable subtlety. Chris will be replaced by Sean Sutton, who has worked alongside Chris for nine years.

Approaching two decades after it was revealed that Alderley Edge had a taste for bubbly second only to the northern suburbs of Paris, locals are still gleefully getting their kicks from champagne.

Champagne in Alderley Edge