What pairs with sparkling wine?

December 29, 2014

Sparkling wine / Jill Silverman Hough

You’re likely to pop open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the New Year. So let’s talk about what to serve with it.

First, a quick review of my super-basic food and wine pairing tips:

1. Wine experts might talk about fruit flavors, grassy aromas, and other nuances in a wine, but most important in food and wine pairing are a wine’s broad characteristics—it’s sweetness (or lack thereof), crispness or acidity, tannins, weight, and intensity.

2. Once you’ve established a wine’s broad characteristics, you’ll almost never go wrong pairing like with like.

With sparkling wine, although the sweetness can range, it’s typically dry, very crisp or acidic, not at all tannic, pretty light, and medium-to-high in intensity. Which means it goes well with foods that are similarly un-sweet, highly acidic, light, and relatively intense.

Sparkling wine / Jill Silverman Hough

So pair sparkling wine with light, bright, relatively intense foods. For example, salad with vinaigrette dressing or sole with lemon-caper sauce.

Easy enough, right?

And yet…

Sparkling wine has something that other wines don’t. It sparkles! That effervescence—and the festive, fancy quality it imparts—expand the list pairing possibilities.

Pair sparkling wine with creamy, rich foods. This goes against the like-with-like idea, but it works—sparkling wine’s intensity stands up to the weight of creaminess, while the contrary acidity and bubbles help cleanse your palate of it. Try sparkling wine with cheeses, shellfish, and things heavy with mayonnaise or avocadoes, like Cobb salad or a club sandwich.

Pair sparkling wine with fried foods, salty foods, and smoky foods. The wine’s intensity works with the intensity of the food, while again, the acidity and bubbles cut through it. Think fish and chips, potato pancakes, tempura, salted nuts, prosciutto, and smoked salmon and chicken.

Pair sparkling wine with spicy foods. Now we’re going back to like with like, the wine’s brightness and intensity marrying with the brightness and intensity of spiciness. Try kung pao chicken, buffalo wings, and jalapeño poppers. (Bonus points if the wine is slightly sweet, which will soften the burn of the food.)

Pair sparkling wine with breakfast and brunch. The main logic here is that a sparkler is about the only wine most of us can imagine drinking in the morning. That said, for many of the reasons above, bubbles are great with eggs Benedict, lox and bagels, and dim sum.

Pair sparkling wine with festive, fancy foods. Sometimes things work together simply because they share a mood. That said, also for many of the reasons above, sparkling wine goes with caviar, pâté, and all manner of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.

Sparkling wine / Jill Silverman Hough

At a book signing once, a couple told me their favorite pairing was super-expensive sparkling wine and super-cheap pizza. Isn’t that great? And it makes sense—cheap pizza is cheesy and rich, salty, and sometimes spicy with salami or pepperoni. All great with sparkling wine.

My favorite food for sparkling wine? Potato chips.

Which just goes to show that, although sparkling wine is fun and festive for the holidays, it’s also perfect for a plain ‘ol Tuesday night.

Happy New Year!

Sparkling wine / Jill Silverman Hough


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