By Andrea Bosco Stehle | Photographs by Michael Fornataro, from Christina Shields Photography, Veronica Varos Photography | Art direction by Jason Solak
Your honey popped the question — it’s time to pop Champagne! From your engagement toast to your reception, there are infinite occasions to imbibe, but what should you sip when? We’ve consulted four effervescent experts, brilliant with all things bubbles!
“People who love Champagne love it because it’s refined,” says Bob Sendall, owner of All in Good Taste Productions. Though, in his 30 years of event planning and catering, he’s learned an important lesson. “For weddings of 100 guests or more, we don’t do a Champagne toast,” he says. “Sparkling wine should be opened, poured, and drank immediately while it’s extremely cold — it shouldn’t sit.” When served, he suggests pairing the beverage with rich foods like beautiful cheeses, an olive oil and brown butter pasta with mushrooms, chocolate (like his famed Toffee Taboo), and of course, caviar. “You want to bite into something that’s luscious and delicious,” says Sendall. “That, to me, is what Champagne is all about.”
Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine
It’s essential to understand what differentiates Champagne from sparkling wine. True Champagne comes from its namesake region in France and is made with three types of most widely used grapes — pinot noir (red), pinot meunier (red), and chardonnay (white). Just remember: All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Outside of the Champagne region, sparkling wine is Crémant in France. In Spain, it’s Cava. In Italy, it’s Prosecco, Asti, and others. So what makes a Champagne vintage or nonvintage? Vintage bubbles are made from the grapes of only one year’s harvest, whereas nonvintage is a blend of different years’ harvest.
From brut to doux, the sweetness in sparkling wine comes down to the amount of sugar added.
Savor Fresh Catering has introduced its now-popular sparkling wine Popsicle pour-over cocktail (the ruby red grapefruit and pomegranate flavor, shown here) as a memorable signature drink, a fun and unexpected toast, or a sweet ending to a small-plate service of seated courses. “It also makes for a refreshing late-night summer accent during your reception dance party,” says Wimer. Made with Prosecco, the sweeter-style sparkling wine complements desserts quite well.
Choose a brut for its hints of pear, peach, and apple — a nice match for seafood or shellfish, particularly oysters, scallops, white fish, or sushi. Paris 66 Sommelier Renaud Daburon suggests a Mumm Cordon Rouge.
Go for a fruity bottle, like a demi sec, when serving poultry. Daburon recommends a Moët Nectar Impérial Rosé for its creamy, balancing flavors of passion fruit, guava, and spice.
Imitate the intensity of filet mignon with an extra brut, which will lift the rich flavors off of the palate. A bright choice is Ployez-Jacquemart Extra Brut Rosé, which has a touch of warm baking spices, licorice, and toasted almonds that plays nicely with cuts.
For the Proposal
Splurge on a vintage Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, Dom Pérignon, or Perrier-Jouët.
For the Wedding
Choose wisely, says Daburon. “Many people do not appreciate or know the difference between a Crémant de Loire and a Dom Pérignon.” For summer weddings, Prosecco is an attractive choice. “The fruity and creamy nature balances well with cured meats and many fruits as it’s on the sweeter side,” explains Savor Fresh Catering Executive Chef Ryan “Kap” Kapuscinski. Note: Universally enjoyed, the Italian sparkling wine is of better value when serving a large number of people.
For the Honeymoon
Surprise your spouse with a bottle of Moët Grand Vintage Rosé. It’s spontaneous, radiant, and romantic, synonymous to your honeymoon! “Rosé Champagne is also becoming a popular wedding staple for its quintessential blush retro appearance and feel,” adds Wimer.
Serving sparkling wine with dinner can elevate any occasion — Kap can attest. “Bubbly pairs well with anything from pizza to lamb; appetizers to heavy, plated entrées.” One of his favorites is Domain Chandon Sparkling Red. “It is my go-to on Thanksgiving as its lighter body brings out the succulence of turkey and stuffing, but has black cherry notes that enhance and blend well with cranberry sauce.” For those looking for a versatile option, Kap recommends a Blanc de Blancs varietal, made entirely from white grapes. “Its bubbles and acidity are great with cream or butter sauces, and fried, greasy foods,” he says. “It enhances and brings out flavors in fatty fishes and shellfish, and refreshes your palate after strong flavors.” Though, he warns, “Despite its versatility, stay away from serving it with acidic and spicy sauces.”
All in Good Taste Productions, 1520 Monterey St., North Side. 412.321.6869. allingoodtasteproductions.com. Savor Fresh Catering, 700 River Ave., Suite 317, Downtown. 724.654.6851. pittsburghsavor.com. Paris 66, 6018 Centre Ave., East Liberty. 412.404.8166. paris66bistro.com.