Champagne and sparkling wine are often the hero of the party. There’s nothing like the sound of that cork popping to get the night started. But what do you eat with champagne? Husband-and-wife team Fran Flynn and David Stevens-Castro have all the answers in their new book Paired.
What do you usually eat when you’re drinking champagne? Strawberries? Maybe those little pastry hors d’oeuvres and finger food? Nothing?
Well, it seems we’re probably underselling the bubbles a bit. Just as you do with other wine styles, sparkling can be paired with all kinds of different dishes really successfully.
What’s even more surprising is the food doesn’t have to be ultra sophisticated or complicated.
Wine expert David Stevens-Castro and his wife Fran Flynn, are opening the doors to champagne and food matching in their recipe book Paired.
We thought we’d ask them some more questions about their book and how to use bubbly better.
10 questions about matching champagne and food
1. What’s your favourite match with a good French champagne?
Fish and chips with any dry NV Champagne. Oysters with Blanc de Blancs Champagne. Duck with Pinot Noir dominant blends (Blanc de Noir).
2. Does sparkling wine match savoury or sweet dishes?
Matching is all about being open to experimentation – so there is potential for a good French Champagne to suit either a savoury or sweet dish depending on the flavour combination.
We’re particularly keen to encourage the idea of champagne and sparkling wines being suitable for matching with every course of a meal, not just for aperitif – presuming that the match is made carefully.
3. What’s your favourite Aussie sparkling and what do you match it with food wise?
Arras. The master of masters Ed Carr, produces the best sparklings in Australia. He produces from light & crispy wines to rich and complex vintage wines.
We particularly love the aged examples, which show so much care. These latest premium releases are delicious with creamy dishes, roasted poultry and salmon.
4. Do you have a value recommendation for domestic and international sparkling our Aussie readers would be interested in?
Pirie Sparkling NV by Brown Brothers – Domestic
NV Billycart Salmon for a Champagne – International France
Cloudy Bay Pelorus Brut Marlborough New Zealand
5. Is cheese and sparkling a good combo? If so, which cheese and wine would you recommend?
A very broad variety of cheeses work beautifully with sparkling wine. This is a broad question that we tackle in our book. However, in brief cheeses that come from the same region/area as a wine are often excellent companions, because they are influenced by the same environmental factors.
Older cheese often match very well with older wines too as flavours tend to mature and strengthen with age. Often soft cheese match well, but be careful of cheeses with edible rinds, which are often not a good companion.
Top suggestions: double cream rindless brie and vintage hard cheeses.
6. What’s the most unexpected/surprising/weird sounding food and sparkling pairing you’ve come across or that’s in your book?
Scrambled eggs with mango salsa with Moscato for breakfast. This is one of the recipes on offer in our book. Eggs are a great match with sparkling wines and the mango salsa adds a sweetness that mirrors nicely with Moscato.
7. Can and do you cook with sparkling wine?
Yes! We have included two recipes in the book that have the wine utilised as an ingredient in the food; it is a key ingredient in the foam that can be served with fresh oysters.
We also have a ‘to die for’ recipe for Moscato cream cakelets with raspberry sauce.
8. Can you serve sparkling wine with something heavy or strong-flavoured like steak?
Surprisingly yes, but you need to be open. Sparkling Shiraz can do the trick… we offer a recipe for roast duck with cherry sauce, also pairing with a sparkling Shiraz.
9. What are your top 5 dishes to serve with a mid-range bottle of sparkling?
Fish & chips, oysters, sashimi sushi, charcuterie, anything with eggs as the main flavour.
10. What’s your idea of a romantic champagne dinner?
Candles, music, nice glassware, your lover & a bottle of Billecart Salmon Rosé.
And now a bit about the authors…
Fran, have you always been a food and lifestyle photographer?
Initially I studied graphic design (with photography as a major) and I carved out a career as a designer, with photography as my hobby passion. Then I undertook some further study in photography and subsequently developed a particular interest in fashion photography for a while.
But once David and I had been together for a period of time, my interest in food photography increased hugely because it’s something that we’re equally interested in, and we can work on together.
Which did you like to photograph more in your book – the food or the fizz?
I find the food is definitely a more creative subject… there are only so many ways to shoot a glass of wine – although maybe that is just a limitation in my perception!
David, how did you get into champagne and how did you become a wine expert?
Champagne is a wine that I am just starting to deeply understand after a lifetime of appreciating wine. There is so much drama, intensity and flavour in each glass of Champagne that every time I feel like I learn something new. I think there’s nothing like it; the flavour is just unique and beautiful.
I became a wine expert because I grew up with it, I’ve been very lucky to be involved in the wine game for a long time now, firstly back home in Chile and now in Australia.
My degree as an agricultural scientist specialising in fruit and wine production from the most prestigious Chilean university gave me a great foundation, along with a lot of exposure to wine and grape production through family businesses.
How did you guys meet?
We were both living in Byron Bay and we were on separate nights out with friends that knew each other, and we all bumped into each other in a bar. Fran was the only one in the group that didn’t speak Spanish at the time.
During the course of the night her friend noticed that there seemed to be a bit of a spark between us and she asked me in Spanish if I would like Fran’s number. When I said yes, she played matchmaker straight away. We went on a date the following day and have been inseparable for the eight years since.
I know I’ll never look at a bottle of bubbly the same way again. Can’t wait to try some of these amazing recipes and partner them up with a glass of champers.
What do you eat with your sparkling? Do you have a favourite dish to go with your glass of bubbly? Tell us in the comments!