Pairing Sparkling Wine

Learn how to pair sparkling wine with this guide from Eric Guido


I never gave sparkling wine a fair shake (no pun intended). Like most people, my first exposures to sparkling wines were New Year’s Eve parties as a kid. Sooner or later, someone would put a glass of Champagne in my hand. I’d take a sip and think about it for a moment, only to decide that I didn’t understand. Usually it was too bubbly, acidic and smelled more like a loaf of bread than a glass of wine. Fast forward to adolescence and the first time I decided to indulge a little more with the bubbly, along with the hangover that I experienced the following day. I didn’t understand this sparkling wine “thing.”  

The fact was, I was probably drinking swill. To make matters worse, I didn’t understand the art of moderation. However, these experiences marked me and my opinion of sparkling wine for over two decades, until someone finally put a good glass of Champagne in my hand. It was a Non-Vintage (NV) Ulysse Collin Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs and I loved it. With my inhibitions tossed to the wind, I had finally decided to start exploring sparkling wine.

But where to start was the question. The fact is, there’s a lot more to sparkling wine than just Champagne. Most are dry (Extra Brut), but you can also find sparklers in many degrees of sweetness. Some are made from red grapes (Blanc de Noirs), some from white (Blanc de Blancs) and many are Rosé. The good news is that once you start to explore, you immediately realize that all of these wines are amazing when paired with food, and popping open any kind of bubbly seems to put people in the mood for a good time.

With limited space, I could not possibly cover every category of sparkling wine, so I’ve decided to discuss some of favorite styles with my favorite pairings. Think of it as an introduction with a world of new experiences waiting down the road.

Champagne and Food image via Shutterstock

Prosecco (Italy)

Prosecco has come a long way in a short time. Today, many people think of it as an alternative to Champagne and one that tends to cost a lot less. Prosecco is made in a very different way than Champagne (large steel tanks) and from a different grape (Glera), yet the quality level continues to rise. If you haven’t already discovered it, now’s the time.

Prosecco is a very food-friendly wine and although I spend most of my time sipping Prosecco with a plate of Prosciutto San Daniel, I have also grown to love it next to spicy Asian-inspired preparations. Singapore Spicy Shrimp Over Spinach was a perfect match.

NV La Farra Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Extra Dry - The nose was elegant, showing lemon and flowers with minerals and field grasses adding earthy depth. On the palate, it was soft with apple and inner florals. The finish was refreshing with notes of peach clinging to the palate. (90 points)

Vintage Champagne

Nothing says celebration like a bottle of Champagne. Most Champagne houses offer a large assortment of different styles with Prestige Cuvées and Vintage Champagne at the top of the pyramid. Most Champagne is a multi-vintage blend, but when a particularly good vintage comes along, producers will choose to release vintage Champagne. These bottles cannot be released until at least three years after the vintage (often producers age them much longer) and they offer amazing depth and complexities.

While I’ve read a hundred times that Champagne and caviar are the perfect pairing, I’ve yet to experience an “ah-ha” moment to prove it to me. However, what I have found is that Champagne goes very well with Smoked Salmon. This easy finger-sandwich recipe is a perfect partner to help kick off your evening, paired with a glass of Champagne.

1999 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne - The nose somehow reminded me of sunshine with field grasses, apple, yellow flowers and a note of sour cream. On the palate, it was rich yet wonderfully fresh with more apple flavor and minerals. The finish was staying and lasted an easy minute. (91 points)

Cava (Spain)

Cava may have been created with Champagne in mind and using the same techniques, but that’s where the similarities end. Cava is made using a mixture of white native varieties (with a little Chardonnay finding its way in these days). What’s more, the region’s climate and geography is drastically different than Champagne. Cava tends to be fruitier with lemon and earthy notes; it’s an excellent alternative and a serious value.

The cuisine in the Penedes is a mix of Mediterranean styles with fish as one of their staple foods. It’s no surprise that Cava is an excellent pairing partner with fried fish. The mix of fruits, acidity and bubbles make short work of the rich crust, and once the flavors of the fish and Cava intertwine, it is magic.  

Crispy Breaded Tilapia with Classic Tartar Sauce

NV Celler Vilafranca Cava Casteller - The nose showed almond, lemony citrus, green apple, herbal and yeasty notes. On the palate, it was fresh and dry yet smooth with tart flavors of apple, dried peach and grassy notes lingering though the mouth-watering finish. (88 points)

Crémant d'Alsace

Alsace is much better known for outstanding Riesling, yet they also produce a sparkling wine labeled Crémant d'Alsace. I often think of this as a more affordable French alternative to Champagne. Crémant d'Alsace typically shows a calling card of vibrant acidity that stands out on the palate. When you add that to the menagerie of aromas and flavors created by the diverse soils of Alsace, you end up with a wine of great character that pairs beautifully with food.  

Due to its lighter nature, I usually prefer to keep Crémant at the beginning of my meal. It can easily pair with most appetizers and loves salty foods. However, it also goes well with eggs, asparagus and cured pork. Thinking along those lines, I came across a recipe for an Asparagus & Pancetta Frittata. Not only was it a great pairing, but I’m also happy to have found this easy and very tasty recipe.

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Blanc de Blancs Brut - On the nose I found green apples, lemon, whole butter and chalky minerals. The palate showed Granny Smith apple, flower petals and grassy tones with a bitter feel that was then washed clean by a strong core of acidity. On the finish, the senses were left dry but then began to water with lingering notes of grapefruit and walnut. (89 points)

Champagne Rosé

Although most Champagne is made from Pinot Noir (a red grape), far fewer are made in the Rosé style. The best part about a Champagne Rosé is that it behaves very differently on the palate from a golden Champagne. In fact, from the standpoint of pairing it with food, Champagne Rosé opens up a world of possibilities that can welcome in dishes like lamb (done rare) or even some gently cooked red meats.

If there are two things I love with Champagne Rosé, they are cherries and rare lamb. I really wanted to combine the two, however I wanted to avoid a dish that had too much sweetness as it would detract from the wine. The recipe I went with, Lamb Rib Chops with Quick Cherry Pan Sauce, worked perfectly. The trick here is to not over cook the lamb and make sure that you use “unsweetened” cherry juice and tart whole cherries for the sauce. 

NV Ruinart Champagne Brut Rosé - The nose was finessed, drawing you in with aromas of cherry, light strawberry, floral tones and mineral-laden citrus. On the palate, it was richer than I expected from the nose yet remarkably refined. Almost whimsical, showing strawberry, lemony tones and minerals carried well into the moderately long finish and blossomed across the senses. (92 points)

Moscato d’Asti

Nothing finishes a dinner or wine tasting better than a glass of Moscato d’Asti. It’s amazing to watch the faces light up around the table as your guests take a sip from this magic elixir. What’s more, they just can’t get enough of it. Why? For one thing, the wines are refreshing yet carry a hint of sweetness and a core of brisk, bubbly acidity that makes the mouth water. They are also low in alcohol, making them an excellent way to extend your evening without having to offer the guest room to your party.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Moscato d’Asti doesn’t have to be paired with dessert. If it is, then the dessert shouldn’t be too sweet. I actually love Moscato with spicy Asian cuisine. However, I still prefer Moscato at the end of a meal. My recommendation is to pair it with Vanilla-Poached Apricots with Zabaglione. Moscato pairs beautifully with fruit and the Zabaglione gives the right amount of creamy sweetness without overpowering the wine.

2010 G.D. Vajra Moscato d'Asti - The nose showed pear, honeydew and hints of citrus. On the palate, I found plush, sweet apple in a mouth-filling yet beautifully fresh expression of Moscato. The finish showed hints of lime and a lingering refreshing sweetness. (89 points)

Slideshow View

Mentioned in this article


Comments

  • Snooth User: Gundersen
    440480 35

    Lovely range of bubblies and delicious food for thought. I would have enjoyed some comments on the behaviour of the mousse since some great tasting bubblies foam excessively in the mouth rather than tickle the tongue. Happy New Year! Richard

    Dec 29, 2012 at 12:51 AM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 994

    It is only until very recently that I discovered Champagne and/or sparkling wine is the perfect match for Asian cuisine. I guess I had my head stuck in the sand all these years. I now keep several bottles on hand for when we order take out Asian food.

    Jan 05, 2013 at 12:26 PM


  • I'm looking for the recipe to a Mac & Cheese that we recently enjoyed at your winery last month. It was made with a round pasta, had a spicy Tomato olive oil taste and a crunch. Please send recipe!

    Apr 02, 2013 at 6:35 PM


  • Snooth User: WineIsYummy
    Hand of Snooth
    615722 242

    have you tried the Emeri sparkling range of wines from australian winery De Bortoli? They are affordable, delicious and easy to pair with food.

    Apr 03, 2013 at 11:17 AM


  • Thats magnificent

    Aug 03, 2013 at 1:30 AM


  • Snooth User: hollydray
    1331306 37

    Its really good :)

    Aug 13, 2013 at 4:40 AM


  • sweett;)

    Aug 16, 2013 at 10:45 AM


  • Nice one..

    Aug 20, 2013 at 2:08 AM


  • delicious!

    Aug 30, 2013 at 10:10 AM


  • awesome

    Sep 05, 2013 at 1:13 PM


  • Awesome

    Sep 07, 2013 at 4:39 AM



  • Its ideal

    Sep 19, 2013 at 3:16 AM


  • Snooth User: ToSLawyer
    1369283 31

    Awesome...

    Sep 23, 2013 at 4:43 AM


  • Marvelous...!!

    Sep 30, 2013 at 2:08 AM


  • Snooth User: cornempty
    1380622 37


    Its really good

    Oct 10, 2013 at 1:49 AM


  • Impressive

    Nov 09, 2013 at 4:59 AM


  • Snooth User: tribezeal
    1409982 34

    good

    Nov 19, 2013 at 12:22 AM


  • Thats incredibly good

    Nov 26, 2013 at 1:28 AM


  • Wonderful

    Dec 12, 2013 at 11:07 PM


  • Snooth User: fitssling
    1426660 33

    great...

    Dec 17, 2013 at 11:48 PM


  • Snooth User: nicemind
    1454655 32

    amazing

    Jan 16, 2014 at 9:59 PM


  • Snooth User: bluffpole
    1456192 32

    impressive...

    Jan 22, 2014 at 5:25 AM


  • Snooth User: alertable
    1460203 33

    Thats incredibly good

    Jan 29, 2014 at 2:11 AM


  • Snooth User: tokcowboys
    1461497 33

    Its interesting

    Feb 01, 2014 at 4:46 AM




  • Its cool

    Feb 04, 2014 at 12:05 AM


  • have you tried the Emeri sparkling range of wines from australian winery De Bortoli? They are affordable, delicious and easy to pair with food.

    Feb 04, 2014 at 12:49 AM



  • Grand

    Feb 06, 2014 at 12:58 AM


  • Its interesting

    Feb 23, 2014 at 10:24 PM



  • Thats beneficial

    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:17 AM


  • Snooth User: friedtoys
    1471719 32

    good

    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:41 AM


  • Snooth User: bryanchen
    1474329 33



    Cold

    Mar 03, 2014 at 3:57 AM


  • Snooth User: mistywax
    1475372 33

    Genius.

    Mar 06, 2014 at 2:20 AM


  • Snooth User: luckjoiner
    1475796 33

    good

    Mar 07, 2014 at 4:47 AM


  • Snooth User: wesguthrie
    1476154 33

    Its ideal

    Mar 08, 2014 at 1:16 AM


  • Snooth User: hamgreasy
    1476950 33

    good

    Mar 09, 2014 at 11:53 PM




  • Its marvelous :)

    Mar 11, 2014 at 12:55 AM


  • Snooth User: popcornpop
    1484172 33

    Fascinating

    Mar 28, 2014 at 3:03 AM




  • Hip...!!

    Mar 28, 2014 at 4:33 AM


  • This is so great!

    Mar 31, 2014 at 5:22 AM


  • Snooth User: spikyweed
    1485573 10

    Superb

    Apr 03, 2014 at 12:56 AM


  • Fascinating

    Apr 04, 2014 at 12:46 AM


  • Snooth User: jumboneedy
    1487285 34


    Thats trendy

    Apr 04, 2014 at 2:35 AM


  • Snooth User: aloofhill
    1487781 34

    Thats calme...

    Apr 05, 2014 at 4:39 AM


  • Snooth User: cofflesour
    1488585 33



    Thats excellent


    Apr 07, 2014 at 1:03 AM


  • Snooth User: pullriding
    1488598 33

    Thats stunning

    Apr 07, 2014 at 2:19 AM


  • Snooth User: beerbetter
    1489014 34

    Interesting

    Apr 08, 2014 at 4:35 AM


  • Snooth User: grimtooth
    1493754 32

    Nice..........

    Apr 19, 2014 at 2:02 AM


  • Snooth User: rabbitspot
    1493740 33

    Fascinating

    Apr 19, 2014 at 2:53 AM


  • Its tremendous :)

    Apr 20, 2014 at 11:38 PM



  • Its phenomenal

    Apr 21, 2014 at 1:21 AM


  • Snooth User: brothgoose
    1494537 34

    good

    Apr 21, 2014 at 2:48 AM


  • Snooth User: pasttile
    1496873 33

    Its brilliant

    Apr 26, 2014 at 1:04 AM


  • Snooth User: frombask
    1496881 32

    good

    Apr 26, 2014 at 2:45 AM



  • Thats one awesome

    Apr 29, 2014 at 2:56 AM


  • Awe-inspiring...!!

    Apr 29, 2014 at 4:08 AM


  • Snooth User: furiousloo
    1498002 33

    Its marvelous :)

    May 01, 2014 at 11:05 PM


  • have you tried the Emeri sparkling range of wines from australian winery De Bortoli? They are affordable, delicious and easy to pair with food.

    May 08, 2014 at 5:59 AM




  • Its calme

    May 19, 2014 at 6:49 AM


  • Snooth User: roastspry
    1506225 31

    Great

    May 21, 2014 at 11:36 PM


  • nice

    May 22, 2014 at 3:14 AM



  • Thats good...

    May 27, 2014 at 1:35 AM


  • Snooth User: tilegroin
    1510117 33

    good

    Jun 05, 2014 at 5:43 AM


  • Snooth User: boxingneat
    1511418 30

    great

    Jun 10, 2014 at 12:50 AM



  • Its extremely good

    Jun 10, 2014 at 5:39 AM


  • Its amazing :)

    Jun 10, 2014 at 5:47 AM


  • Snooth User: fraidtangy
    1511692 13


    Thats superb

    Jun 11, 2014 at 12:30 AM


  • Thats incredible

    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:15 AM


  • Snooth User: hoopssnow
    1511940 50

    Thats tremendous...

    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:38 AM


  • Snooth User: baronto
    1511972 32

    Good

    Jun 12, 2014 at 2:00 AM


  • Its tremendous :)

    Jun 13, 2014 at 12:21 AM


  • Snooth User: lackriding
    1512506 63

    Its really good :)

    Jun 15, 2014 at 11:09 PM


Add a Comment

Search Articles


Best Wine Deals

See More Deals »

Daily Wine WisdomMore Wine Tips








Snooth Media Network