Sparkling Wine and Cheese
Sparkling wine and cheese makes a great match. While Champagne and other sparkling wines are often opened and enjoyed alone in celebration, most people do not realize how versatile sparkling wine can be with food. There are many cuisines and dishes that pair absolutely beautifully with Champagne, from classic pairings like creamed soups to more exotic pairings like spicy Indian cuisine. But for simplicity, sparkling wine makes a great partner to a number of cheeses as well. While some cheese and wine pairing can be confusing or complicated, for sparkling wines it is quite straightforward. Read on to get some tips on how to pick cheeses to pair with sparkling wines.
- What Types of Cheeses Pair Well with Sparkling Wine?
In general, sparkling wines are aromatic white wines with a crisp bite of acidity in the mouth. While they can vary from light-bodied and crisp to more full-bodied and lush, this crispness and intensity is a hallmark which helps determine which cheeses will work best for a wine and cheese pairing. In particular, the bright crispness of Champagne and other sparkling wines pairs very well with very creamy cheeses which have a high butterfat content. Often called double creams or triple creams because they contain extra cream added to the curds, these cheeses have a soft, buttery and creamy consistency and flavor. Some examples include brie, Explorateur and Brillat-Savarin. In some examples, the butterfat content can be as high as 75% in these cheeses! The acidity of the sparkling wine cuts beautifully through the mouth-coating richness and creaminess of these types of cheese. Serve these wine and cheese pairings with the cheese close to room temperature and accompanied by slices of bread such as French baguettes. Try to avoid cheeses that are more meaty or earthy in flavor and very hard salty cheeses which both seem to clash a bit with the purity of most sparkling wines.
- Some Specific Cheese Examples to Pair with Sparkling Wine
- Brie: The ubiquitous Brie is a cheese most people are familiar with. While most people in the US have not had true, classic Brie, many excellent examples can be found. This is a good basic example of a cheese that will pair well with Champagne.
- Camembert: True Camembert is actually quite pungent and strong flavored and might not work with most sparkling wines. However, in the US, most Camembert that we see on the market are really quite similar to standard Brie. While they get more pungent with age, a young, fresh, creamy Camembert can be a good match for fuller bodied Chapagnes.
- Saint-André: This is a high milk-fat (75%) "triple crème" cow's milk cheese from France. It is smooth and buttery and just delicious.
- Brillat-Savarin: Another very high butterfat "triple crème" made mostly in Normandy and named for a famous French culinary figure from the 18th century. This is also super smooth and creamy and just melts in your mouth. It is the epitome of class and finesse in a cheese and again goes beautifully with the acid of most sparkling wines. This is one of the truly great wine and cheese pairings in our opinion.
- Explorateur: This cheese was named in honor of the first US satellite in the 50's. It is also a French "triple crème" which has a fluffy white edible rind like the two previous cheeses. As it ages it can get more intense but generally is also a very creamy, lush cheese.
- Clarines: Made in France's Comte region, this is a gorgeous, pure and rich cheese which comes in a box. When ripe and at room temperature you can practically spoon it out and it has a complex, rich flavor. Not as buttery as some of the previous cheeses, this cheese has a bit more earthiness to it and therefore can make a good match to fuller bodied Champagnes with a richer, more lush and yeasty character.
- Chèvre: Chèvre is goat cheese, which can be made in many different styles from fresh and creamy to aged, firm and complex. Stick to the slightly younger softer Chèvres for pairing with Champagne.
- Firm Cheeses: Not all hard cheeses work well with sparkling wines, but some younger firm but not hard varieties can work well. A couple examples are Edam and Gouda. While older Goudas won't work as well, the younger, softer ones can go quite nicely because of their creaminess.
Remember that like any wine and cheese pairing rules, these are just guidelines and suggestions. Feel free to experiment and see what works best to your palate!
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