Champagne: A Wine of Many Talents

Jennifer Jordan

Jennifer Jordan is the senior editor at www.savoreachglass.com With a vast knowledge of wine etiquette, she writes articles on everything from how to hold a glass of wine to how to hold your hair back after too many glasses. Ultimately, she writes her articles with the intention that readers will remember wine is fun and each glass of anything fun should always be savored.

Understanding Food Pairing with Champagne

Table of Champagne

Ah, champagne. It's a French discovery synonymous with romance, celebration, and, for those who don't know how to properly open a bottle, safety goggles. Filled with flavor, essence, and history, champagne is a wine that people sometimes know little about. Often overlooked for a bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild or a Grand Reserve Pinot Noir, champagne is frequently to the alcohol industry what the garter belt is to the fashion industry: it's only given attention during wedding receptions.

It's not the champagne's fault; it didn't insult drinkers in a drunken, outspoken moment. Instead, it's the fault of the wine drinking community. The blame lies on our perception - or more pointedly misconception - of champagne.

This misconception often happens because champagne has a reputation for being sweet, like a wine with a cheerful demeanor. This leads drinkers to limit its pairing, often pairing champagne only with foods that complement sweetness. Some common pairings include chocolate or cheese. And, of course, everyone knows few things beat getting under the covers and welcoming a romantic night cap of strawberries and champagne. Yes, we all know that champagne has a reputation for being good in bed.

However, champagne is so much more than chocolate, cheese and strawberries; champagne is a drink that can be paired with many different food items. Full of celebration, and a bubbly personality, it is quickly becoming a drink everyone wants to take to dinner.

The Categories

First and foremost, it's important to understand the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine. They have a lot in common and people tend to use them interchangeably. However, they are not the same. Both sparking wine and champagne is made the same way - with a second fermentation that causes carbonation - but only wine made in the Champagne area of France is allowed to be called Champagne. Those made outside this region, are simply called sparkling wines (pardon our French, Prosecco, we didn't make the rules).


Many types of wine can be categorized by flavor and champagne is no exception to this rule. Just like other wines, some champagne is sweeter and some is drier. Overall, the categories to keep in mind when pairing food are the following:
- Doux
- Demi-sec
- Dry
- Extra Dry
- Brut
- Extra Brut

On the spectrum of sweetness, Doux is the most sugary, while Extra Brut is the driest. Brut, teetering between dry and very dry, is the most popular; many champagne drinkers raise their glasses to it.

The Foods

 

Doux and Demi-Sec: If the French fries we dipped into our chocolate milkshakes as children taught us anything it was probably that saltiness goes well with things that are sweet. This rule is now carried over from childhood into adulthood: salty dishes complement the Doux and Demi-secs very well.

Asian dishes, rich with soy sauce, potato chips, Mexican dishes, and fish, when it has a salty tint to it, all go well with Doux and Demi-secs. And, of course, nothing beats a nice glass of sweet champagne and a brand new salt lick.

As for desserts, Doux and Demi-sec shouldn't be paired with something more sugary than they are: that kind of sweetness may just too sappy. Instead, these champagnes are good with slightly sweet dishes, such as pound cake and angel food cake, and bittersweet chocolates. For desserts that are sweet, a Doux or Demi-Sec is the best chance for enhancement. However, the sweeter the dessert, the harder if may be to pair with champagne. Some desserts may be so sweet that no champagne will work.

Dry and Extra Dry: The word"dry" in a drink may sound contradictory. After all, a drink shouldn't leave you parched. Dry and Extra-dry champagnes aren't drinks built on aridness; instead, they are simply champagnes that aren't as sweet as they could be: think of them like champagnes with a chip on their shoulder.

These types of champagne go well with fried food and sushi, particularly when the sushi is slightly on the salty side. They also go well with almonds, vegetables, Asian food, poultry, light and heavy cheeses, and, everyone's favorite, liver.

As far as dessert is concerned, Dry and Extra Dry makes an ideal match for Flan, semi-sweet chocolates, and dishes that aren't overly sugary, such as fruit tarts.

Brut and Extra Brut: Over achievers of the champagne world, Brut and Extra Brut go well with many, many dishes. The dryness of the champagne opens up a doorway allowing champagne to walk - scratch that - gallop, through. Among some of the dishes that go well with the driest champagnes include turkey, dishes made of eggs, pasta with cream or mushroom sauce, lobster, shrimp, poultry, nuts, and scallops.

This type of champagne, despite its reputation, does not go well with sweet desserts; the dryness makes an awkward combination, like a glass of champagne and a slice of frosted cake that don't know what to say to each other.

Among some of the dishes that typically go well with any category of champagne are fish, oysters, and dishes with olive oil.. And, of course, many types of champagne go well with mushrooms, which is ideal both for people who love mushrooms and Alice in Wonderland.

 
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  • Tanya says
    Great Article! I love me some Chanpagne
  • I thought that the whole point with Champagne was that you didn't drink food with it? How does one get ridiculously pissed in a tiny amount of time if one eats?
  • Marley says
    I love Champagne for special occasions!
  • Paul says
    I love drinking a good champagne
  • lr says
    Great article. We had methode traditionalle with oysters at a wine tasting once so I can see the comment about saltiness is definitely true. We try and buy NZ wine most often - because it's so good and there are so many varieties - and I think our bubbly is some of the best. No 1 family estate are doing great things. Morton (the sec is a good alternative to the brut), Deutz and Allan Scott blanc de blancs are always good value and readily available. Cloudy Bay Pelorus is something special too. At least one bottle is necessary for breakfast on Christmas morning!
  • Kiwi Gas says
    There is a staggering difference between really good (preferably authentic French) champagne and the cheap fizz imitators. Everyone should try it once, best consumed in an exotic location, with an equally exotic companion.
  • Kay says
    I agree. only like the good ones
  • Jackson says
    is there anything champagne does not go with! admittedly when i attend a party that has it on offer i don't really care what else they are serving, i stick close to the bottle.
  • matt lark says
    So many people need to read this article, Lindauer is NOT champagne, and never ever could or will be.

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