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Pairing Sparkling Wine with Food?

by David on August 28, 2006

I naturally gravitated toward Spittoon’s August 9 Blog on pairing sparkling wine with food, being a slave to the beverage.

I was surprised to learn that so little is written about it, and yet, in a way, it makes sense because most people think of bubbly as something you sip at a celebration, not the thing you have with your tuna carpaccio or mushroom omelette.

One of the great pleasures in my life was discovering that sparkling wine is probably the most versatile of all wines with food. Maybe we don’t need to write about it! If someone asked you to create a 5-course meal and pair each course with sparkling wine–no problem, piece of cake (maybe almond cake). Lord help you if that 5-course meal is to be paired with Syrah!

I enjoyed a pleasant feeling of validation as I read on to find the very wide variety of food suggestions, especially from the Champagne producers: scallops, duck, lamb with mushrooms (mushrooms seem to recommended by everyone repeatedly), rabbit, veal chops, soft cheese (brie, comte), hard cheese (parmigiano reggiano), eggs (a very tough match), spring rolls, salmon, blini with caviar, fish and chips, apple and quince tart… You might as well just say “whatever…” Of course, they used different styles of bubbly with the different foods, but the array of possibilities is still pretty impressive. Of course, the dessert is always the trickiest. Just serve a dessert that’s not quite as sweet as the wine and it should work.

Evan Goldstein’s great new book with his mother, Joyce Goldstein, called Perfect Pairings, attributes the incredible adaptability of sparkling wine to its lack of oak, low alcohol and high acid. The lack of tannin probably doesn’t hurt either.

Recently, we’ve done some wine and food pairing events with the Napa Valley Grille and have unexpectedly put the theory to the test. Chef Lyman puts 2 different appetizers on a plate, paired with a couple of Goosecross wines, then 2 small entrees on a plate with a few more Goosecross wines, and then dessert. Inevitably we all mix and match, and over and over again we find that the Goosecross Sparkling Rosé is the wine that marries happily with most of the dishes most of the time – certainly more often than one of our Cabernets! Now, I know Goosecross isn’t known for its sparkling wine – this is something we made to celebrate our 20th anniversary – but it was gratifying to see all those happy faces around the table, course after course.

So, for me, I’ll continue to believe that when in doubt, pop some bubbles (actually, that’s a great philosophy whether there’s food involved or not)! What do you think?

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