Sparkling wine often gets the reputation of needing a specific or celebratory occasion to imbibe. On the contrary, its versatility in pairing with food is nearly unmatched and is an excellent choice for almost any day. With approachable and affordable options that are widely available, there’s no reason not to crack a bottle with practically any meal. For instance, there’s little doubt the bubbles go great with caviar. But some bottles of sparkling wine can also help slice through the robustness of a steak or lay the groundwork in bringing a fresh ceviche to new heights.
I recently dove headfirst into the world of pairing sparkling wine with food while filming Sparklers (coming to SOMM TV later this year). And even as a winemaker, I was in awe of how many new flavor combinations and experiences there are with sparkling wine. I highly recommend having fun and experimenting with your pairings.
Young Leon Frizzante Rosé
This is my poolside wine for the summer. It’s fruity, like a watermelon Jolly Rancher, fizzy and pure fun in a glass. With an unpretentious attitude and approachable price point, this wine screams pop and play. Pair it with a pool, friends, good music and any food that reminds you of summer; hot dogs, fried chicken, really good BBQ, or peaches. This is a great sparkling option hailing from St. Helene, California.
ADN De Meunier Brut Nature
This zero dosage Champagne is 100 percent Pinot Meunier, which isn’t something you see every day. It has a super-dry finish and displays some subtle red fruit characteristics. Pair it with LCD Soundsystem’s I’m Losing My Edge and fry something you’ve never fried before. Fried capers are my new secret weapon in the kitchen, and you can put them on anything. With this, I’d go with a salty fried oyster po’boy sandwich and Frank’s Red Hot if you like a little heat.
Réserve Brut NV
As promised, a steak pairing! Skip the big red wine with steak. Have you tried slicing through a steak with a razor-sharp sparkling wine? Use this as your knife. Steak frites or steak with chimichurri are both delicious with this wine. Alternatively, you could go with a ceviche. Can this wine take on a steak and also turn around and take on a fresh ceviche? You bet. This biodynamic grower Champagne is everything you want in a bottle of sparkling wine. It has salinity, acid, a little of that yeasty depth and is a dream to pair with food. I like everything in the Pouillon line-up, but the Réserve is my go-to.
Here is one for my esoteric folks. This is an ultra-small production, no SO2, no dosage and no filtration Champagne. It is very complex with a mix of stone fruit, brioche, funky fermentation notes, good minerality – it’s so interesting I would try it with a bit of everything. Have you experimented with making homemade flavored popcorn? Now is the time! How about a spread with bowls of hummus, baba ganoush, olives and Marcona almonds? Just add some flatbread or cucumber slices for dipping. I think I just planned your vegetarian happy hour. You’re welcome.
Sparkling Chenin Blanc
This last one goes out to my homies; my friends Alex and Marty of MDC are killing the California bubbly game with their Sparkling Chenin. You read that right. All hand disgorged (looks cool but takes a lot of skill and practice not to lose all of your wine). Plus, it’s sourced from a vineyard in Clarksburg, CA, which bears some resemblance to the Loire Valley. These boys used to be chefs, so they also make a mean pizza. Play up the green apple, lemon and white floral notes by enjoying this alongside a stone-fired pizza with a non-garlic pesto sauce, buffalo mozzarella, sun gold tomatoes, anchovies, olives and fresh oregano. Throw in some red pepper flakes if you’re feeling spicy.
Meghan Zobeck is the Winemaker for Burgess in the Napa Valley as well as her own brand, Meghan Zobeck Wine Co. She has worked in wine regions across the globe is currently focused on converting all of her vineyards to regenerative organic farming.