Roger Jones, Michelin Star Chef and Food & Wine matching expert looks at unusual ways to match Champagne and Sparkling wines to desserts. Dishes were designed by Roger and Karl Abraham, Head Pastry Chef at The Park House Restaurant in Cardiff where Roger is the Executive Consultant Chef.
Clearly not the classic combination that you would normally look for with desserts, but let’s get one ground rule straight do not go for a demi-sec, as this would not in my mind give a perfect match, except in exceptional circumstances with an exceptional demi-sec. For this I have matched our classic ‘Boiled Egg’, with the yolk made from mango and passion fruit, the white made from Sauce Anglaise and Italian meringue as the topping with vanilla salt. The sourness of the passion fruit and the salty vanilla gives the sweetness of the dish and wine a good balance.
Non-Vintage or Vintage
However before we go any further let’s look at the options, ideally you want a sparkler that has layers, depth and character so we are looking at quality more Vintage styles, although wines with age or with added reserve wines would also be suitable. Non Vintage and easy drinking sparkling wines is more suited to the classical Strawberries and Cream
Then of course the obvious match is Rosé, although the French very strongly believe that Rosé Champagne should be served with Lamb and not desserts. Again there are exceptions, I was reminded of the quality and style of Champagne Le Mesnil, Sublime Rosé, this shouted our Rhubarb and would be perfectly matched with a Rhubarb dessert. Add a touch of spice to the crumble, then play around with some victoria sponge, and meringues, but allowing some sourness to come through from the rhubarb to balance the sweet sponge.
The level of sweetness is very important, whether it’s the richness of the fruit or the dosage, and whilst you want the Champagne to be rich in style you do not want too much sweetness as this would make the whole experience far too sickly sweet. A good clean acidity to the finish also helps to balance the dessert.
Sweetness or Richness, Savoury or Sweet
The level of sweetness in the dessert is also important to gage, a savoury dessert such as Bread and Butter Pudding needs a different match to a Strawberry dessert, whilst if you are using chocolate and hint of salt inside the chocolate element always helps.
Here I have matched the fantastic Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2008, with ‘lemon and poppy cake with lemon curd, French meringue and lemon macaroons’, essentially a citrus flavour with savoury spices. The Champagne has a lovely full toasty richness, flavours of dried pears, spice, aniseed, together with good acidity and minerality for a clean finish, wanting you to go back for more of that rich luxurious flavours.
Hattingley Kings Cuvee
Rare do you come across a Sparkling wine that stops you in your tracks, but this masterpiece just does, an exhilarating layered and textured Sparkling wine, Emma Rice the British winemaker was inspired into the wine business after trying Krug 1979, she certainly seems to have put some Krugness into her Kings Cuvee, a stunning barrel aged sparkling wine which I have matched to a Prune and Armangac soufflé with pain D’epices ice cream and salted caramel.
The Villiera Pinot Meunier Vintage 2010 is a very bright fresh wine with tantalising flavours, lots of character coming from the Pinot Meunier. Here we have matched it with mini Turkish Delights, enriched with Spiced Halen Mon Sea Salt. The bitter sweet chocolate with luscious rose petal flavours and spiced salt gives a complex mouthful of flavours perfectly suited to this South African MCC.
General tips for matching desserts with Sparkling Wines and Champagne
Tarts and Crumbles
Fruit dishes, which are light and fresh, pair well with Champagne. For instance, apple tarts which is a combination of a shortbread crust, cheesecake-like filling, cinnamon sugared slices of apple and shaved almonds blends quite well with a glass of Champagne. A luscious plate of crunchy pear crumbles also serves the purpose.
Perfect for a holiday mood, a plum or rice pudding with Champagne is another combination which can get you hooked. These rich, succulent puddings are a traditional pairing with vintage Champagne to round off a meal.
Shortbread & Almond cookies
Try combining crisp pistachio shortbread or freshly baked Almond cookies with a glass of reserve Champagne such as Jacquesson 738.
The classic match some would say with Champagne or sparkling wine, but ensure the strawberries are ripe, and above all English not forced grown from poly tunnels in Northern Europe. Good basic pouring fizz is ideal here especially if you made a Raspberry and Strawberry Ripple ice cream served with shortbread and a few fresh strawberries.
Peanut and Chocolate
This combination strikes well with the saltiness of the peanuts standing up to the acidity and strong taste of the Champagne, and the chocolate thereby giving a nice, mellow aftertaste.
Dark Chocolate Truffles
The not too-sweet dark chocolate truffle is an excellent balance to add some salt to tone down the sweetness further and look for a Pinot Noir dominated sparkler.
Photo credit Huw Jones Photography