Today the varieties of Champagne are so diverse that you can choose any food you want for them. And Champagne also pairs surprisingly well with street food and all kinds of junk food. We asked sommeliers to talk about the most extravagant wine pairings in their restaurants. Conditions: luxurious, unusual Champagne and an unexpected dish for it.
Pierre Péters L'Étonnant Monsieur Victor Edition MK Blanc de Blancs 2012
& Burned salmon kiluvürts with grilled onions, kefir, cucumber and green apples, from the “Baltic” section of the menu
© Semen Kuzmin
Yanina Martynyuk © Semen Kuzmin
Among the unique styles of Сhampagne, I would like to mention Pierre Péters. I have from him not just Blanc de Blancs, but Blanc de Blancs “L'Étonnant Monsieur Victor.” You can hardly find this line of champagne anywhere. It is luxurious not only on the palate, but is made for real connoisseurs and art lovers. The label changes with each new release. Now the line is made in honor of Victor, the son of Pierre, and was designed by Japanese neo-pop artist Takashi Murakami.
This Blanc de Blancs has a lovely refreshing taste in good balance with its acidity, it will go perfectly with salmon which is first marinated and then grilled, which gives a smoky note. In the second nose and in the aftertaste of the wine, sweet spices appear that blend with the pickled grilled onions.
Among unusual combinations, once I enjoyed Krug's Grande Cuvée with a burger of marbled beef and mushroom ragout. It was really unexpected!
Moscow, Teatralny Alley 2
(499) 795 99 99
Krug Collection Brut 2002
& Peking duck with black caviar and homemade pancakes
© Semen Kuzmin
Sergey Aksenovsky © Semen Kuzmin
The more I drink Champagne, the more I realize that it is not fair to compare it to other sparkling wines made by the traditional method. You can try, which we are quite successfully doing. But when there is a choice – Champagne or another sparkling wine – it is obvious to me what I will choose. You can call me conservative, but you are wrong. I just know very well what I want to have in my glass and on my plate, although I am always open to experiments. By the way, even now while writing this text to you – from the surging memories under my tongue, I feel a steadily growing desire for a sip of Champagne! That’s enough! My friends, I am going for a bottle now!
One of the most memorable combinations was one offered during a visit to the house of Moët & Chandon a few years ago. The Moët & Chandon vintages from 1920 to 2000 were accompanied by black caviar, bread and butter – nothing else. It was light and harmonious. One day at dinner, younger vintages of Champagne were paired in order of increasing organoleptic intensity with different kinds of oysters, including baked or spiced ones. In my long experience, this was the only justified case where an initially excellent, fresh product was subjected to seemingly superfluous heat treatment – but it worked, as it was appropriate.
The strangest sparkling wine? Podere Il Saliceto Falistra Lambrusco di Sorbara DOP. I could not understand what was in my glass. It was in the hot summer, and some cool nebulous liquid of ash-pink color was in my glass. I was impressed by what a Lambrusco wine can be when a winemaker has the right attitude to it. As appetizers, there was just homemade turkey mousse with pink peppercorns, and bread. It worked for the same reason as why Krug Collection Brut 2002 in the restaurant "Turandot" is ideal for the grilled Peking duck with black caviar and homemade pancakes – it was appropriate, ideal in time, place and state of mind!
Maison Dellos, “Turandot”
Moscow, Tverskoy Boulevard 26
(495) 172 19 42
La Closerie by Jérôme Prévost
& Grilled scallops with foie gras and cauliflower cream
© Semen Kuzmin
Kristina Veselova © Semen Kuzmin
Champagne has a very special place on the wine list of the Harvest restaurant, just like in my heart. There are more than 20 types of Champagne on it and I am particularly happy when guests consciously come for it. This is La Closerie by Jérôme Prévost, a Blanc de Noirs made from 100% Pinot Meunier, from 40-year-old vines. The grapes for it come from the small parcel Les Béguines, in the tiny village Gueux in the Petite-Montagne de Reims. Jérôme learned to make Champagne under the guidance of his famous friend – Anselm Selossa, who probably felt from the beginning that Jérôme was going to be a future star. La Closerie is a wine of incredible complexity, and the fine bubbles are simply a pleasant addition. The hypnotic voluptuousness of this wine deserves serving exclusively in a wide Burgundy glass, so as not to miss anything: green apple, creme brûlée, fried sunflower seeds, freshly baked sourdough bread, salt, white honey. The suggested pairing works well in several different aspects: the delicate flavor of the grilled Far-Eastern scallops highlights both the mineral character and the oxidized nutty aspect of the Champagne, the foie gras cream sauce meets with its creamy texture and salty-honey taste, and its piercing acidity balances the lipid aspect of the dish. In other words: a union made in heaven.
Another example of such a union, which at first glance may seem a bad pairing: Blanc de Blancs and French fries. It will be especially good if you choose a Сhampagne that is not bone-dry. I recommend it to those who haven’t tried it yet – you can experience a real “wow” effect.
St. Petersburg, Dobrolyubova Ave. 11
(911) 922 27 46
Loriot-Pagel Cuvée N°6 2004
& French Cake
© Semen Kuzmin
Galina Budnikova © Semen Kuzmin
Champagne is my greatest devotion. It is difficult to limit myself to one style, as the choice depends on my mood. Almost all Сhampagnes in the wine list are love at first sight, nose, and sip. I remember the first time I tried Cuvée N°6 2004 from Loriot-Pagel at a blind tasting with my colleagues in November 2017. It won me over with its depth and structure. With nine years of aging on lees, it is well-formed and has an expressive character. Then there were no more than 200 bottles of it in Moscow, and I could buy just 18 bottles for "Grand Coffeemania.” Fortunately, there were new supplies later on. From our menu, I can recommend Cuvée N°6 with veal liver, roasted with apples and onions and paired with stewed spinach, and also with our "French cake." The fine fruity aspect of this aged Champagne intertwines with the taste of soft baked apples, the almond dacquoise highlights the long aging on lees, and the roasted hazelnuts complement its long aftertaste.
Champagne can accompany the whole meal, from the starter to the dessert, and it doesn’t matter whether there will be several different styles of bottles or just one. An unusual combination? Do you know how delicious Champagne is with French fries?
Coffeemania, Bloodlust, Grand Coffeemania
Moscow, Maly Cherkassky Lane 2
(495) 960 22 95
Geoffroy Rosé dei Saignée Brut Premier Cru
& Kamchatka crab legs with avocado, halibut caviar, raspberries and blackberries
© Semen Kuzmin
Vadim Martynyuk © Semen Kuzmin
The Rosé from one of the most respected producers in Champagne is made by the “Saignée” method. It has a nice acidity with tones of slightly unripe red berries. Of course, crab is not so unusual for Champagne pairing, but in this dish you also have berries, and they magically complement the richness of the wine aromas.
With aging, Champagne acquires more and more yeasty notes and pastry aromas. Therefore with old Champagne, if you are completely bored you can confidently take chips with toasted notes and a tone of bread crust – they go well together. Talking about unusual pairings, I tried Raimonds Tomsons’ advice of Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage with veal tartare. It was a very unusual and tasty combination.
Wine & Crab
Moscow, Nikolskaya Street 19-21, building 1
(495) 621 73 29
Egly-Ouriet Brut Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru
& Grand Cru’s “Herring in a fur coat” salad
© Semen Kuzmin
Pavel Kravchenko © Semen Kuzmin
Blanc de Noir by Egly-Ouriet is a magnetic and deep Сhampagne. It excites you when you taste it. It is located just at the peak of all possible culinary forces – it has the taste of umami, which is the last puzzle, which pulls everything together. It is impossible to forget this Champagne. It is quite difficult in terms of taste, but I will suggest for it our Grand Cru “Herring in a fur coat” salad. The key ingredient of this dish is the salty taste of the herring, which is set off by the beet-root ice cream. Champagne also neutralizes this taste, and together they create the perfect balance.
Grand Cru by Adrian Quetglas
Moscow, Malaya Bronnaya St. 22, building 2
(495) 510 65 67
Pierre Péters Cuvée Speciale Les Chétillons Brut Grand Cru 2012
& Atlantic grilled octopus with Cailletier olives
© Semen Kuzmin
Pierre Péters is one of the finest houses in the Côte des Blancs. Chétillons Cuvée Spéciale is produced from three different parcels of old vines in the best Grand Cru of the region Mesnil-sur-Oger. It is an impressive chalky-style, full-bodied, bright and tense Champagne with juicy acidity and a long mineral finish. Its combination with octopus highlights the wine’s depth and structure. A perfect match for my taste!
Try Jacquesson Cuvée №742 Extra-Brut and the truffle burger from Rémy Kitchen Bakery on a soft brioche. It’s one of the most memorable combinations! You can hardly imagine pairing a gentle and refined Champagne with nice acidity, and a hefty beef patty, even with truffles. But in this cuvée there are sherry notes, and aromas of white flowers and walnuts that make it a great pair with a burger.
Novikov group, Solo
Moscow, Bolshoi Cherkassky Lane 15-17
(495) 295 15 17
Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs Brut Ambonnay Grand Cru
& beef tartare
© Semen Kuzmin
Evgeny Shamov © Semen Kuzmin
Young winemakers, new trends and new grape varieties – all these factors create a boundless platform for all kinds of combinations, both adventurous and classic. It’s common knowledge that Blanc de Blancs goes well with seafood – king crab, scallops, and lobster. Similarly you can accompany it with pasta, with black caviar or with Al Burro and white truffle. But what if we add a street-food element, a deep fryer? Vegetables in breadcrumbs, shrimp tempura, “belyash” fried buns with caviar also work well... The freshness and high acidity break down the fat content, while the lees-character of aging enhances the taste of fried dough or breading. At the “Swallows” restaurant we strongly recommend trying Eric Rodez Blanc de Noirs with beef tartare. This berrylike and bright variety of Blanc de Noirs highlights the pure meat taste while the acidity extends the taste and cleans the palate. It is so cool! Also, try Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blancs and Cedric Bouchard Rosés de Jeanne La Haute-Lemble.
In general, the most unexpected wines in recent years came from the independent wineries in the southern part of Champagne, and wine made from 100% Pinot Meunier. There is a lot about them which is subjective, individual, and emotional, and they are not suitable for everyone – but this is where new tastes are concealed, and therefore new combinations. Don't be afraid to experiment, try them and discover something new!
St. Petersburg, Voskova St. 31/20
(911) 907 65 76
1) an unusual Champagne pairing from your restaurant
2) an unusual Champagne pairing from elsewhere
Ilya Gostyaev, "Babel" restaurant: I would recommend medium-rare rib-eye steak, or rapa whelks with onions and tomatoes, for Brut Rosé 2017 from "Vedernikov," made by the traditional method from the Tsimlyansky Chyorny grape. It is bright and not overconcentrated, with nice lively acidity and aromas of ripe cherry, chokeberry, red currant, and hibiscus. That's my discovery of the year!
Blanc de Blancs Champagne is surprisingly suitable for pike caviar from our menu, mixed before serving with a drop of vegetable oil, and with onions and pumpernickel bread chips.
Vlad Markin, wine expert and sommelier: I would like to mention Vincent Couche Rosé Desir, an Extra Brut made from almost 100% Pinot Noir. The base wine is fermented in oak barrels with no further filtration, giving this Champagne its elegance and soft character. I would suggest pairing it with a Crudo of sweet shrimp with artichoke mousse, or a traditional Vitello Tonnato: both meat and fish flavors will meet the third necessary element – Champagne – and unite into a unified picture.
I've got one pairing which I prefer when I need to refresh my palate and give my stomach a treat: BBQ wings and Rosé Champagne! But not every rosé will work. In my experience, the best were Drappier Rosé de Saignée, Bruno Paillard Rosé, Paul Bara Grand Cru Brut, and Bollinger Brut Rosé. I used to order BBQ wings at Torro Grill, but now I can cook them perfectly at home.
Pino restaurant on Malaya Bronnaya Street
Dmitry Bazashvili, Pino restaurant on Malaya Bronnaya Street: Normally dry Champagne is not paired with black caviar – but biodynamic Blanc de Noirs Brut Nature Val Frison Goustan, by Valéria Frison from Côte des Bar, is perfect for Far-Eastern scallops with salted sturgeon black caviar in green spicy basil oil with fresh tarragon. It is a zero-dosage wine but it has some sweetness, which blends nicely with salty caviar.
Ginza Project, Mansard restaurant in St. Petersburg
Dmitry Frolov, Ginza Project, Mansard restaurant in St. Petersburg: Grower Champagnes are produced with a focus on the terroir, that is why above all you have a complex wine in your glass, not just a sparkling one. A good example of such a Champagne will be vintage rosé Saignée de la Côte 2011 from Brocard Pierrе. This is 100% Pinot Noir, made by the Saignée method where red berries are macerated with the grape skins – which gives an intense but elegant rosé wine, almost like red Burgundy in style. This is a very food-friendly rosé that goes perfectly with game. I recommend duck breast with couscous and celery cream.
Svetlana Dobrynina, Selfie restaurant: Les Gravelées Brut Nature Rosé by Piollot is a Rosé Champagne made by the Saignée method. It is a full-bodied wine that needs decantation. It has an intense shade of frosty blush, beautiful aromas of cranberries and lingonberries, very delicate tones of gunpowder and limestone, and a stunningly balanced mild acidity (despite it being Brut Nature). It is an ideal pair for pumpkin ravioli with mushroom soup and black truffles, and also with a green salad with chicken liver and fresh raspberries, from our autumn menu.
I am not a fan of pairing Champagne with junk food, despite the growing popularity of this trend. For me it is much more interesting to search for unexpected combinations of sparkling wine with home cooking; for example, open a bottle of Blanc-de-Blancs and together with your loved ones make dumplings with potatoes and mushrooms. Fluffy home-made pancakes, spread with butter and stuffed with red caviar and home-cured salmon, with a light acidic Rosé – this is one more pairing that I like.
Alexey Zavyortkin, Beluga restaurant: Jacques Selosse has probably the most unusual style, with oak aging which to some may seem even excessive, yet this Champagne is really exceptional. You can hardly even drink it just as an aperitif. In the menu of “Beluga,” I recommend trying it with Murmansk mackerel with pistachio sauce, and pepper and cilantro gel, by Evgeniy Vikentiev. This would be an interesting fight!
Cover photo: © Semen Kuzmin.