There’s no better way to start a meal than with a pleasant, crisp glass of champagne. It’s not just because it gets people, well, festive — the modest acidity and the bubbles tend to get your mouth watering nicely, and it’s a perfect accompaniment to most hors d’oeuvres. After all, where would caviar or oysters be without a glass of champagne?
But Champagne isn’t just for finger foods. In fact, I’d argue champagne may be the most food-friendly wine out there — more than other styles of wine, French champagne can be paired with virtually any dish at any point during a meal.
For starters — literally — the bright effervescence of non-vintage brut champagne works as well at cutting through creamy soups as it does complementing a crisp salad. That acidity and the bubbles are also a divine match with most fried and/or cheesy appetizers, like sautéed mushrooms, mac and cheese, spring rolls and more.
Could champagne be the ultimate seafood wine? There’s an argument to be made.
The minerality in champagne makes it a perfect pairing for lighter fish dishes, while the toastier, rounder red apple and bread dough notes of the wine are incomparable with buttery lobster. A brut rosé brings berry notes and the slightest tannins that work very well with salmon — never mind the aesthetic choice of matching pink wine with pink food.
Champagne and beef may seem like an odd combination, but it can work. Note, for example, how many Champagne-braised beef dishes there are out there. Granted, you may not want to pit a peppery steak against a Pommery, but there are instances where beef and bubbly works. While sparkling wine lacks the big tannins and deep earthy complexity of, say, a Bordeaux or a big cabernet sauvignon, a milder, softer beef dish like prime rib can work with more complex vintage champagne.
Finishing dinner with dessert and demi-sec is just about the best way to wind down a meal. The touch of sweetness in a demi-sec champagne is ideal with fresh fruit, chocolate, lighter cake and other baked goods. Try a chocolate-covered strawberry with demi-sec champagne and you’ll see what I mean.
Above and beyond the sit-down meal, champagne is the ultimate food wine. Ask your favourite wine geek about pairing champagne and potato chips and watch her/him get very excited. There’s something about the saltiness and the crunch of chips that is unbelievably good with sparkling wine. Popcorn and pretzels — both salty and crunchy — are nearly as good a pairing too.
And you don’t need to think haute cuisine when it comes to pairing champagne with food either. Take Bubbledogs in London — as the name suggests, it’s a restaurant that pairs grower champagne with hot dogs. There’s nothing else on the menu — just champagne and hot dogs.
Needless to say, I think I’ve found my next wine and food pairing experiment.
Photo by pellesten