Bubbles 101: Champagne and Cheese Pairing
I hope you're ready for the second post of Bubbles 101: Sparkling Wine and Cheese, because today is Champagne and Cheese Pairing! Sipping bubbles, thinking about sipping bubbles, taking a bubble bath, or thinking about and sipping on bubbles while in a bath all prep one for readiness. So does singing any songs with Champagne or corks in the lyrics, like "Champagne Life," or "popping bottles in the club."
Today we're focusing on what sorts of cheese to pair with Champagne, crémants, proseccos and cavas. Next week or the week after (I am taking an excited break to share a small domestic cheesemaker with you between the two), Lambrusco. Week after, Pet Nat.
After teaching many classes of bubbles and cheese pairing and drinking anything boozy and alcoholic when I have a chance, I've come to a major conclusion:
Pairing cheese and bubbles isn't really about the type of bubbles or where the wine is made, it's all about the yeast.
What does this mean?
Non rosé champagnes, crémants, proseccos and cavas can generally be separated into those that have yeasty, brioche-like flavors, and those that do not. The yeasty or brioche notes can be likened to the delicious smell of freshly baked bread fresh pulled the oven, then slathered with butter. Champagnes and sparklings made in via champagne-methodoise (2nd ferment in the bottle over the yeast) most often have yeastier, brioche-like, creamier flavors, while some crémants, cavas and proseccos often see less oak and may not sit with the yeast in the bottle as long, making them seem leaner and lighter.
Many people think sparkling wines are BFFs with triple cremes and brie styles, hands down. I generally agree. There is little fre-enemy action here in bubbles land. The bubbles and high acidity of a sparkling lend a hand to cutting the richness of the cheese and the tiny bubbles texturally bring out the silkiness of a creme. So bubbles and cremes in general are good go-tos.
But what I also discovered (and love) is that not only does champagne like Dieboldt Vallois in the first pic or Scharffenberger Brut love rich, gooey triple cremes like Mt Tam, or Marin French triple-creme (also in above pic) they also love yeasty, mushroomy, even lightly earthy cheeses like goat cheese croutons or Lingot de Quercy. Doesn't just have to be rich cow's milk.
Think brioche-like and rich sparklings when you have a yeasty, earthy cheese like a brie, camembert style with a bloomy rind that smells like sweet cauliflower, or even a cloth-bound cheddars or sultry sheep's milk cheese that tastes like fresh grass and butter. Yeasty sparklings can handle a slightly vegetal, earthy cheese.
Have a leaner wine? Keep the cheese pairing clean. Fresh goat cheese, burrata, fresh mozzarella, ricotta all love less oak and less yeasty sparklings.
How do you know if your bubbles have these flavors?
It's okay to generalize. First of all, no one is going to flip out if you bring a prosecco to a party and someone puts it next to a plate of Bent River camembert instead of Gioia burrata or a slice of Fleur Verte. If so, feel free to tell them they should take up grander issues like protesting big Ag or starting a campaign to get Joan of Mad Men her own TV show.
Otherwise I'd suggest finding a wine monger you love, asking them, then buy the bubbles they recommend. Champagne houses tend to have typical styles, and often champagne and sparklings and crémants made in the champagne methodoise are generally going to be yeastier. After you start to become familiar with different types of sparklings and the way particular places and houses make them, you'll be able to pick from your favorites on your own. Luckily, the way to learn is to taste.
Some favorite recent combos:
- Scharffenberger Brut (CMethodoise, yeasty, rich) with Loire Valley crottin or Tomales Farmstead Teleeka
- Dieboldt-Vallois Champagne (yeasty, creamy) with Hafod Cheddar and Abbaye de Belloc
- Château du Breze Crémant de Loire (lean, mineral) with Gioia Burrata and Bellwether sheep's milk ricotta
- Berthet-Bondet Crémant de Jura (creamy, lean) with Marin French triple-creme brie and Castica di Bufula
Do you have any go-to sparklings?