Ahhhhh … Champagne


“Pairing Food and Champagne”
by Jennifer Sergent
Scripps Howard News Service

Most champagnes are a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, from across several vintages. 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)

Experts and amateurs agree. Champagne is much more versatile than any single wine to drink with a wide array of foods, beyond the predictable pairings with caviar and oysters on the half shell. The following food pairings are recommended for traditional brut champagnes, unless otherwise noted:

  • Scrambled eggs
  • Any mushroom dish
  • Nuts, especially almonds
  • Popcorn and potato chips
  • Cheese. The best are aged, hard cheeses such as parmesan, gouda or cheddar. Goat cheese goes very well with blanc de blancs.
  • >Any pasta or risotto, especially with cream or mushroom sauce. Avoid heavy tomato-based sauces. The tomatoes clash with the high acidity of the champagne.
  • Pizza, with thin crust, easy on the tomato sauce.
  • Vegetables.
  • Fish and seafood, especially lobster.
  • Poultry and game birds such as duck. Rose is a particularly good pairing with these meats.
  • Other white meats, such as veal, pork, ham and lamb. Lamb that is slightly pink in the middle and ham go very well with rose.
  • Deep fried foods, such as fried chicken, french fries or calamari, for the same reason beer goes well with these foods.
  • Asian food. The acidity of champagne stands up very well to the spiciness of these foods. A light brut or extra-dry is ideal, but not a very dry brut. Ask your wine merchant for advice.
  • Sushi is best for the driest bruts or blanc de blancs.
  • Mexican food is good with fruity extra-dry champagne.
  • Dessert that isn’t very sweet, such as berries, shortbread, pound cake, angel food cake, or tart, lemony desserts, are appropriate for demi sec. Chocolate is OK with an extra-dry or demi sec, if it’s dark or bittersweet and not gooey. An Italian asti is better for desserts, because it’s sweeter than French champagne.

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