Champagne Food Pairings Out with the old and in with the new.
Classic Champagne food pairings are fantastic for starters, but what happens after you’ve exhausted the same old tired combinations? (i.e. oysters and Champagne, caviar and Champagne, yawn…boooooring!) It’s time to get unique and try some Champagne food pairings that can be enjoyed even when you are not wearing a tuxedo. Besides Champagne, there are a lot of great sparkling wine pairings listed below such as Cava, Prosecco, Franciacorta and American bubbly.
Champagne only refers to the named wine producing region in France. Sparkling wine is made all over the world!
It’s a little known secret that fried food and Champagne are best friends. Go for a Blanc de Noirs (a white sparkling wine made with dark grapes like pinot noir) with fried mushrooms. The earthiness in the mushrooms is complimented by the more rich fruity/earthy notes that you’ll find common in a Blanc de Noir. An affordable American Blanc de Noirs such as Gruet, Chandon or Gloria Ferrer tend to have a slight sweetness to them.
Mac & Cheese
A personal favorite Champagne pairing of mine is homemade macaroni and cheese. There are a few important ingredients here for the perfect pairing; the right cheese, the right Champagne, and the right toppings. Don’t get carried away with a sharp cheese. Consider a softer creamery cheese with flavor such as smoked gouda. The Champagne needs to be acidic enough to cut through the cheese without being so strong as to ‘turn’ the cheese. Toppings can be used to fine tune the dish, from pancetta, to truffles, to toasted breadcrumbs. For example, if you were using the smoked gouda, toasted breadcrumbs would be a nice topping to add some crunch and dilute the cheese. Also, when making your mac & cheese use butter, a little cream and american cheese as a base and the flavoring cheese in moderation.
- Try a brut sparkling wine from the US such as J Vineyards or value Cremant de Limoux such as Gerard Bertrand
- Use american cheese, milk and Parmesan as a base when making the mac & cheese
- Mix in the stronger flavored cheese to fine tune the flavor, not dominate it
Butternut Squash Ravioli w/Brown Butter Sage
This is a rich but delicate dish…both sweet and earthy as a result of the use of sage and roasted butternut squash. Because it is a slightly sweet dish, it’s important to find a bubbly with inherent sweetness. This classic Italian ravioli dish does wonderfully with Italy’s premiere sparkling wine called Franciacorta. Franciacorta is from Lombardy and actually uses many of the same grape varieties as proper Champagne such as chardonnay, pinot nero (noir) and pinot bianco (blanc). When made with added pinot nero, Franciacorta takes on fruity strawberry notes and a richness of flavor. Franciacorta still hasn’t exploded in the marketplace as much as Champagne so you’re likely to find excellent value from this region. The flavors tend to have slightly less acidity and more fruitiness than most Champagnes and the same toasty-almond character occurs with aging. If you’re looking for a place to start with Franciacorta, I love Ca del Bosco Franciacorta and Bellavista Franciacorta
BBQ Chicken Sandwich
Mmmmm…BBQ and Cava. Use a smoky BBQ sauce and avoid having sauce with too much spice. Pick a sparkling wine that isn’t too subtle so that the BBQ doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavors. Think of a slightly spicy, tangy, smoky sauce on your chicken (or tofu if you’re a vegetarian!). Consider adding caramelized onions and just a few gorgonzola crumbles. I love to pair this sandwich with a bottle of cava. Although most value cavas don’t have the delicate complexity of a Champagne, they work perfectly to balance the intensity of something simple like BBQ. You’ll see that I prefer to recommend chicken over pork or beef as the flavor of chicken is lighter than pork and beef, lending it to a better pairing with bubbles.
Here is where we can start to get creative with the Champagne. Find a super dry crisp wine like an Extra Brut, a Brut Zero, or a Brut Nature. These wines have little or no added sugar so they are going to be about as zingy as they get. If the fish has a salsa or lime squeezed on it, it’s important to find a champagne that has even higher acids. This way the wine will taste bright against the dish. Be careful, if the Champagne doesn’t have enough minerality and sharpness, it’s going to taste flat. I look for true Champagnes (because they are known for the highest acidity) like Pierre Peters, Jean Baillette-Prudhomme or even a Brut Nature Blanquette de Limoux like Antech or Martinolles
Corndogs w/Dijon Mustard
Remember how I said champagne and fried food are super pals? This is sort of like that, but even more indulgent. The trick is that the mustard is what has to compliment the Champagne, not the corndog. Both the mustard and the Champagne are sharing the job of bringing acid to the dish. It’s important not to get too acidic of a bubbly, the flavor profile must match the thickness and richness of the mustard. I’m not going to pick a super expensive champagne either, because then the subtle flavors are going to get blown out by the dog. Rough. The right Champagne will take this guilty pleasure to the next level.. I would specifically recommend Brut from Cremant d’Alsace. This is a sparkling wine that usually has enough “unctuous” character to make the corndog w/ mustard taste creamy! Take a look at Lucien Albrecht Brut Cremant d’Alsace
Vegetarian Red Bean Chili
This was one of the first non-traditional Champagne food pairings I experimented with based on a recommendation from one of my wine buddies at West St. Wine Bar. At the time I made lazy girl chili; the kind where you grab a can of chili and add it to a can of red beans. The wine made my cheapo chili taste like god food(what does that mean? I don’t know but it sounds right). It’s the moment where you have your cheddar-cheesy chili bite in your mouth and then you wash your mouth out with the wine. Holy F. Cava and red bean chili is a thing. Tell your friends.
Pear, Parmesan, Candied Pecan and Rocket Salad
Wine w/ High Acid Food
High acid foods such as foods with tomato sauces, vinegar dressings, citrus, sweet & sour etc, can make wines with less acid than the food taste flabby. Imagine a rich buttery chardonnay with a grapefruit v. potato gratin. The gratin showcases the wine where as the grapefruit overpowers the chardonnay.
For the Champagne, I like this salad with Prosecco (not a Champagne at all, actually a sparkling wine from around Veneto, Italy). Prosecco can range from dry to sweet and for this salad I’d pick out a drier-styled Prosecco such as La Marca. I’d try the prosecco first and then when the flavor starts to fade, I’d pop in a forkful of salad. When the tart pear hits your tongue you want the bubbles in the prosecco to make the fireworks, with enough parmesan and candied pecan to keep everyone in order. Yum.
Pugliese w/Olive Oil & Dukkha
So simple, but it rarely gets better than this. Carefully select a yeasty, buttery, extra dry Champagne. Pair with fresh baked bread, such a Pugliese. Dunk the bread in a grassy olive oil, smother in dukkha, pop in mouth and chase with Champagne. Now close your eyes, imagine laying in your backyard, the grass freshly cut, dirt under your fingernails and the smell of fresh baked bread wafting out of the nearby kitchen window. Intoxicating. Go fly a kite.
Fresh Springrolls w/Spicy Sweet Chili Sauce
Go as spicy as you can handle and get a [sweet] Champagne. Big bubble finesse is a bonus. Stay away from fried, go fresh wrapped spring rolls. The goal is to reduce the fat in the dish so we don’t need as much acid, increase the spice and pair it with a sweeter Champagne. If you pull it off, you have a pretty unique novelty dish. Dare I even suggest a tofu protein with a stalk of lemongrass? Blasphemy.