At their very core, champagne and wine are simply grape juice, and meant to be enjoyed in celebration, versus fussed over. Most champagnes are a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, from across several vintages. Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when you are pairing champagne, or sparkling wine, with food. Note: Only Sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne.
1) Pre-Party! Champagne makes the perfect start to an evening of dining and will pair well with light bites such as shrimp, vegetables or cheese. The best cheese are aged, hard cheeses such as parmesan, gouda or cheddar. Goat cheese goes very well with blanc de blancs.
2) RED Alert! Avoid heavy tomato sauces, as they tend to clash with the high acidity of champagne. lean more toward the creamy, buttery and mushroom sauces.
3) Seafood Hearts Champagne! Champagne pairs extremely well with fish and seafood, especially lobster.
4) A Pink Pair – Rose’ goes well with pinkish meats such as poultry, and game birds like duck. Also with veal, pork, ham and lamb that is slightly pink in the middle.
5) Explore! – How do you know if the champagne you’re drinking will pair well with a particular food unless you try it?! Be open minded; play around with your pallet, and the food around you. If it doesn’t taste right, then you’ll know not to pair these items together in the future. On the other hand, if you bite into a piece of hard, dark chocolate, then sip your prosseco, and suddenly – magic happens in your mouth, then you’ll know you’ve found a match!
Other food and champagne pairings:
- Sushi is best for direct brutes or blanc de blancs
- Mexican with fruity extra dry champagne
- nuts especially almonds
- any mushroom dish,
- Fried foods, popcorn and potato chips (same reason beer goes well with these foods)
- scrambled eggs (mmm mimosas)
- Pair with desserts that are low in sugar or tart such as berries, shortbread, pound cake, angel food, tart or lemony with demi sec. dark, hard Chocolate with extra-dry or demi sec.
Several of my girlfriends are Champagne Chic, so I turned to them for their expert opinions. One girlfriend, in particular (Ashley McGuire), has a wine cellar stocked with an inventory of Vueve clicquot, so I promise you can trust her pallet!
- Veuve clicquot
- St. Hilaire
- Emeri Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc (Ashley’s note: The Cremant region of France has so many gems at a reasonable price and the same type soil as the Champange region of France.) Find this at the Dilly Deli
- Tissot Cremant du jura – Jean Robert’s Table in Cincinnati features this as their house sparkling. (*a fantastic bottle at an incredible price point, between $30-$40.)
- GRAPE: Liore Valley Chenin Blanc grape is a great, subtle easy drinking grape
- GRAPE: Pinot blanc grape is good too. xo Ashley, Fetish Boutique
Like any wine, champagnes range from sweet to dry.
Here are the labels to look for:
- Demi-sec: The sweetest of champagnes, but not as sweet as a dessert wine. It means “half sweet.”
- Dry: A shade drier than demi-sec.
- Extra Dry: one step drier.
- Brut: the driest form and the most popular. There are some special categories, which tend to be more expensive than the traditional champagne blend:
- Blanc de Blancs — made only with Chardonnay grapes. It generally goes well with lighter foods, such as seafood and vegetables. Also good as a pre-dinner aperitif.
- Blanc de Noirs — made solely from red Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, with a deeper golden color than the blanc de blancs. It makes a great pairing with full-flavored foods, such as meat and cheese. These champagnes tend to be rare … and expensive.
- Rose: The color comes from the addition of Pinot Noir wine at the second fermentation, the point at which still wine becomes champagne. This type is one of the best to have with dinner, according to Ed McCarthy, author of “Champagne for Dummies.”
(Source: “Champagne for Dummies,” by Ed McCarthy, John Wiley & Sons, $16.99)