The Life of Spice

Frédéric Panaïotis, Chef de Caves for Ruinart Champagne

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This month we sit down with Frédéric Panaïotis, Chef de Caves for Ruinart Champagne and our collaborator on the new 1764 spice blend, specially crafted to create dishes to pair with Ruinart’s rosé champagne.

We’re very excited about the 1764 spice collaboration, commemorating the date of the first rosé champagne produced by Ruinart, and would love to hear more from you about the project and about yourself

I have always admired Lior’s marvelous spice concoctions, so was really excited when we decided to work together on a Ruinart blend. I have been the Ruinart Chef de Caves for over 11 years and have a particular fondness for our rosé. It is a truly festive champagne that can be enjoyed year round. Creating a spice that would elevate and transform dishes that pair with the Ruinart Rosé no matter the season was a natural for us. I love to experiment in the kitchen and am so happy we can encourage clients to do the same with the Ruinart 1764 blend.

People in the United States are finally coming around to drinking champagne as a wine, that is with food. Can you share a few memorable pairings of Ruinart Rosé with food?

Rosé is probably the most flexible and adaptable champagne to pair with food. You can easily pair it during a whole meal, from aperitif all the way to desserts. One of my most memorable pairings with Ruinart Rosé was with a Peking Duck at Spring Moon, the Chinese restaurant at the Peninsula Hong Kong. The complex texture and flavors of this dish are a perfect companion to Ruinart Rosé.

Another unforgettable match (which I’ve tried many times in fact) was with the classic Ispahan cake by Pierre Hermé. The flavors of litchi, raspberry and rose seem to have been made to create the perfect pairing!  

To that end we’ve tailored the 1764 blend to create dishes that even further highlight the flavors and aromas of Ruinart Rosé, do you have a favorite from among the suggested recipes?

The roasted rack of lamb with caramelized onions and yogurt & orange sauce. So good with the Ruinart Rosé!

What are your three go-to things to cook or to eat?

I love to eat and prepare Japanese food so I would definitely say:

o   Sushi (and it pairs so well with Ruinart Blanc de Blancs)

o   Soba (buckwheat) served with seafood, uni being my favorite – and yes, I prepare my own dashi

o   But I also love to BBQ. I love to cook a dry-aged T-bone steak on the grill

Many of our readers are not familiar with the responsibilities of a cellar master, can you please describe your typical week?

The best part of my job is that there is no such thing as a typical week– not even a typical day!

During the main period of the year, following harvest, my team and I typically do one tasting of the vins clairs or base wines each day to evaluate the quality of the past harvest. This process is critical to create the Ruinart non-vintage blends with the greatest consistency. In some afternoons, I will also welcome some wine professionals, journalists, sommeliers and wine shop owners to taste the Ruinart range.

There are many other things to do during the week of course, like meeting with the team to plan the release of future cuvee (so riddling, disgorgement, dosage…).

What do you like most about your job?

The people I get to meet, either here in Champagne or wherever I travel to. Of course working with grapes, transforming them into wines, blending them, seeing the champagne being created then age is amazing, but I find the most interesting part is sharing my passion with employees, colleagues, and consumers. This is probably the most rewarding part.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you are not working?

Freediving! It’s an activity I’ve been practicing for many years, and I love to train – hard – in the pool so that I can dive deep whenever I have the chance to go to warm and deep waters. It’s amazingly relaxing, like meditation under water, and a great way to counterbalance an exhilarating job. 

 What’s one dream you have that you’d like to achieve?

One of the projects I’ve had in mind for years is to ride the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Lake Baikal and free-dive there! I’m currently working on my Russian so I can fully enjoy this experience. I’ll also make sure to bring along a few bottles of Ruinart Rosé to drink during the ride!

 

The 1764 blend is available from Clos19 as a beautiful gift set together with a bottle of Ruinart Rose.

Please follow this link to purchase.

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Frédéric Panaïotis:

Frédéric Panaïotis is Chef de Caves at the Champagne House of Ruinart, in Reims, France.

As a child, Panaïotis spent much of his time in the small Champagne vineyards of his grandparents, sampling the fruits of their labor.  His professional career began with a compulsory training period at the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, where he studied the méthode champenoise process in general and wine clarification in particular, including fining, filtration and riddling.  Over the years, Panaïotis returned several times to the Comité, subsequently specializing in the interaction of cork and wine, and training the professional panel on different tasting procedures.  His winemaking apprenticeship included appointments in France and California.

Panaïotis graduated from the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon with a specialization in Viticulture-Oenologie, followed by a degree from the Ecole Supérieure d’Oenologie de Montpellier in 1988.

Frédéric Panaïotis joined Champagne Ruinart in 2007 as Chef de Caves. In this position, he has the responsibility of creating the blends, from the non vintages Blanc de Blancs and Rosé to the prestige cuvees of Ruinart, Dom Ruinart and Dom Ruinart Rosé.  He also plays a significant role in the communication efforts of Champagne Ruinart, travelling extensively to international markets.

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