Champagne and caviar. Champagne and oysters. Champagne and whatever’s on that little silver tray they’re passing around.
That’s so Downton Abbey! How about taking off the tux and pairing your champagne with a bucket of popcorn instead, or maybe some deep-fried morsel of heaven or a big, steaming slab of meat?
We did some investigating about unusual yet rewarding ways to match up your uncorked New Year’s Eve libation with food. Turns out the monocled world of Champagne is crawling with cheeky iconoclasts who are pairing it with everything except road kill. Who knew?
A fun curveball pairing recommended by Wine Folly is Champagne with mac and cheese, which is catching on at gastropubs up and down the West Coast. “But 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.”
The great thing about Champagne from a foodie’s perspective is that it contains high levels of acid and very little sugar. Those qualities help bring out a wealth of flavors so they can match up with a huge variety of foods, from mild meats such as poached sole and baked chicken to highly spiced Indian and Thai cuisine. (That’s where the bubbles help – they bring down the heat.)
What the experts are saying
Elise Losfelt, a young winemaker with Moët & Chandon, toured America last summer promoting her classier-than-thou product. Usually the august French house presents its bubbly like it's the latest Louboutin, but this year the message was more proletarian: Champagne, the people’s drink!
One of the themes Losfelt hammered on was pairing bubbly with heavier meats.
“(Our champagne) has the presence and maturity that goes with meat or fish – veal, for example; or lamb could be nice.”
Trend-savvy California mixologist Jenny Buchhagen senses a sea of change in the way people are pairing Champagne. “I’ve noticed that younger people are drinking Champagne at the beginning of their meal and to start the night off.”
There’s been a down-home twist to the trend, too, Buchhagen says. “Our sommelier thinks that the best pairing with Champagne is potato chips. People are trying that quite a bit.”
Speaking of somms, a good one should be able to artfully match up bubbly with food throughout a meal.
Why not start with a prosecco (the Italian sparking wine) to go with your light appetizer, then go with something heavy for the entrée – some Australian sparkling Shiraz such as Mollydooker’s Goosebumps ($50) to match with that pork belly – and a Ruinart Brut Rosé ($80) to wash down your strawberries and ice cream? I can’t think of a better way to mark the calendar's passing than ending your New Year’s Eve meal with this stunner from France’s oldest Champagne house.
Oh yeah, about that popcorn you’re thinking of having with your bubbly – slather it with truffle butter. It’s the perfect blend of crass and class.