This post comes to us courtesy of Maria Hunt, author and blogger at The Bubbly Girl.
A radio host tried to stump me one time by asking if there were a sparkling wine that would pair well with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I confidently answered yes, because I know that there’s a sparkling wine that pairs beautifully with virtually every food. (In case you’re curious, the answer to that one is Brachetto d’Acqui, a sweet tart red bubbly from Piedmont that tastes like cranberry, raspberry and rosé.)
Here’s a sommelier secret: Sparkling wines and Champagne are food-pairing champions. A well-made bubbly has lots of natural acidity, which helps it brighten the flavors of so many foods instead of overwhelming them.
Both Edwardian royalty and Russian czars loved to host lavish all-Champagne dinners. My own food pairing revelation came during a trip to Moët & Chandon’s guest residence in Epernay, France. Every course — from foie gras to chocolate mousse — was perfectly paired with a different Champagne.
Just like you click with some people and not others, the same is true of certain combinations of food and wine. Forget old-school rules like “white-with-fish” or “red-with-meat;” today we can drink what we like.
But with so many wines out there to choose from and a plethora of different foods, I think food and wine pairing can be super-intimidating without some little guidelines. Here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind when choosing a bubbly to go with your New Year’s Eve party menu. I’ve also shared a recipe for some addictive Cheddar Cheese Coins, a simple make-ahead recipe that shines with any sparkling wine.
If you’re enjoying richer party foods like short ribs, beef sliders, hoisin-glazed pork ribs or bacon-wrapped anything, then you’ll want a sparkling wine or Champagne to match. Look for wines made from the red grapes Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Sparkling Shiraz.
Sparkling wines like Moscato d’Asti are delicious with a fruit based dessert, while Brachetto shines with bittersweet chocolate or tart lemon desserts. Just make sure your wine is sweeter than the dessert, otherwise it will end up tasting sour and thin.
This is one of my favorite ways to think about pairings; I love the way the exciting contrast in flavors makes me want to keep taking another bite.
Any kind of bubbly is magical with anything salty, fatty or fried. The bubbles and the natural acidity scrub the fat off your tongue and get it ready for another bite. Pair kettle style potato chips, seasoned popcorn or French fries with brut Champagne, Prosecco with salami and cheese or Cava with jamon Serrano or Romesco deviled eggs … you get the idea.
We love shellfish such as golden king crab, shrimp and lobster for their delicate natural sweetness and soft ocean flavor. Pairing any of these with a brut sparkling wine or Champagne brings out the flavor just like adding a squeeze of lemon.
Planning a spicy dinner of Indian curry spiced prawns, Thai satay skewers or Jamaican jerk chicken? Reach for a bottle of a slightly sweeter sparkling wine like Moscato, demi sec or off dry sparkling wine.
Cheddar Cheese Coins
You’ll find these buttery cheddar biscuits irresistible with sparkling wine or any wine for that matter. They’re also a good stand-in for croutons and quite addictive on their own. I always keep logs of this dough in my freezer so I can whip these out on short notice.
1 pound butter, softened
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated and at room temperature
4 cups unbleached flour
2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cayenne
½ tsp. ancho chile powder
½ tsp. piment d’Espelette
In a large mixing bowl, add the butter, cheddar cheese, flour, pecans, salt, cayenne, ancho chile powder and piment d’Espelette. Using your hands, mix well until all the ingredients are well-combined and it forms a dough.
Working on a lightly floured surface, take a hunk of dough and roll it into a 10 to 12 inch long log the diameter of a quarter. Wrap log in plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough. Put the dough you don’t plan to bake into the freezer, stored in a resealable plastic bag. Let the dough you plan to bake chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a sharp knife, slice the chilled log of dough into discs one-eighth inch thick. Place discs ¼-inch apart on a baking sheet that’s been greased lightly or is covered by a Silpat baking mat. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until the coins are golden and the kitchen smells like toasty cheddar cheese and butter. Remove pan from the oven. Let the coins cool completely before removing them from the pan, or they might fall apart.
© By Maria C. Hunt author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, $16.99) All rights reserved.
Photo Credit: Brooke Lydecker
About the author: Maria Hunt is the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009) and the hostess of The Bubbly Girl, a champagne and sparkling wine and cocktails entertaining site.