A Guide to Champagne Pairings
As the end of the year draws near, the opportunities to celebrate certainly do multiply! From office holiday parties to family get-togethers to extravagant New Year’s Eve fêtes, there are plenty of occasions where a glass of bubbly adds a memorable touch. Here are some champagne basics to help you sip and savor.
When Did Champagne Become So Popular?
The tradition of celebrating with fizzy champagne began in the royal courts of Europe in the 1700s. Even back then, champagne was valued for its exceptional taste and exclusivity. Not much has changed today, in fact.
So, what’s in a name?
The details, of course!
In order to be labeled “champagne,” this divine sparkling wine must be made in the Champagne region of France. And although there are countless sparkling wines to try from all around the world…we quite prefer the real deal.
How Should You Select Champagne?
When choosing champagne, consider your audience and occasion. In some instances, you may be taking a bottle as a hostess gift versus offering it to your guests for a toast. Champagne can range quite a bit in price as well as taste. For example, a more reasonably priced bottle of Taittinger Nocturne City Lights is around $75 and ideally suited for the end of an evening accompanying dessert or pâté. By contrast, a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal is just under $300 and is optimally served with caviar, and perhaps better suited to start your evening in style.
Traditional champagne grapes include chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier and go through a fermenting process in-bottle (rather than in tanks). Vintage bottles are from one specific year, whereas non-vintage bottles can be a blend of years.
Pairing Champagne and Food
There are several types of champagne, though the most popular is brut (the driest). Other types include extra sec (less dry than the brut), sec (sweet), and semi-sec (sweeter still). If you see “doux” on the label – this is the sweetest of all and most appropriate for a dessert course.
As a general rule of thumb, the sweeter the champagne, the better it will pair with sweets. The drier, the better it can pair with savory. That being said, pairing champagne and food can be a joy of an experiment even with everyday foods! From salads to seafood to pizza…champagne can be enjoyed with just about anything.
Champagne and appetizers are often enjoyed together, with oysters or caviar being the classic choices. But some sommeliers even suggest pairing it with fried food. These recipes offer out-of-the-box options for your champagne and food unions.
How to Serve Champagne
Champagne should be stored standing in a cellar for the longer-term. It is best served at about 45 degrees to ensure a refreshing sparkle. So, while it’s ok to use the fridge to chill a bottle for a couple of hours before serving, please don’t store your champagne there for more than a few days. A stylish bucket with ice and water is also a fantastic way to chill your bottle.
To keep the cork from flying off, untwist the muselet and twist the bottle (not the cork). After all, the only appropriate time to douse your guests with champagne is the victory podium of a car race.
Serve your champagne in tall, narrow-neck flutes which optimize bubbles and flavor. Wide glasses will let these delicious elements escape far too quickly. Pour into upright glasses (there’s no need to actually slant the flutes like when pouring draught beer). Never fill a champagne glass all the way to its rim, though.