Champagne, Sparkling Wines are the Little Black Dress of Wines
Every woman has that dress, that outfit that she can wear to any occasion. It is the little black dress. She can wear it to the office. Dress it up and she can wear it on date night. It is versatile and never lets her down. Sparkling wine is equally versatile. You can serve it at any celebration. You can serve sparkling wine with fried chicken or simply sip it while watching your favorite movie. A sparkling wine will never let you down.
But, why? Why do sparkling wines complement most foods? There is not a single reason or a scientific theory that I know of. Consider a couple of factors.
Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, and other sparkling wines and made from different vintage wines. The vintage is the year the wine is produce. Winemakers use the higher quality wines pressed from each year and combine the pressings to create cuvée sparkling wines. Each year’s wines have unique characteristics and qualities, regardless if the grape is the same. For example, there are differences between a 2015 Chardonnay and a 2016 which makes each distinguishing.
A buffet of flavors, and characteristics are on display when you bring the best of the best together. Mr. Chris Hallowell, a wine and spirit journalist, explains the blending process well. Hallowell said, “most bottles are blended from different vintage wines, resulting in a cuvée that’s greater than the sum of its parts; they tend to showcase minerality, a characteristic that adds depth to fruity, savory, meaty, and gamy flavors; and these wines possess an unparalleled acidity that cuts through rich, fatty dishes and surmounts even high-acid ingredients such as tomatoes or vinegars”, in an Epicurious article. Food pairing becomes simpler and less exacting when the wine possess broader traits.
All Rules Apply
There are a few rules that prevail when you are pairing food with wine. These rules eliminate what kinds of wine that should not be paired with certain foods. This makes the wine selection process easier. For example, opposite flavors with opposite flavors. You can pair spicy Thai food with semi-sweet Riesling. When you follow this rule, it eliminates bold, rich reds like Malbec from your selection. Most importantly, you save your mouth from experiencing a three-alarm fire.
All food pairing rules apply to sparkling wines. Use our earlier example, opposite flavors with opposite flavors. Pair the same spicy Thai food with a Sec or Demi-Sec sparkling wine. A Sec or Demi-Sec are semi-dry wines. These wines have a slightly high sweet taste, lower alcohol and reduce the “heat” level impression.
You often hear red wines with red meat. They are complementary flavors. Tannin, found in red wine, will “cut” through the fat and salt in red meat, and not overwhelm the meal. Interestingly sparkling wines are not high in tannin, although many Champagnes are made with red grapes like Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or Shiraz. Sparkling wines have similar relationships with fatty, salty foods. Potato chips, French fries, anything wrapped in bacon, or short ribs are good combos with Brut or Extra Dry sparkling wines. The sparkling wine acidic level brings balance. The food is less salty and fatty on the palate.
Tonight, try a sparkling wine with your meal. Do not save the bubbles of milestone events. Every day is a celebration. You something new!
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Guide to Champagne and Sparkling Wine
|Champagne, Sparkling Wine|
|The other day a friend and me were talking about New Year’s Eve. She said, “Should I serve Champagne or sparkling wine”? My immediate response was, “Champagne is a form of sparkling wine. It all depends upon what you like.” She gave me a puzzled look, and said “oh ok.” Thinking about my response I should have provided a better explanation. I realized she did not know Champagne is among the sparkling wine family. She thought Champagne is different from sparkling wine. Champagne has become the brand name for requesting sparkling wine. It is like when you ask someone to hand you a Kleenex®. You are really asking for a tissue and not the brand Kleenex®. The brand name has been ingrained in everyday vernacular.
Champagne has very distinctive characteristics, fermentation methods, and regional restrictions. Here is the Reader’s Digest® version about Champagne. Champagne is made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. There is a double fermentation method known as Methode Champenoise. Lastly,and most importantly to the French and legally, only sparkling wine produced in the La Champagne region can be called Champagne (except for a few California vineyards. That is another blog).
Now you know, what do you serve? You have a variety of sparkling wines to select. In addition to Champagne, there are other sparkling wines styles like Cava and Prosecco. Cava is from Spain. Prosecco is from Italy. Each of these regions have unique grapes that make up the composition of these wines.
Regardless of the country, there are common descriptions you will see on the label. Here are the most common:
Your sparkling wine does not have to be international. When you are in your local wine store ask for Maryland sparkling wine. It is not too late for the wine shop to order it from the vineyard.