Béatrice Cointreau, chief executive of Champagne Gosset, launched the Trophée Gosset Celebris in 1995 to promote Champagne in restaurants. The competition has been running for six years in the UK. She talks to Joanna Wood
What's the aim of the Trophée Gosset Celebris?
It was to reward restaurants with a diverse selection of Champagnes on their wine list which promote Champagne as an accompaniment to fine food as well as a drink in its own right. The aim is to highlight the association between Champagne and fine dining.
Why did you decide to expand into the UK?
Over the years the food quality in English restaurants has improved a lot, and it's been followed by the variety of wines, too - the English have always had a taste for Champagne. Next year we will be including Spain for the first time, and Juli Soller of El Bulli has kindly agreed to chair the Spanish judging panel.
What is so unique about Champagne?
How long have you got? Seriously, it is the king of wines and makes any occasion special. It is both a great wine born from a unique chalk terroir and the heir to a long history of traditional know-how.
Why was this year's UK winner, the Bell at Skenfrith, chosen?
There is a genuine love of Champagne which shines through the whole wine list. Many smaller producers are featured and the judges were very impressed with the value for money offered.
Your new accolade is the Gagnant des Ganants (winner of winners) for past national winners. Why was Zur Traube in Germany chosen this year?
Their wine cellar is magnificent - with more than 30,000 bottles, it's one of the largest in Germany. The Champagne list has been a book on its own since 1976 and features an impressive selection of different types of Champagnes and brands.
What's your favourite food with Champagne?
As a self-confessed gourmet, I love tasty food, and although any good food goes well with Champagne, the better the food, the better the match. Anything truffled, including foie gras, white meats in creamy sauces with a full-bodied Pinot Noir-dominated Champagne or oysters and prawns with a Chardonnay-dominated Champagne. But my favourite with any Gosset Champagne is salmon, either smoked or poached with cream.
Which country buys the most Gosset?
We have grown from 400,000 bottles in 1993 to 1.2 million last year, going from 80% sales in France to 75% exported in 2005. Gosset is now sold on all continents, but the UK is one of the biggest European markets. However, the interest in Asia-Pacific for our brand has increased a lot, and now Japan and Australia are among our top 10 export markets.