A welcome-glass of bubbles is de rigueur this time of year (and really, why not any time?), but that doesn’t mean the pairings must be overly fussy to be perfect. We took a stroll down the snack aisle, raided the pantry and put together a cheese board to create a spread of simple things you can throw on a table or pass around for your guests to nosh and still have time to enjoy their company. The basic rule is you don’t have to go overboard to find the perfect complements to Champagne. But go right ahead and dip those chips in caviar.
Which Glass Should I Use?
Unlocking Champagne’s intricacies and flavors is all about treating it like still wine and fully appreciating its aromas and nuances. For nonvintage and stainless steel-aged wines, reach for an all-purpose or white wine glass. To savor delicate floral notes, opt for a medium-wide tulip glass, which works especially well for vintage bottlings. If you’re diving into bubbles that have seen some oak aging or barrel fermentation, embrace the Burgundy glass to let the wine breathe and boast its true power. And raise a flute… if you feel like it.
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Guacamole (and Chips)
Zippy expressions of yellow stone fruit and quince beautifully enhance the creamy ripeness of avocado, while the wine’s bright acidity enhances the guac’s lime and salt. The toasty brioche undertones help satisfy the palate while you dive in with another chip.
If you prefer a still-white wine, explore the vibrant and rare Chardonnay expressions from Champagne. There’s a versatile spectrum, from dynamic, medium-bodied options reminiscent of Chablis, to richer, full-bodied choices. Lemongrass, straw and light herbal notes add depth to edamame’s sweet nuttiness, while a dusting of flaky salt complement the wine’s inherent bright acidity.
Bean & Cheese Taquitos
A no-brainer pairing for comforting earthy and cheese-rich bites, Champagne’s still Pinot Noir, especially in warmer vintages, delivers luscious red fruits and subtle spices. Vibrant acidity and silky tannins pierce the crunch of the crispy tortilla.
Andy Capp’s Hot Fries
A Brut Blanc de Blancs is an ideal choice for layers of spice, as it complements flavors without overpowering them. Striking the right level of sweetness is essential; wines that are either too sweet or too dry can throw off the balance, so it’s all about finding that sweet (and spicy) spot.
A Brut rosé with extra age plus a healthy proportion of oak-aged Pinot Noir and Chardonnay can be a formidable match against unusual combinations of sweet and spicy. Apart from being full-bodied, the flavors run the spectrum of ripe red fruits, orange liqueur, Carroway seeds, spice, beef stock and stone minerality. It effortlessly tackles the heat of black peppercorn, spicy chili oil or even jalapeño-beef jerky covered in chocolate or maple syrup. Bring it on!
At every wine party, there’s always that one person who (lucky us) brings a geeky, rare wine choice, maybe a blend with less frequently planted varietals such as Petit Meslier or even Arbanne. If you’re unsure which bite it might initially work with, stick with the classics like these salty-cheesy bites. They’re tried and true, so why mess with a good thing?
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Best to have a lot of popcorn on hand, because this pairing is a crowdpleaser. The sharp cheddar cheese and buttery richness play beautifully against the clean, effervescent backdrop and brioche notes of a vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
Sec wines may appear round in texture, but their underlying sweetness (with between 17–23 grams per liter of residual sugar) can be unexpectedly brilliant pairings when matched with robust earthy flavors. The sweetness of the wine not only accentuates the richness of ingredients such as cheese stuffing and buttery breadcrumbs but also bridges the gap between spices, herbs and sauces to create a harmonious pairing.
Potato Chips (with Caviar)
This ultimate classic pairing demonstrates a perfect balance of elements. Chardonnay’s crisp citrus and saline profile seamlessly matches caviar’s briny-richness and umami. Together they create a delightful interplay of sophisticated nuance on the palate. Cleansing bubbles help refresh the palate, ensuring that each delicate bead is savored.
Italian Rainbow Cookies
So long as your cookie isn’t overly sweet, a Brut rosé can enhance or add a vibrant layer of ripe strawberries and raspberries, adding depth of flavor to the dark chocolate. Almond or hazelnut paste seamlessly mirrors notes found in the Champagne.
Brut nature (also referred to as brut zero or brut sauvage) are wines without added dosage and offer a zesty burst of acidity. Taking a sip between slurps is equivalent to squeezing fresh lemon on oysters.
Add a smear of crème fraîche and a sprig of dill over toast to bring home the sophisticated nuances of a blend of all seven traditional Champagne varieties in this classic pairing. With remarkably clean, captivating and slightly saline flavors, it’s like a disco ball on your palate, leaving tantalizingly brisk mineral sensations.
Embrace the ripe citrus tones of a Blanc de Blancs to enhance the savory flavors of empanadas, whether they’re baked, fried or contain sweet elements such as raisins. Reach for a Brut expression with a creamy texture to complete a satisfyingly round mouthfeel.
Gouda’s natural sweetness and delicate caramel tones match seamlessly with Champagne’s brioche-like nuances developed through lees aging or light toffee tones from barrel aging. A traditional blend dominated by Pinot Noir or Meunier can offer quince and saffron spices, while the addition of Chardonnay provides a refreshing lift to the palate.
Smooth and dense cheeses such as chällerhocker (a complex Alpine cheese) can offer enjoyable textural pairings. Blanc de Noirs (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Munier) expressions with a gentle roundness from extended lees aging, coupled with ripe berry and orchard fruit and a hint of smoke harmonize with the cheese’s nuttiness, sour cream profile and butterscotch undertones.
Brie’s mild character serves as an ideal canvas for more delicate wines (such as the rare biodynamic bottling of 100% Pinot Gris recommended here). Soft flavors of vibrant yellow citrus and orchard fruits stay persistent on the palate, while silky textures are enhanced by the cheese’s creaminess.
Parmigiano-Reggiano offers robust yet refined fruity-nutty notes and can be tricky. This cheese demands a complex partner such as a Brut rosé with extended lees aging. The payoff: a sophisticated melding of Morello cherry, nuttiness and spice.
The earthy tanginess of chèvre is the perfect companion for a fruity Brut rosé. While wild strawberries take center stage, the cheese’s tang effortlessly teases out nuances of cherry skins and tangerine, creating a delightful and well-balanced pairing.
Elevate rich gamy tones with a Brut rosé that offers red fruits, saffron, wild thyme and peppercorns. The subtly sweet flavors of raspberries and strawberries balance prosciutto’s earthiness, while mouthwatering acidity cuts through richness.
Nori Maki Arare (Seaweed-Wrapped Crackers)
Demi-Sec wines, dosed anywhere between 32–50 grams of residual sugar per liter, offer noticeable sweetness. This can be your best friend for umami-packed preparations— as in sushi with rich fish, or even this simple crunchy snack—to help provide balance and cleanse the palate.
Olives & Cured Meat
Charcuterie boards are a rollercoaster of flavors, from tangy cheeses and spicy salumi to briny olives. Match those ups and downs with a rare wine boasting all seven original Champagne varietals. This pairing cranks up the tang, spice and brine.
Add a Smear of Jam
Sometimes all you need is a touch of fruity sweetness to complete a bite. Use this condiment to unleash layers of sweet bramble fruit and violets in a Brut Noir. Added bonus: a tantalizing lemon-tart finish.
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Published: December 7, 2023