Caviar enthusiasts have been known to pair their prized salted sturgeon beads with ice-cold vodka or crisp pale ales, but there is no better combination for this oceanic treat than champagne.
Whether you're celebrating a special event at a fine restaurant or spending the evening with friends or someone special, caviar and champagne are sure to satisfy your senses as an appetizer or an after-dinner snack.
What makes champagne and caviar the perfect accompaniment to each other and how to choose the right bottle depending on what kind of caviar you have on hand?
Like caviar, champagne houses must follow one golden rule for their produce to be considered champagne. As we know, caviar is only considered caviar if it comes from one of the many species of sturgeon fish. Similarly, a sparkling wine can only be considered champagne if the grapes are harvested from vineyards in Champagne, France. But beyond the association with high class, there are broader reasons why caviar and champagne make sense in conjunction.
First, the light and savory flavors and aromas of Champagne create a wonderful contrast to the salty, smooth taste of caviar. Superior Champagne is known for flavors such as almond or brioche with fruity notes that bring to mind orange and lemon zest. These wines do not overload the palate and give a full caviar effect between sips.
Champagne and caviar pairing also has a cleansing effect, unlike heavier oaked white wines or bold reds. The taste of these sparkling wines doesn't stay long, so you won't miss a sip of caviar or miss a moment in the discussion.
Of course, Champagne has that special sparkle that most white wines don't have, which is usually served with caviar. Not only does it add an alluring visual component to the pouring and serving of the drink, but it also has a distinctive effect on your tongue when you take a bite of the delicate caviar pearl.
You can talk a lot about how perfectly caviar and champagne go well together, but how do you determine which pairing is best for your tasting? Conventional wisdom says that wine should match the quality of the food, and the same principles can be applied here to make the decision easier.
There is an opinion that all caviar should be washed down with sparkling wine. This is because these sparkling wines have the ability to cleanse the receptors and go well with most dishes, especially salty ones. In addition, butter and bread are invariable companions to caviar, and it is similar notes that Champagne, Crémant, Cava and other wines made by the traditional method boast.
But so do quiet wines with long aging on fine lees, so you can always bet on them. Caviar also has a lot of nautical, iodine flavors, so the second way is to choose wines like those for oysters - with brackish and mineral notes: whether it's sparkling from the Penedès or classic whites from the Chablis region.
Read: Russian Caviar: Learn All About It
However, caviar will not go well with tannic red and orange wines, as well as oak-aged whites. They are too intense, so they will dominate the taste of the delicacy or underline its harshest hues. Bet on varieties that can be beautiful even without oak: sauvignon blanc, gruyner weltliner, riesling or chardonnay in the Nordic style.
Instead of Beluga, Sturgeon or Kaluga caviar of the highest grade would be a more realistic purchase, and while you can spend as much as you want on champagne, there are plenty of mid-priced wines that would also be great for your needs.
Krug Champagne is a great choice to offset the salty pearls with a firm bouquet of fruity flavors. There's always room at the table for a bottle of Taittinger, a Champagne with a rich history from the French countryside.
Serving and tasting
When it's time to invite guests to the tasting, you need to make all the arrangements for serving caviar and champagne properly. Preparations should begin before friends arrive, and all supplies should be in order to relieve you of stress.
Both champagne and caviar should be chilled, but the caviar, which should be kept just above freezing point in the cold part of the fridge, should sit on the table for about 15 minutes to reach the perfect consistency. Champagne, on the other hand, should be slightly chilled to about 45 degrees.
A couple of hours in the refrigerator will bring your champagne to the proper temperature, but don't let it stay there too long. Do your best to make sure that each item is not too warm or cold when you serve it.
When everyone is gathered around, break a can or jar of caviar and open a bottle of sparkling liquor for all to watch and enjoy. It's a grand opening, so put on a show!
Fill the narrow-necked flutes with champagne (about half full) and make sure no one gets thirsty while they devour the salty caviar and appetizers. If you will be serving alongside the caviar and champagne, select appetizers that complement this combination of flavors.
Bagel waffles can be the perfect vessel for sturgeon caviar, while smoked salmon and Daniel Boulud's sour cream will create a creamy flavor that won't compete with the caviar's sodium. Your guests can also serve the salmon paired with Meyer's lemon schmear for a fresh, crisp flavor. For a touch of sweetness at the end of the evening, complete the menu with champagne-soaked strawberries.
Whether you make a booking at the best champagne parlor in New York, head to a surf club restaurant in Florida, or grab a silver spoon and some Dom Pérignon from the comfort of your own home, a pairing of caviar and champagne is a must-try.
Perhaps you'll try this new dish to welcome the new year, or use this iconic pairing for a special anniversary. Follow our guide to the world of caviar and champagne and give yourself an amazing evening of flavor and enjoyment.
About the Author
Igor Fishbeyn is purveyor of fine sturgeon caviar and creator of the Skazka Caviar brand. He is an expert with decades of experience specializing in importing, wholesaling, and retailing the finest quality caviar in the world. Igor frequently writes about caviar news and various topics about the caviar industry. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.
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