Champagne with food part 2

If you’re going to drink Champagne, you might as well get it right.

Happy New Year to all you wine buffs. The best way to start the New Year is to continue with the second part of our guide to selecting the right type of Champagne to have with food. Last time in part 1, we talked about three different styles: Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Non Vintage. Four more types follow:

It is with the richness and weight of vintage Champagne that many of the best food matches can be made. Darker, more intensely flavoured dishes can be paired with wines that have gained toasty, smoky intensity with age in a bottle. Black, truffle-scented dishes find some magnificent pairings here. Mature vintage Champagnes can cope with a higher level of spicing, and even strong cheeses such as Parmesan. And lightly smoked foods can also work very well. Younger vintage Champagnes can provide a foil for an astonishingly wide variety of dishes, from fish with rich sauce to poultry (especially duck), light meats (veal and pork) and many cheeses (Chaource and Lancashire are two examples).

Watch out for older Pinot-based Champagnes, which pair particularly well with sauces with ‘nutty, grainy’ flavours, including sesame. These champagnes also provide the right flavours for many Japanese dishes.

Non Vintage Rose
The French often serve sweet dishes based on red berries with their non-vintage rose Champagnes and often this doesn’t work. The dishes are just too sweet for the wines and make the wine seem fruitless. But keep the level of sugar down in the dish and major on red berries and non vintage rose can make good pairing.

To make successful pairings with prawns, lobster and other seafood, rose Champagnes must be dry. These matches can work well, as can dishes flavoured with tomato, try Mediterranean dishes with tomatoes, olives, garlic, aubergines and onions. And no, it’s not because of the colour.

Vintage Rose
Serious, aged vintage rose Champagnes can provide wonderful matches with food. They have the rich, savoury character that can pair with meat dishes and the power to stand up to high levels of herbs and spices, in particular basil, mint and coriander. Top match for Japanese dishes.

The surprise with sweeter wines is how well they go with savoury dishes. Even a sweet wine can make fabulous partnerships with rich and savoury food: foie gras is an obvious example. And if dishes contain an element of sweetness, whether from caramelisation, a fruit ingredient or just sugar, like many classic Thai recipes for instance, then Demi-sec Champagne can provide a better match than dry.

But demi-sec Champagnes can also go well with sweet dishes, provided that they are not too sweet. This is where the appley flavours of the Pinots can be matched with apple on the plate, where a fresh, Pinot-based demi-sec can be complementary to red berry flavours. Demi-sec Champagne with some age and intensity can even cope with a light, creamy, chocolate dish.

CHAMPAGNES of the week >
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs >
Clean, lemony and lean on the nose with a hint of toasty development. Palate is lean and lemony with high acidity. Despite the austerity, this has good delicacy and elegance.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier > A lively champagne, fresh and complex aromas with notes of citrus and honey. The palate is beautifully balanced, with lovely acidity and chocolatey maturity. This is a classic, classy non-vintage. Good blend of varieties, freshness, poise and good bottle-aged.

Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut NV > Lovely aromas of soft red fruits are followed by a dry palate, with an intriguing touch of herbiness. Acid is lean and high and the fruit is appley. This is quite unchallenging, but crisp, dry and easy going.