There are many reasons why Champagne, Crémant, and other sparkling wines are the official drink of New Year’s Eve. For starters, they’re a party in a glass, with festive flavors and bubbles that burst like fireworks.
But one of the best reasons is how well sparkling wines – white or rose – pair with party foods from oysters and seafood, to cheese, charcuterie, and all the salty sides that round out composed boards.
Fried chicken? Yes.
Salty popcorn? Believe it or not.
In a survey of recommendations from wine houses, beverage writers, and bloggers, consistent categories emerged for the best foods to match with sparkling wine at your New Year’s Eve celebration.
The Son of a Butcher market in Birmingham and Whole Foods stores in Mountain Brook and Huntsville can be one-stop shops for the suggestions below. If multiple stops are required, look for specialty shops or stores with a decent selection of hand-cut cheeses, meat, or Gulf seafood.
Whether it’s farmed Alabama oysters served raw on the half-shell, or bivalves that are grilled, baked, or fried, this is universally considered the best food pairing with bubbly. Lighter-bodied sparkling wines go better with raw oysters; fuller-bodied with cooked preparations. The soil in the Champagne region is rich with minerals from marine sediment including oyster shells, which is why aficionados say Champagne made with grapes that grow there is the best for freshly-shucked oysters.
Like still white and rose wine, their sparkling cousins are a great match with all kinds of seafood. Blanc de blancs and bruts love shrimp, scallops, crab, and lobster. Sushi made with shrimp, smoked salmon, crab, and fin fish like yellowtail are great companions for Champagne or Crémant.
Fat. Salt. Spice. Smoke. The acidity in drier sparkling wines provides a counterweight to those flavors in salamis, air-dried cured hams like prosciutto, fatty foie gras, and liver-enhanced pates and terrines. The same concept applies to smoked fish, which is why smoked salmon is another popular pairing that shows up on platters at many parties. As is the case with cheese boards, the salty and briny go-withs shine with sparkling wine.
Cheese is another favorite pairing with sparkling wine, which has the right acidity to cut through the fat in fromage. Classic combos with Champagne include creamy bloom-rind cheeses like brie and camembert. Bubbly with nuttier flavors goes best with gouda and aged parmesan. In general, dry/brut wines are best with cheese, as well as salty foods including the nuts and olives often found on boards.
The Birmingham chapter of the culinary organization Le Dames d’Escoffier holds an annual scholarship fundraiser called Champagne & Fried Chicken. The paring of brut bubbly and fried chicken is frequently cited as a sublime culinary marriage. Spicy Asian-style or Nashville chicken needs a sweeter sparkler. Fried foods in general work well with sparkling wines, which have sufficient acidity and fizz to cut through the crisp crust, salt, and fat.
Normally consumed with beer, barbecued pork and pizza are on many experts’ lists of Champagne-friendly foods. Think pink sparkling wine with lamb, duck, game, and meaty fish like grilled tuna or swordfish.