Somewhere along the way, sparkling wine (mostly Champagne) became associated with celebration. It is served at important life events such as weddings, it is used in the symbolic gesture of a “toast”, and is also used to christen a ship before its maiden voyage. It is THE drink of all New Year’s Eve celebrations. To surround yourself with people on NYE with a glass of sparkling wine is like no other. There’s a hint of nostalgia as we remember the year behind us, and a hint of wistfulness as we look ahead to what the new year might bring.
Let us deconstruct the bubble. Sparkling wine (whether it’s Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, etc) is a sensory experience. We HEAR the “pop” of a cork after it is released from the bottle. Visually we SEE the bubbles race up the side of the glass after the frothy liquid is poured. If you sniff a glass of Champagne, you can SMELL the yeasty lees on the nose. Put the juice in your mouth and you can TASTE the complexity and FEEL the effervescence of bubbles on your tongue.
The bottom line, Champagne is sexy as hell. The sensory experience above can be read as a step-by-step recounting of opening up and enjoying a bottle of Champagne, or it can be read as a metaphor for the excitement of being intimate with someone for the first time. The sounds of lovemaking, the smell of each other, the taste and feel of that lover on your lips, and the final release. The parallels are clear. In fact, the two are quite complementary. A glass of bubbles before or after lovemaking is quite extraordinary.
We digress. Let’s come back to NYE as we pair some elegant and equally sexy crostini with our bubbles. I decided to team up with Lucia aka lucilovesfoodandwine on Instagram who is a recipe developer and a certified sommelier and have her develop three easy and approachable crostini recipes to pair with the bubbles that I brought to her place. We each decided which sparkling wine went best with each crostini. The Crostini is simply a sliced and toasted baguette with various toppings. In this case, we slathered the crostini with various creamy options and topped them off with decadent and dynamic flavors. The pairing of the crostini and bubbles were PERFECT complements to each other whether you’re home with a loved one or celebrating with a larger group.
And now, the pairings:
Crostini: Crème Fraîche – Smoked Salmon – Lemon
Pairing: Champagne Drappier Carte d’Or NV $40 (Champagne, France)
This is one of those “classic with classic” pairings that is always a good idea. Classic Champagne for NYE is an experience. Champagne Drappier is a 7th generation family-owned house serving up all the autolytic and yeasty notes in the glass with their NV selection. The brininess in the wine matches the brininess of the smoked salmon. And the citrus lemon notes in the wine match the lemon zest whipped into the crème fraîche. Lots of symbiosis in the wine and the crostini make this a fool-proof pairing.
Crostini: Ricotta – Prosciutto – Cherry Preserves
Pairing: Lucien Albrecht Brut Crémant d’Alsace NV $23 (Alsace, France)
If you love Champagne, then you might like Crémant. Crémant is a sparkling wine made in France but not IN Champagne. These wines are made in the traditional method as is done in Champagne. Non-aged versions like this from Lucien Albrecht, a classic Alsatian producer, showcase brightness and fresh fruit characteristics. And while this is technically a dry wine (2 g/L of residual sugar), there is the perception of a whisper of sweetness in the glass; especially compared to the dry and austere Champagne. That whisper in the wine brings out the sweetness in the cherries, while the bubbles cut through the richness of the ricotta and prosciutto.
Crostini: Peas – Chili – Crème Fraîche – Feta
Pairing: Ferghettina Franciacorta Rosé 2016 $60 (Lombardy, Italy)
What is a sparkling tasting without pink bubbles? Family-owned Franciacorta producer Ferghettina knocks it out of the park with this gorgeous bottle of vintage sparkling rosé. Italy’s answer to Champagne, Franciacorta stuns time and time again, and this bottle is no exception. A very structured and red berry forward wine. The red fruit tones in the wine lend a fun contrast to the earthly, slightly sweet peas. And to mitigate the heat from the chili, we have both the cooling crème fraîche and the wine’s acidity. Brilliant and decadent in one bite and sip.
Wine and food complete the sensory experience of our lives. What is life without them? Especially New Year’s Eve. Enjoy every sense, appreciate that you are alive, and celebrate! We are dynamic, moving, and ever-changing, like the sparkling wine in our glass. Enjoy a glass of bubbles and these decadent crostini. Why? Because the meaning of life is to live it.