First of all, I sincerely believe that sparkling wines have a bigger role to play at the table than simply for a toast. The brilliant combination of effervescence, ample acidity (tartness), and lighter weight (low alcohol) make for great pairings. You should really consider pairing bubbles with more dishes during your meal, especially during the holidays or other celebrations.
Bubbles can contrast beautifully with the textures of deep-fried foods, puff pastry or phyllo dough. The tactile play of the food’s crackle and wine’s effervescence is very satisfying in the mouth. Many pastry items incorporate plenty of butter, an ingredient that works well with sparkling wines. Additionally, the bubbles can counterbalance spicy heat (peppers).
Next, the sharpness (acidity) is the perfect foil for preparations that are salty, thick or rich (such as cream sauces and many soft cheeses), or a little oily (fish, caviar, fried foods). The nutty and toasty aromas that predominate in French styles and more developed or aged American and antipodean examples are excellent with sautéed dishes and those with « toasty » elements, such as grains, nuts and corn.
Sparkling wines that are more fruit-driven (especially those that come from the US, Australia and New Zealand) are very compatible with exotic and Asian cuisines such as Indian, Thai, Vietnamese,… Finally, if you are serving a dish that is relatively spicy, off-dry bubbles can be very enjoyable and help tame the heat.
Bubbles work well:
- To counterbalance salt, moderate heat, richness and cream, grease, butter, deep-fried foods
- To replace any other highlighting acid (citrus) with fish or shellfish
- To accompany raw fish: sushi, sashimi, oysters, ceviche, caviar
- To match tart foods: citrus and other tart fruits, vinegars, pomegranate, dill, capers, tomatoes, leeks, zucchini,…
- To match Latin dishes (such as empanadas, ceviche and mole) and the cuisines of Florida, the Caribbean and Hawaii
- To match Asian cuisines (Japanese sushi, tempura, gyoza; Chinese deep-fried dishes, seafood dishes and some poultry; Thai crêpes, fish cakes and some coconut-milk-based curries; Indian samosas)
- To accompany many cheeses, especially hard cheeses like Parmesan, really rich cheeses and salty cheeses
- To match dishes with crunchy texture (phyllo pastry and deep-fried foods)
- To harmonize with dishes that have an inherent toasty character
- To accompany dishes that imply sweetness or have lightly sweet condiments or treatments
- To accompany foods difficult to match with other wines, such as egg dishes and soups
- To pair with rustic or coarsely textured foods: polenta, pesto, hummus,… Sparkling wine goes well with Middle Eastern foods in general
Bubbles aren’t good with:
- Dishes that are too rich or too flavorful squash its subtlety. Dishes that are too spicy eviscerate the wine
- Dishes that are too sweet (unless paired with sweeter styles of sparkling wine)
- Some strong-tasting fish, other strong flavors, and certain vegetables, especially bitter vegetables which can make the wines taste metallic (broccoli, escarole, radicchio)
- With rich red meats.
Hopefully this gives you some inspiration to use bubbles more when cooking! Give them a try, you can even easily prepare a full Champagne menu…
*Source: Perfect Pairings, Evan Goldstein