What Appetizers Pair Best With Champagne?

what-appetizers-pair-best-with-champagne

Champagne is typically the first choice for parties and celebrations.  However, when you’re hosting, you may find yourself wondering just what appetizers to pair with this bubbly beverage.  Don’t despair! This is not just a great party wine!  It is actually one of the most versatile when it comes to pairing with foods.

The term ‘champagne’ simply means ‘sparkling wine’, so there is a lot leeway when it comes to shopping for a beverage, and its companion appetizers, at your next party. Whether it be a sparkling rose, a sparkling white, a brut champagne or true Champagne from that region of France, you can’t miss with the following suggested pairings:

Antipasto

Antipasto simply means ‘before the meal’ and is the traditional first course of an Italian meal.  Traditional antipasto includes such delights as cured meats, olives, cheeses and vegetables in oils. A table laid with these will complement a delicious dry sparkling champagne.

Cheeses and Breads

Or, you may want to complement your rich sparkling rose champagne with gourmet cheeses and breads.  Think soft, spreadable cheeses as well as chunks of cheese your guests can add to a plate alongside crackers or breadsticks.

Quesadillas

A light champagne for a feisty party pairs well with spicy bite sized quesadillas or even a mini taco bar.  Quesadillas have a great flavor and the champagne will not overpower them; it is a great match!

Grilled Appetizers

For a summer party, perhaps an outdoor fete, grilled appetizers are the way to go.  Champagne is light and airy, and your appetizers will be, too.  Grilled chicken satay, grilled steak kebabs, or simply some jumbo grilled shrimp may do the trick.

Vegetables

Another light appetizer choice is vegetables.  No, not a boring vegetable tray, although, you may certainly add one of those to any spread. But, in this case, thing stuffed peppers, stuffed mushrooms, asparagus rolls, tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese, grilled cauliflower bites, artichoke and spinach dip, and perhaps even cucumber sandwiches! Again, light fair to complement your light, airy beverage choice!

Flat Bread Pizzas

Finally, why not have a pizza party?  A serve yourself pizza party is fun to prepare, fun to serve and fun to eat!  Pizza goes great with anything, especially champagne!  Find small flatbreads or mini crusts for your guests (even wraps will do) and allow them to add their favorite toppings, which you will have spread out for them.  Pizza is everyone’s favorite, and it puts everyone in a good mood.  Add it to champagne and you have a perfect party!

How to Open a Bottle of Champagne

how-to-open-a-bottle-of-champagne

A bottle of bubbly is the height of sophistication, but to put a twist to a great quote of our generation- with great style comes great responsibility. Being properly able to open a bottle of champagne is an art and fumbling at it will dissolve all your good reputation of charismatic host. In fact, a faux pas in opening this drink may be considered a travesty in some circles. So before you introduce this gem of your alcohol collection, learn a trick or two to do justice to the hundred dollar bottle.

The Proper Way

There are actually not many variations of the normal, proper way of opening a bottle of bubbly, even though hosts often try to alter the steps to wow their guests. But if you are of the more traditional mold, here are the steps to follow:

Make sure the champagne is chilled and calm. There is usually a gold foil wrapped around the cork of the bottle. Tease it out and remove the foil.

Keep the cork pointed away from you (and unsuspecting guests) so that it doesn’t pop out and take out someone’s eye.

You will see a wire frame over the cork which is intended to prevent accidental uncorking, which may occur due to pressure build-up. Loosen the cage and undo it. Also, keep a thumb firmly over the cork to prevent unpleasant surprises.

Put a towel over the cork. Now holding the cork stationary, gently turn the bottle by holding the base. In this way, you get to ease the cork off instead of popping it out. This is definitely less theatrical than popping the cork out, followed by a generous gush of champagne, but it does not waste any of the golden liquid.

Pour the champagne quickly into glasses, but make sure you pour it gently by the side and not splash it down. This way you will not lose the bubbles.

After pouring into each glass, do a quick turn of the bottle a bit to catch the liquid dripping down the lip of the bottle.

Sabrage

This is a tradition of opening a champagne bottle with a sword or a knife and it originated in France in the era of Napoleon. It is a widely popular party trick and is one of the coolest ways to open a champagne bottle. But unlike the popular opinion, it does not require great skill nor is it highly dangerous. Well, not unless you are doing it way wrong. Here’s the how-to:

Remove the foil.

Run a finger below the lip of the bottle and you will find a seam because champagne bottles are made of two pieces of glass.

Slide the dull edge of the knife on the seam from bottom.

In one fluid and mildly forceful motion, slide the knife from the bottom to the neck and pop. If you hold the bottle in a forty five degree angle, there will be little spill and there is no glass breakage.

So there you have, a proper way and a fun way to open a champagne bottle.

The Proper Way to Chill Champagne

the-proper-way-to-chill-champagne

Getting the most flavor out of your favorite brut or doux champagne depends on more than picking your favorite vintage. How you choose to chill your champagne before serving can have a dramatic impact on the final taste.

Right Way to Chill Champagne 

There are essentially three ways that you can go about chilling champagne and preparing it ready for your guests.

Refrigerating 

The first way is through refrigerating your champagne for a few hours before guests arrive. Since the ideal temperature for chilling non-vintage champagne is between 40 and 50 degrees, placing your bottle in the fridge for approximately four hours should set you up perfectly.

Freezing 

Alternatively, though, you could put your champagne in the freezer for 20 minutes to achieve the same effect. You can get similar results by refrigerating your champagne for a few hours at a standard refrigerator temperature (40 degrees) or by placing your bottle in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Ice Bucket 

The third and final way that you might chill champagne before serving is through placing the bottle in a bucket of ice.

Fill an ice bucket half with ice and half with water, then chill your champagne for twenty five minutes. This is the preferred way of serving champagne in many restaurants, and definitely adds a classy touch to a New Year’s Day party.

Obviously, if you’re strapped for time, the ice bucket or freezer options are going to be more intrinsically appealing. The refrigeration option, though, allows you to dial in the exact temperature that you and your guests prefer.

Chilling Vintage Champagne 

Note that the above suggestions apply to non-vintage champagnes. For vintage champagnes you will want to follow a slightly different set of rules to bring out the natural richness.

As you probably already know, vintage champagnes are derived from select grapes in a single year’s selection.

Vintage champagnes like warmer temperatures – getting your vintage to approximately 50 degrees at serving time ensures that the taste and natural carbonation is retained.

Even 55 degrees wouldn’t necessarily be too warm a serving temperature for a vintage like Dom Perignon. Trust us, your guests will thank you for following these steps.

Heed These Storage Tips 

Maintaining the complex tastes and aromas of a vintage champagne – or a non-vintage, for that matter – depends on the right storage conditions.

A wider range of storage conditions can work here. Aim for between 45-60 degrees, but make sure that you’re storing champagne in a cool, dry place. Champagne is even pickier than many wines when it comes to light and temperature.

If you’ve ever wondered why champagne is often packaged in opaque, green bottles, it’s because the darker color makes the champagne more resistant to light (and degradation).

The bottom line is that both non-vintage and vintage champagnes taste best when stored in darker, cooler locations (e.g., a wine cellar). Also make sure that you serve your non-vintage champagnes at approximately 45 degrees and your vintage champagnes at between 50 and 55 degrees for best results.

How Champagne Flavors are Categorized?

how-champagne-flavors-are-categorized

Rumor has it that the Romans began cultivating what would later become champagne in France’s Champagne region starting around the fifth century.

Champagne: Past and Present 

Since the days of French kings receiving coronations over delicious champagne and the later innovations by the well-known Benedictine monk Dom Preignon, we’ve certainly come a long way.

Today everything from rose champagnes to prestige cuvees are happily uncorked and used to celebrate good times.

You may have also heard the terms “brut” or “demi-sec” tossed around – this simply refers to the sweetness and the amount of sugar added after secondary fermentation to the champagne itself.

Popular Types of Champagne 

To earn its namesake, all champagne must come from the champagne region of France and get its natural carbonation (“fizziness,” if you will) from a natural process known as secondary fermentation.

Black and White Grapes 

It’s more common for black grapes to be used in creating the cuvee upon which most champagnes are created.

Pinot meunier and the ever-popular pinot noir are two examples of black grape varieties that ultimately comprise some of the most crisp-tasting champagnes today.

Cuvees are also created from white grapes, however. In fact, one type alone, chardonnay, accounts for nearly half a million acres around the world.

Champagne aficionados still love the hints of citrus and smooth, buttery aftertaste of a good chardonnay.

Cuvee de Prestige 

Many producers separate their different offerings based on the vintage and quality of the cuvee as well as nuances of the grape-harvesting process.

For instance, a producer’s cuvee de prestige is that vineyard’s highest quality offering – this class includes Dom Perignon from Moet & Chandron as well as Cristal from Louis Roederer.

These champagnes are so well-received because the cuvees draw on the vineyards’ most vintage offerings.

Rose Champagne 

As the name implies, a rose champagne has the reddish appearance of roses – but why?

Rose champagnes are conversely known as pink champagnes; by whichever name, this kind of champagne gets its color and distinct taste through allowing the black grapes’ skin to soften in a process called the saignee method.

Sometimes a higher concentration of red wine is even added to rose champagne’s cuvee to guarantee the same color and gentler taste from one vintage to the next.

Blanc de Blancs 

In french “blanc” means white, so blanc de blancs translates to “white to white.” This refers to the fact that white chardonnay grapes are used for the cuvee or blanc de blancs.

Pol Roger’s blanc de blancs is especially well-regarded for its creaminess and ability to complement light dishes (e.g., cheese or nuts) or heavier entrees alike.

http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2014/03/the-best-blanc-de-blancs

Champagne’s Sweetness Scale 

An alternative way of looking at champagne is to categorize it based on sweetness, or how much sugar is added after the secondary fermentation process.

Smaller vineyards tend to produce champagnes that are very dry, and either termed extra brut or (more rarely) zero brut. Extra brut means that there’s less than six grams of sugar per liter in the final product whereas zero brut means that there’s less than three grams of sugar per liter.

Moving up in sweetness from the bruts, we have extra dry, sec and demi-sec champagnes. These denote champagnes that have between one dozen and four dozen grams of sugar per liter in the final champagne.

Finally, your doux champagne is going to be the sweetest of the bunch at 50 grams or more per liter. Tastes vary, but many people prefer the crisp, dry flavors nearer the bruts and extra dry part of the spectrum. Stick with what works for you, and enjoy!

Champagne Glasses

champagne-glasses

Few things can symbolize a very special occasion better than a chilled bottle of champagne. From  intimate dinner parties to wedding dinners, it is the wine of choice when only the best will do. And for true wine lovers the style of glass can enhance or detract from your experience. What kind of glass will work best for you?

The Coupe

This classic shape, a wide rim and short stem, is best associated with the 1920’s flappers or the 1960’s. The glass was designed in 17th century England specifically for drinking champagne. However, the glasses were designed for what were really dessert wines, not the fine wines of the current day.

Critics of the coupe shape, or saucers as they are often called, suggest that the wide bowl is so broad that the carbonation falls flat too quickly. And, with the bubbles falling flat, the aroma is also lost.

For wine connoisseurs and those who love the bubbles, this glass style is not your best choice. If you love the history associated with the glass, then sip quickly and enjoy.

The Tulip

This style of glass is similar in design to he flute, but it has a wider base and he rim is curved inward. Unlike the coupe, wine connoisseurs highly recommend this glass because of its ability to retain your wine’s exquisite flavor.

The round bowl at the bottom of the glass keeps  helps to keep the flavor preserved as you sip your wine. The medium- to long-stemmed glass also keeps your fingers from touching the bowl where the champagne is preventing your fingerprints from warming the wine.

The Flute

The flute overtook the coupe shape because of how well it captures the flavor of the champagne. With a medium or long stem, you can hold the glass without altering the wine’s temperature, and  the glass is the perfect shape for the perfect sip.

The shape of the flute gives the right serving amount to keep it cold, aromatic, and bubbly. The flute glass maintains the effervescence after pouring so the bubbles and aroma stay in the glass. And when the bubbles stay in the glass, you can enjoy the bubbly taste and your glass will be more pleasing to look at.

The Stemless

The latest trends in new glass design include a stemless glass. This bowl-shaped glass enhances the taste and the aroma. Since your fingers are on the bowl warming the champagne, critics still prefer the flute.

The critics agree that the flute is your best choice. But take your time to sample them all to find a style that you love as much as your champagne.

How to Buy Budget Friendly Champagne

how-to-buy-budget-friendly-champagne

Your son’s or daughter’s graduation or an expected promotion: both reasons to crack out the the Dom Perignon and celebrate in style.

Sometimes, though, you need a budget-friendly bottle of bubbly or quality sparkling wine to keep the fridge well-stocked on New Year’s Day. With that in mind, here are some tips and great affordable champagnes to check out.

Finding Budget-Conscious Champagnes 

There are definitely some delicious brut champagnes out there that blend affordability, crisp taste and quality.

Roederer Estate Brut, for instance, comes in at around $20 and features a robust, oak-aged fruity essence. It’s bright and citrusy without being overbearing.

http://www.totalwine.com/eng/product/roederer-estate-brut/454750

Another standout brut champagne from California is Gloria Ferrer Sonoma. Like Roaderer Estate, Gloria Ferrer Sonoma blends a fruity essence with smoother notes. In this case, you’re getting a mixture of pear and an almond aftertaste.

http://www.gloriaferrer.com

The secret to these two budget champagne’s is their appellation in California’s vineyards and dedication to quality ingredients. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma starts with nearly two dozen base wines to ultimately give a rich, bubbly and extremely budget-friendly final product.

Wine Spectator magazine even conceded that Gloria Ferrer Sonoma deserved a score in the 90s due to its complex taste that blended pear, cinnamon and raspberry without being overbearing.

Since Gloria Ferrer Sonoma sells for between $15 and $25, you won’t have to break the bank to find out what all the praise is about.

Overall, though, you should keep your eyes peeled for low-cost bruts that bring together an eclectic range of base wines with California appellations.

Nitty-Gritty Specifics to Look For 

Price is obviously a primary consideration when you need a few affordable stand-by (or stand-in) bottles of champagne or you know that quantity is going to trump discernment on, say, a riotous New Year’s celebration.

You should be keeping your eyes peeled for an affordable champagne – under $50 – that draws from a host of quality base wines to form the champagne’s cuvee.

An eclectic range of base wines that undergo two fermentations should also provide more bubbles and ultimately a richer taste. Also be aware that base wines that are tank fermented tend to provide a more airy, fruity taste.

Another thing to keep in mind is that although many brut champagnes tend to have moderate sweetness, there are extra dry champagnes out there that give you more idiosyncratic and interesting honeydew and brioche flavors.

Remember that the majority of budget champagnes tend to be bruts, and make sure you find an affordable champagne that draws from many base wines to bring out a delicious, fruity aftertaste.

Why Are Champagne Corks Made Out of Natural Cork?

why-are-champagne-corks-made-out-of-natural-cork

There’s just something about natural cork. Newer technology may have its devotees, but there’s a good reason why good, old-fashioned cork is used to seal champagne bottles. Even if you set aside years of tradition and the satisfying “pop” you just can’t get with any other material, there are still plenty of benefits to traditional cork over synthetic materials and screw tops.

How It’s Made

Cork actually comes from the bark of the cork tree, which grows primarily in the montado forests of Portugal. Responsible harvesting makes cork a renewable resource, and small teams typically harvest the bark, allowing the trees to survive and the bark to regrow. The cork bark can usually be be harvested again every nine years.

Once harvested, the cork bark is cured, graded, sorted and then processed into natural cork disks and rods of agglomerate cork. The rods are sliced into the individual corks used to seal champagne bottles, with a natural cork disk affixed to each end.

The Natural Cork Difference

The key characteristic of natural cork that makes it perfect for sealing champagne bottles is its ability to expand. Pressure beverages like champagne – along with sparkling wines, ciders and some beers – are bottled at great pressure, and they require a seal that can prevent the escape of gases while at the same time maintaining the perfect gas pressure within the bottle. That’s where natural cork comes in.

When compressed, natural cork expands. The typical cork used to seal a champagne bottle has a diameter of 31 millimeters, but is compressed down to a diameter of 18 millimeters to fit into the bottle neck. Once in place, the cork naturally continues to expand, which allows it to keep constant pressure against the glass bottle neck. This pressure keeps gas from escaping, and makes natural cork the perfect stopper material for a champagne bottle.

That Tell-Tale Shape

You can tell a natural cork has done its job by its shape when you remove it from the bottle. You’ve probably noticed that corks come out of a champagne bottle with a recognizable mushroom shape, but they don’t go in that way. Corks are straight when they are inserted into the neck. The mushroom shape is the result of the lower half of the cork being compressed into the bottle neck, while the upper half continues to expand.

The Trouble With Synthetic Corks

Unlike natural cork, synthetic corks do not expand. They maintain a rigid shape, which can mean a loose fit and imperfect seal in some bottles. Ill-fitting corks can ruin a bottle of perfectly good wine or champagne.

Natural corks are also difficult to remove without a corkscrew, whereas natural corks are designed to be removed from a champagne bottle by hand. Just remember to never point the bottle at yourself or anybody else while you open it. Champagne bottles stopped with natural cork tend to open with a powerful “pop,” sometimes sending the cork flying. It’s a small price to pay for a perfect seal!

What Does Bubble Size Say About A Champagne?

what-does-bubble-size-say-about-champagne

Drinking champagne is as much a cultural phenomenon as a culinary one. We celebrate grand openings, graduations and marriages by popping the cork on a quality champagne, and we also enjoy a creamy brut champagne paired with our favorite appetizer perhaps almost as much as the overarching occasion.

Bubbles in Champagne 

Often colloquially referred to as “bubbly,” the bubbles in champagne actually have a lot to do with the popularity of, say, a brut over a doux champagne.

History 

Although today we can dine over a Krug or Laurent-Perrier brut without worrying about much of anything, this wasn’t always the case.

Champagne was once called the devil’s wine because of its propensity to spontaneously explode – sometime causing a chain reaction in fermenting cellars.

In fact, the famous 17th-century champagne trailblazer, Dom Perignon, was commissioned to remove the bubbles from the champagnes in his cellar.

Even two centuries after Dom Perignon, it wasn’t uncommon to lose half of your fermenting inventory to exploding bottles of especially bubbly champagne.

Less is More 

Champagne enthusiasts claim that the smaller the bubbles, the better the champagne. The thinking goes that when you have smaller bubbles in the same size glass, then there are more total bubbles on hand to deliver a full-bodied taste and richer aroma.

The actual bubbles in champagne are created through the secondary fermentation process that sparkling wine undergoes to eventually become champagne.

Though this secondary fermentation process, the sparkling wine becomes champagne and, in the same process, gets carbonated. Carbonation, or the infusion of carbon dioxide into champagne, is what makes champagne and soda alike fizzy or effervescent.

Unlike soda, though, champagne is created by taking select pinot noir and chardonnay grapes plucked from orchards in the Champagne region of France to ultimately deliver a creamy champagne tasting experience.

Research on Champagne’s Carbonation 

Although both soda and champagne, for all of their differences, each has an appreciable level of “fizzy” or carbonation, the carbonation is created in different ways for each beverage.

Champagne gets its bubbles and carbonated quality in a more hard-won way through secondary fermentation whereas soda gets its bubbles through an artificial process of a carbon dioxide injection.

In an interesting twist, though, research shows that the diffusion of carbon dioxide in sparkling wine and champagne are reasonably similar – much more similar than one would suppose given that champagne has smaller and more tightly packed bubbles.

It’s subsequently been shown that, although the amount of carbonation wrought by secondary fermentation has a lot to do with champagne’s fizziness, the bubbles in champagne are largely attributable to other causes.

It’s now believed that elemental minerals and naturally-occuring salts create more of champagne’s bubbles than was previously acknowledged (or understood) centuries ago.

Science Behind Champagne’s Bubbles 

Secondary fermentation and carbonation are fundamentally chemical processes that provide a real-world and visceral payoff for those of use who enjoy champagne.

One of the pleasures of champagne, if we’re going to be frank, is watching the tiny bubbles make their way up to the top of the glass and anticipating that first taste.

As these tiny bubbles make their brave trek up to the top of the glass, the bubbles themselves are transporting flavors and scents up the glass – and, hopefully, towards our parched mouths.

We almost automatically correlate a great tasting champagne with an explosion of bubbles at the top of our glass because more tiny bubbles means that more flavor and scents are traveling up the glass.

This spectacle, in the end, is half the battle when it comes to creating a creamy yet dry and savory champagne.

Champagne Bottle Sizes

champagne-bottle-sizesIt is always a wonderfully relaxing experience to enjoy a flavorful glass of champagne alone or with one of your favorite meals. There are many things that contribute to your enjoyment of champagne. One of those things is the way in which champagne is fermented.

The Process

The initial process of making champagne is similar to that of making most wines. Grapes are picked and fermented. A second process takes place inside the champagne bottle. Yeast and sugars are added to the fermented grapes and the combination is stored inside the champagne bottle to undergo the second fermenting process (aging). It is during this process that the size of the champagne bottle can have a effect on the quality and taste of champagne that is produced.

Champagne bottle sizes

The size of champagne bottles began to vary in the 1700s. As the sizes of bottles varied it was discovered that larger bottles have to have a few advantages to the smaller champagne bottle sizes. Aesthetically, the larger bottles seem to be more appealing to champagne drinkers. The larger bottles allow for better aging of the champagne. The different sizes of champagne bottles each have a different name with a different meaning. The list of champagne bottle names follows:

Piccolo means small. It is the smallest size of champagne bottle that you will find. It holds one tulip of champagne.

Demi is a 375 ml bottle for champagne. You will be able to pour at least 3 flute glasses of champagne.

Bottle is the standard sized bottle from which you will enjoy 6 glasses of champagne.

Magnum means “great” in Latin. It is seen by the producers of champagne as a “great” bottle to use to age champagne. You will enjoy at least 12 glasses of champagne from the Magnum.

Jeroboam holds about 24 glasses of champagne. The name comes from the first king who ruled the Northern Kingdom in Israel. The name means, “he increases the people”.

Rehoboam is also named after a king who, during the 10th Century BC, ruled over the Kingdom of Judah. The name means, “he who enlarges the people”. This bottle contains 36 glasses of champagne.

Methuselah is named after a person of the Bible who is said to have lived longer than any other person. This bottle contains 64 glasses of champagne.

Salmanazar holds a total of 72 glasses of champagne which is equal to about 12 bottles of champagne. The name is a combination of names from five different Assyrian kings.

Balthazar holds 96 glasses of champagne, approximately 16 bottles. Named after an Arabian King who was present after the birth of Jesus and presented him with gifts.

Nebuchadnezzar contains 120 glasses of champagne. It is named for one of the most powerful kings of Babylon.

Solomon is a rare bottle of champagne. It is usually only found in champagne houses in France. The amount of champagne this bottle contains is debatable, however the popular amount accepted is 144 glasses of champagne.

Sovereign holds 34 bottles of champagne.

Primat contains the equivalent of 36 bottles of champagne and weighs about 143 pounds.

Melchizedek, the final bottle of champagne, contains 40 bottles of champagne.

How Champagne Flavors are Categorized

how-champagne-flavors-are-categorizedChampagne is an oft-misunderstood beverage. The processes by which it is formed, its taste, and even its naming conventions can baffle even a seasoned wine aficionado. While champagne may mystify experienced imbibers and practiced gourmands alike, the basics behind how it is classified are quite simple to understand.

Just as many types of wine are categorized by their flavor profiles, champagnes too are often classified according to how they taste. All champagnes can be categorized according to their level of dryness. This quality is inversely related to sugar content and corresponding sweetness. This means that less sweet champagnes are invariably drier than sweeter varieties. Wine connoisseurs, it must be said, tend to value the sophistication of drier varieties over the simple pleasures of sweet champagnes.

Whether you are carefully selecting a champagne for a celebration, or simply trying to find the one most suitable for your weekday meal, you can use the following categories to guide your purchase:

  •     Doux
  •     Demi-sec
  •     Dry
  •     Extra Dry
  •     Brut
  •     Extra Brut

If you were seeking a sweet, sugary champagne, you would do well to purchase a Doux or Demi-sec variety. These sorts of champagnes pair well with fruits and desserts. Their natural sweetness can harmonize well with either and provide your guests with a satisfyingly sweet conclusion to their meals. In addition, if you are feeling bold, you can successfully pair a Doux or Demi-sec with a salty dish. The natural sweetness of these champagnes complements the salty flavors in Asian and Latin American dishes, further enlivening them on the palate.

Extra Brut and Brut (pronounced “broot“) are dry varieties and tend to pair better with entrees and cheeses than do Doux and Demi-sec champagnes. Extra Brut champagnes function best as aperitifs. They are best served before a meal when their natural tartness and astringency can be used to stimulate the appetite. Brut champagne, which has a crisp, bracing dryness leavened with subtly sugary notes, is the most popular of all champagne varieties. It is versatile and can accompany either entrees or desserts successfully. Extra Brut and Brut champagnes can, in fact, make admirable accompaniments to subtly sweet desserts. They make excellent companions to desserts containing dark and semi-sweet chocolate, as well as fruit-based sweets.

While champagnes are commonly classified according to the dryness-sweetness scale outlined above, there are a range of characteristics you can you use to help you select just the right champagne for any occasion. All champagnes can reasonably be said to possess apple, pear, citrus, cream, vanilla, and nutty notes in their flavor profiles. Generally, however, fruitier notes tend to prevail in New World champagnes while their Old World opposites feature creamy, yeasty and nut-like flavors. Old World varieties are often more subtle, while New World champagnes can possess a forward and assertive sweetness that makes them suitable as dessert wines or for celebrations.

Champagne has an undeserved reputation for unsophistication. It is irreducibly associated with sweetness and, as a result, often paired only with foods complementing this dimension of its often complex flavor profile. Champagne is typically paired with chocolates, fruits, and cheese and while these pairings are not misguided they do tend to foreground only one aspect of the beverage’s multifaceted personality. Champagne, if selected carefully, can be paired with many different food items.  It is neither less sophisticated nor less versatile than wine. One needs only to understand its flavor spectrum to incorporate it into any occasion.