You’re likely to pop open a bottle of bubbly over the holidays or to celebrate the New Year. And while plenty of people would argue that sparkling wine goes with everything—and I wouldn’t argue with them—there are some types of foods that will make for particularly perfect pairings. So let’s talk about what pairs with sparkling wine.
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.
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?
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 Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup with Crab, Classic Cobb Salad, Five-Spice Crab and Shrimp Cocktails, Crème Fraîche Fettuccine Alfredo with Peas, 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 eggs Benedict, lox and bagels, dim sum, Rustic Gruyère Chive Scones, and Bacon, Caramelized Onion, and Thyme Pie.
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—Smoked Salmon Salad on Toasts, for example.
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!