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 Events  Share this article     Summary of Corkscrew column Not Just Wine 
  Corkscrew Issue 9, June 2003   
Matching Food with Sparkling WinesMatching Food with Sparkling Wines  Contents 
Issue 8, May 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 10, Summer 2003

Matching Food with Sparkling Wines

Bubbles are usually associated with moments of celebration and parties, often forgotten when a food is to be matched, indeed they are excellent companions of the table

 As the summer season is about to come, people's preferences move towards a consumption of white wines and sparkling wines, while forgetting, like to say, red wines until cold season will come again. In general terms, in the meals consumed during warm seasons, foods are more simple and less elaborated, fish and vegetables are preferred, dishes based on meat get less rich and lighter, as well as sauces for pasta and rice. Even the preference for wines tends to favor the fresher and lighter ones, easily drinkable, in particular, the ones that can be served at lower temperatures, therefore white wines are the ones mainly matched with foods in warm seasons. However there is a category of wines that would be excellent in summertime, not only to be drunk alone, but also, and particularly, matched to food: sparkling wines. The so called “bubbles”, of which any wine producing country can offer a huge selection of styles, have such characteristics as to be extremely versatile and adequate for summertime, in particular with the dishes of this season, they are usually served at low temperatures, a condition which is usually appreciated during hot days. The versatility of these wines allows them to be excellently used in the enogastronomical matching, no matter the season.


A Vast Selection of Products

 Sparkling wines are now produced in every country of the world which produces wine, the range of products available on the market is vast, with a broad selection both of prices and styles. Among the wine producing countries of the world, the ones that certainly have an important and fundamental role in the enology “bubbles” scene, mainly because of quantity, and certainly for quality as well, are France, Italy and Spain, including all the other countries where modest quantities of sparkling wines are produced, such as Germany, South Africa, Australia, United States of America and New Zealand, as well as other countries of the world where some producers offer this type of wines.


 France, the country which is mainly and easily associated to bubbles, offers a vast selection with its Champagne available in different styles and qualities, exclusively produced with the Méthode Champenoise, or classic method of the refermentation in bottle. The vast selection of Champagne, from extra-brut to sweet, from elegant Blanc de Blancs, exclusively produced with Chardonnay grape, to the bodied Blanc de Noirs, produced with Pinot Noir grape and sometimes Pinot Meunier, without forgetting about Rosé, from the easy drinking, and surely interesting as well, Sans Année, that is non vintage and produced with wines from many vintages, to the elegant and rich vintage, make this wine very suitable to the enogastronomical matching and it also allows the matching of a whole meal, from aperitif to dessert, exclusively matched with Champagne. In France are also produced other sparkling wines with the classic method and that come from areas outside Champagne: Crémant. These sparkling wines, even though they are less famous than Champagne, may offer excellent opportunities for enogastronomical matching. Among these wines must be certainly mentioned Crémant d'Alsace, Crémant de Die, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Bordeaux. In Luxembourg, with the same name and with the same method, is produced the Crémant de Luxembourg. Moreover in Gaillac, France, is produced a sparkling wine by means of the Méthode Ancestrale, which is called Gaillac Mousseux.

 Italy offers a vast selection of sparkling wines and every region practically produces its own, most of the times regulated by disciplinary of production of the many DOCs (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata, Appellation of Controlled Origin), such as, for example, Oltrepò Pavese and Trento. Franciacorta certainly is to be considered among the best bubbles wines of Italy, produced with the Metodo Franciacorta, not very different from the classic method. These wines, according to an Italian law cannot be called with the general term spumante but exclusively Franciacorta, are available in a vast selection of types, different levels of sweetness, from the extremely dry Non Dosato (or Pas Dosé, Dosage Zéro, Pas Opéré or nature) to sweet Demi-Sec, from refined Satèn, exclusively produced with Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc grapes, to the more bodied Franciacortas where Pinot Noir grape is used as well, this style also includes Rosé, from the Senza Annata, (non vintage), produced with wines from different vintages, to the refined and important millesimati (vintage). A vast and complete selection of types which allows, even in this case, the possibility of matching a whole meal exclusively with Franciacorta.

 Even Talento, produced in some northern regions of Italy, is an interesting sparkling wine and they also come in different styles and are produced with the classic method. Talentos, which usually come as Extra-Brut or Brut and also produced in the riserva styles as well as millesimati, offer excellent opportunities for the enogastronomical matching. Another dry sparkling wine produced in Italy, famous in every part of the world, is Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, mainly obtained with the Prosecco grape, is a wine produced with the Charmat method and it is available in many styles, usually dry, of which the Superiore di Cartizze is the most renowned one. Even Prosecco offers interesting possibilities for the enogastronomical matching. In Piedmont are produced two sweet sparkling wines, famous everywhere, Asti spumante and Brachetto d'Acqui. Asti spumante, or simply Asti, is produced with Muscat Blanc grapes which give this wine a pleasing and strong aromaticity, as well as its characteristic sweetness, make this wine particularly suited for the matching of desserts. Brachetto d'Acqui, produced with Brachetto grapes, fascinates for its light red color, as well as for its strong aromas of rose and strawberry, as well as for its typical sweetness, it is an excellent wine to be matched with desserts.

 Even Spain offers a vast selection of sparkling wines with its Cava. These wines are produced with the classic method and are available in different levels of sweetness, from the extremely dry Brut Nature to the sweet ones, as well as Rosé styles, produced both as non vintage and vintage, as well as reserve. Even Cavas, thanks to the many production styles, allow the matching of a whole meal. Other countries that can offer sparkling wines, suited for the enogastronomical matching, are Germany with its Sekt, a sparkling wine mainly obtained by Riesling grape and generally produced with the Charmat method; South Africa that offers good sparkling wines produced with the classic method; United States of America, in particular California, with a production of classic method sparkling wines, as well as Australia and New Zealand.


Matching with Food

 Matching food with sparkling wine can be realized by means of the evaluation and the consideration of two fundamental elements: glass in which wine is being served and the specific organoleptic qualities of the sparkling wine. The glass in which sparkling wine will be served must be chosen according to the type and, in particular, to the method of production of the wine, as well as its aromatic complexity. Sparkling wines produced with the Charmat method are usually served in the demi-flûte, a glass not much tall and tight, which will however allow the correct development of perlage, certainly not as refined as the one of wines produced with the classic method. In case a wine is produced with the long Charmat method, that is with a prolonged production time as opposed to the normal production, the wine could have developed more complex aromas and therefore they must be valued with a flûte glass having a larger body. Non vintage classic method sparkling wines will be served in a regular flûte, whereas the vintages will be served in wide flûte, a particular glass having a tight and stretched base and a wider body and opening in order to allow a correct development of complex aromas of these wines. Sweet and aromatic sparkling wines are the ones that will be served in the cup glass, short and with a wide opening, in order to allow the appreciation of wine's aromaticity as well as allowing the development of the more delicate aromas.

 The matching of sparkling wines and food will consider the main characteristics of these wines: effervescence and acidity, two factors that are particularly perceived in the tasting of “bubbles” wines. Although these two characteristics are the most dominant and perceptible ones during the first impression the wine gives to the mouth, in sparkling wines will also be considered the quantity of alcohol, its roundness, that is how it is smooth to the mouth and, last but not the least, the level of sweetness. It must be remembered a brut sparkling wine, even when it tastes dry, can even contain as much as 15 grams of sugar and even though the sweet perception will be greatly diminished because of carbon dioxide, it will however contribute to wine's smoothness and roundness. Even body will be important when considered for matching: sparkling wines exclusively produced with white berried grapes, the so called Blanc de Blancs, will have a lesser body, that is structure, when compared to the ones produced with both white and red berried grapes, moreover Blanc de Noirs will have an even greater body, and the body of Rosé will be even greater than that. Body in a wine will be also determined by the aging period; in general terms vintage wines will have a greater body and complexity when compared to non vintage wines. The same is also true for the production method: sparkling wines made with the classic method will be more structured than the ones produced with the Charmat method. For these reasons, Charmat sparkling wines usually precede classic method, vintages comes after non vintages, Rosé will be served after white sparkling wines. Even the level of sweetness is important in the sequence of service; at the beginning will be served the most dry ones up to the most sweet ones.

 Effervescence in sparkling wines is particularly useful in the enogastronomical matching of foods which tend to be sweet in taste, such as cereals, rich in starch and therefore pasta and rice, vegetables and shellfishes, as well as dishes being pretty fat or having fat seasonings or sauces. The same function is also done by acidity, found in sparkling wines as well, therefore it must be considered, in this case, that effervescence and acidity in these wines work together perfectly contrasting sensations of fat tastes or slightly sweet tastes in foods. According to these two “simple” rules we can set, in general terms, that a good risotto with shellfishes can be matched with a sparkling wine.

 Alcohol will be useful in balancing the sensations of succulence, the physiological reaction of salivation originated by foods rich in proteins, as well as foods seasoned with unctuous ingredients, characteristics usually found in meat, cheese and in some elaborated dishes of fish. Roundness in a sparkling wine, determined by its level of sweetness, will be useful for the matching of tasty foods as well as for ingredients that will tend to be acid or bitter. The persistence of sparkling wines will be useful in balancing those dishes having strong flavors as well as persistent, and the body of the wine will be of help in balancing elaborated and complex dishes. Finally, the clearly perceptible sweetness of some sparkling wines, such as Asti and Brachetto, as well as sweet Champagne or demi-sec Franciacorta, will be the perfect companion for desserts, in particular the ones prepared with creams or desserts with ice creams.

 As it can be seen, there are sufficient elements in order to “demolish”, at last, the prejudice that sparkling wines are exclusively suited for moments of celebrations and parties: their characteristics make them perfectly and magnificently suitable for the enogastronomical matching, moreover, obeying to the rules of the sequence of service for wines, it is certainly possible to match a whole meal with bubbles only and the experience, try it to believe, will be very exciting and rich in amazing surprises.


A Practical Example: Franciacorta

Franciacorta, served in its glass
designed by the consortium, is an excellent companion in the enogastronomical
Franciacorta, served in its glass designed by the consortium, is an excellent companion in the enogastronomical matching

 The best way to test the validity of a theory, no matter what, it is to confirm it by means of a practical application. In order to prove the efficiency and the versatility of bubbles in the enogastronomical matching, we will make use of Franciacorta, thanks to the rich and vast availability of styles, it will allow us to use it for matching very different dishes. The first aspect we will consider is the type of glass to be used for this wine. The Consortium for the Safeguarding of Franciacorta has designed a particular and efficient glass, marked by the Franciacorta symbol, the unmistakable embattled letter “F”, printed at the base of every glass. The wide and stretched body allows the proper development and appreciation of perlage, whereas the rounded tulip shape will allow an adequate development and appreciation of aromas; a glass that certainly and rightly exalts the best characteristics of this excellent wine.

 Franciacorta wines are available in many levels of sweetness and styles; factors that allow this wine to be perfectly used for the matching of the many dishes in a meal, from aperitif to dessert. Franciacorta Non Dosato, the most dry one of them all, can be served as an excellent aperitif, moreover, it can be matched to fish appetizers, vegetables and cheese, shellfishes and crustaceans, as well as pasta and risotto with fish and vegetables. Franciacorta Satèn, exclusively produced with white berried grapes, thanks to its elegance and delicacy, can be served as aperitif, or matched to appetizers and main courses made of fish and white meat, or with vegetables pies. Franciacorta Brut, enriched in its structure by Pinot Noir grape, is a good match for main courses made of fish and vegetables, roasted and broiled fish, as well as dishes made of white meat, and in particular the vintage, can be matched to red meat, roasted or sauteed and, in case of particularly structured vintages, even to rich and elaborated dishes made of meat. Lastly, this style of Franciacorta can be matched with soft cheese as well as fatty cheese, such as robiola and mozzarella, and fried foods, in particular, fried fish. Franciacorta Rosé will be a good match for cold cuts, even tasty, main courses made of meat and mushrooms, rich dishes made of vegetables, such as parmigiana, roasted fish, rich and tasty fish and vegetables soup, as well as dishes made of red meat. At the end of the meal, Franciacorta Demi-Sec, thanks to its sweet taste, will perfectly match a dessert with cream and fruit, as well as ice cream tarts.

 Finally, we would like to end this short, but significative, list of examples of enogastronomical matches with bubbles with another suggestion related to one of the most famous dishes of the Italian cooking known everywhere in the world. Did you ever think about matching Franciacorta Brut with a tempting pizza? This colored and tasty dish is a joy of ingredients: the base, rich in starch, therefore having a taste tending to sweet, will be well matched to the effervescence and crispness, the other ingredients, such as tomatoes, mozzarella, mushrooms, vegetables and cold cuts, common in many pizzas, will have a loyal companion in the richness of these “bubbles”. Enjoy the meal!


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  Corkscrew Issue 9, June 2003   
Matching Food with Sparkling WinesMatching Food with Sparkling Wines  Contents 
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