Sparkling wine and Champagne offers up a range of styles that make some absolutely brilliant food pairings. Food pairing is the process of enhancing the dining experience through matching dishes with complimentary wines and is a relatively new phenomenon. Today, the rules of food and wine pairing can seem daunting, but it’s worth trying. When it’s a good match, it’s a very good match, raising both the wine and the food.
Generally, sparkling wines have quite high acidity levels which means they are very cleansing on the palate. Fizz served with slightly salty canapés is an excellent way of getting the appetite going. The saltiness will also bring out the wine’s fruit character enhancing the flavours. The richer, often fruitier, New World sparkling wines, particularly those made from grapes grown in warmer climates, can be very flexible food partners; an excellent choice for events when a wide variety of dishes are being enjoyed.
Food-friendly Champagne with its racy acidity, subtle flavours, and refreshing fizz is often given the role of apéritif, and the opportunity of a great food and wine pairing is often passed over. The suggestions below hint at some of the great matches to be discovered with different styles of Champagne.
Fizz and Chips
Unlike most parts of the wine drinking world, us Brits don't drink much fizz with food, instead, we tend to limit the role of sparkling wines to a celebratory toast before or after food. However, our national dish of Fish and Chips is widely accepted to be one of the best pairings with fizz. Outlets could capitalise on this ever-present dish, creating a package that includes a glass of English Sparkling with the dish for a set price.
Full-bodied and with a sugar dosage of around 11 grammes per litre these wines complement ingredients with a touch of sweetness and contrast with salt unveiling the Champagne’s fruit flavours. We suggest: Light shellfish with their natural sweetness; aromatic crispy duck; savoury cheese dishes including aubergine gratin and pizza; smoked salmon with asparagus; steak tartare; fish and chips!
Elegant with intense, developed secondary-fruit flavours and a lower dosage than NV wines, these wines have a less intense mousse: pair with similar elegant dishes. We suggest: Fuller-flavoured seafood such as lobster, turbot or John Dory – works well with rich, creamy sauces; Eggs Benedict and quails’ eggs; white meats with wild mushrooms; light, cheese soufflés.
Chardonnay-dominated wines often show more finesse than Pinot Noir-dominated wines, along with a minerality with developed fruit and spice notes and a long finish. We suggest: Seafood such as scallop carpaccio, salt crust bass, salmon terrine, sole with a beurre blanc sauce; kedgeree; mushroom risotto with truffle oil; white meats with light sauces.
Red-fruit flavours from the Pinot Noir offer up another dimension: these wines can ‘take on’ quite full-flavoured and savoury (umami) dishes, the acidity provides flexibility with a range of ingredients. We suggest: Sushi and sashimi; flavoursome seafood such as mullet with fennel or tuna tartare; tomato-dominated dishes; full-flavoured duck dishes; cured hams and desserts with red fruits.
With a sugar dosage of around 45 grammes per litre, these Champagnes have a sweet edge which points towards dessert. However, this sweetness is kept in check by the acidity, and they can match well with both sweet and savoury dishes. We suggest: Light desserts particularly those with a high fruit content such as a strawberry or peach tart; steer away from very sweet, low acid desserts; instead consider sweet and savoury matches with foie gras, Roquefort or cheddar with caramelised onions.
While many outlets can find it difficult to sell a Champagne tasting menu experience, many more have had success in creating occasions. Think tipsy afternoon teas, set Christmas menus and boozy brunch events. High margin food, with the addition of Champagne and fizz, all wrapped up in one indulgent package that can be pre-booked. Offering Champagne by the glass, and working to hide the cost of Champagne in a package will increase your sales.