For those of us hosting dinner parties over the festive season, planning the menu and selecting wine or champagne to suit everyone can be a challenge. But the role of champagne - a world-wide symbol of celebration and special occasions - doesn't have to be just to get things started as an aperitif.
While food and wine pairing menus are becoming more common in restaurants, many of us are less confident about choosing different champagne varieties with an entire meal. It is often thought that the champagne may be too acidic for an entire evening, or would not be able to stand up to intense flavours.
However, David Hesketh, Master of Wine and Managing Director of Laurent-Perrier, purports that champagne is actually one of the most versatile wines you can partner with food.
“While there are no hard and fast rules when pairing any food and wine, the objective is fairly simple: matching or pairing is the process where both parts complement each other, so that the sum is greater than the parts.”
The most important rule to remember when pairing any food and wine is whatever a person thinks is a good match, it is. Given the very subjective nature of food pairing, my view is if it works for you then that's fine. But certain pairings do work better than others.
David Hesketh's top five champagne and food pairing tips for Christmas
1. If serving champagne as an accompaniment to your Christmas turkey, I would select one with body and possibly some maturity too. Ideally, a vintage champagne would be best as they generally embody both these qualities. Vintages are declared in Champagne when it has been an exceptionally good year, and so each vintage will have different qualities. As it is a special occasion I would recommend a 1996 vintage, although a 2002 or the latest vintage 2004 would also be good choices.
2. A ‘zero dosage’ or ‘brut nature’ champagne works very well with seafood because of its minerality. In this type of champagne, no extra sugar is added giving it a very dry taste. Try pairing Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut with seared scallops, langoustine and oysters
3. Rosé champagnes are made using the Pinot Noir grape. At Laurent-Perrier we use the saignée method, which introduces tannin from the grape skins, providing another structural element in the champagne. I find it works particularly well with veal and also, because of the firm acidity, tends to work well with duck breast too – ideal if you are having an alternative to turkey.
4. People often try to pair a rosé champagne with a dessert, but I would resist the temptation to do this and turn to a Demi-Sec champagne, which are sweeter wines. A certain amount of sweetness is needed in the champagne if it is paired with a sweet dessert. Many great chefs have matched the lightly honeyed notes and fruit profile of our Demi-Sec with peach and apricot desserts - one which comes to mind is almond pannacotta and apricot crumble.
5. A non-vintage Brut is the signature of any Champagne House. Personally I think of the Laurent-Perrier Brut NV as a 'vin de plaisir' and as such it makes a perfect aperitif to start your celebrations. The best time to drink champagne, in my opinion, is on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning prior to lunch – just make sure you have had a good breakfast first.
For more information on Laurent-Perrier and its varying styles of champagne, visit laurent-perrier.co.uk.