It’s Champagne Day 2017 and corks will popping around the world. This ultimate celebration drink has become the go to choice for parties, anniversaries, sporting victories and even ship launches. But there’s so much more to France's top sparkling wine than the mere thrill of its bubbles.
Champagne is an incredible wine for pairing with a wide range of dishes. It comes in a variety of styles and this gives us plenty of options to work with flavours, ingredients and cooking methods. Within the region, and it's wines, there are different grapes, different colours and different sweetness levels. These can all affect the choice of food, so let’s take a look inside the bottle and find some classic & creative combinations!
Can you remember the first glass of Champagne you tasted? Chances are it was a non-vintage, or simply NV. This means wine from a blend of grapes grown in different years. It's carefully created to produce a consistent ‘house style’ - year in, year out. This will generally be a dry style, with medium intensity from at least 15 months sitting on its lees (dead yeast).
Food Pairing: It’s hard to go wrong with most seafood canapés or entrées, like salmon blinis, seared scallops or recipes using John Dory or Red Mullet. If you’d like a little luxury try foie gras on toast or for simplicity grab a big slice of Parmesan or Gruyere cheese.
This time the grapes must come from a single vintage. These are only produced in outstanding years. The fruit is usually more concentrated, riper and the wine is left to age a little longer on lees. Here you can expect a Champagne with more depth and power and one that shows all the character of a given vintage.
Food Pairing: A step up in weight is the key to a great match here. Scrambled eggs with salmon & truffle will get most people straight out of bed and reaching for a glass. Also, try pan-roasted halibut, glazed black cod, a rich mushroom risotto or a charcuterie board with spec and prosciutto.
Blanc de Blancs (White of whites)
If you see this on a label it means the wine is made only from white grapes. These will be Chardonnay grapes grown mostly in the Côte des Blancs sub-region. They produce a style of Champagne with elegance and finesse, when young, and can develop a biscuity richness with age.
Food Pairing: Oysters and caviar are classic partners with Blanc de Blanc as they match the intensity and freshness of the wine. Also look to fried foods, including Fish ‘n’ Chips and calamari, or smoked fish like salmon gravadlax. If you’re feeling a bit cheeky, try it with some buttered popcorn and you’ll never look back!
Blanc de Noir (White of blacks)
These are made using the 2 principle red grapes of the region; Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Fermentation happens mostly without the skins. This creates a wine with a slight touch of colour and delicate tannins. The fruit is earthier with fleshy, red fruit flavours.
Food Pairing: With more intensity in the glass, you can start to partner weightier dishes like mackerel, lobster or even duck. This is also a great solution to the problem of what to drink with a middle-eastern cuisine and a real star with the variety of flavours and textures that sushi throws up.
Rosé Champagne is made by light skin contact with whole, uncrushed red grapes, or by blending white wines with a still red wine. The colour varies from light to dark depending on producer but you do get more body and depth of flavour. This allows you to partner with bigger dishes, including red meats.
Food Pairing: Bright flavours really shine with rosé matches. Go for a Tuna tatrtare, Beetroot & burrata bruschetta or a smoked trout with capers and crème fraîche. If you’re looking to match something richer or robust try rare roast pigeon or tender pink spring lamb.
Another important style of pink fizz is the one which contains a level of residual sugar, or sweetness, in the final wine. These are delicious to drink thanks to a good balance of acidity, and they open the door to pairing a range of desserts and other interesting dishes.
Food Pairing: With a lovely mix of lush, sweet, red fruits you have a perfect partner for summer fruit dishes containing strawberries and raspberries or rhubarb. They are also a wonderful way to both lift, and cool down spice. Try them with of a fiery chilli squid, pork belly in five-spice or an Indian spiced lamb.