When the moment calls for champagne and a bit of food, there's no need to slave away in the kitchen or shell out for caviar and oysters. One of the best snacks to pair with dry sparkling wine requires simply opening up a bag. And the tip comes direct from an award-winning wine writer, professor, and distinguished sommelier.
Any student who attends the Culinary Institute of America in New York takes a three-week wine studies course. Bottles down, my favorite class (it inspired me to earn an entry-level sommelier certificate). My instructor, the highly-accomplished Steven Kolpan, focused on growing regions, varietals, and food pairings for fine dining. But he notoriously taught every group of budding chefs that Cheetos are an absolute knockout snack to eat with champagne. And he was right on the money, may God rest his soul. To this day when I buy a bottle of sparkling wine, I don't leave the store without a bag of cheese puffs, too.
Salty, spicy, and rich, fatty foods pair incredibly well with the acidity and bright fruit flavors of sparkling wine. It's a dance of opposites attract. Take oysters and champagne, the quintessential example. The thought of swallowing the shellfish either makes you salivate or want to hurl. But regardless of how you feel about the slippery little suckers, in all their salty, fatty glory raw oysters are a perfect match for the tart, crisp, mouth-drying effects of sparkling wine.
Cheese is another rich, fatty food perfect for snacking on with champagne (and my personal favorite). Especially triple crème varieties like Camembert and Brie. Or blue-veined cheeses like Roquefort, Point Reyes, and Stilton.
So the whole cheezy chips thing isn't too farfetched. To wax poetic, the salty, cheezy little twigs of goodness bring out the subtle fruit of the wine and counteract its tartness. Not to mention, they're well, Cheetos.
The most important part of this champagne-on-a-beer-budget pairing is to buy a dry sparkling wine. Most champagne and sparkling wine sold in retail are Brut (not sweet at all). But to be sure ask for help at the store or look for the following on the label:
- Brut Nature (more of a rare bottling)
- Extra Brut
And you don't need to shell out big bucks for real Champagne (wine made in the actual Champagne region of France). My favorite bottles of sparkling wine hail from California and I love Spain's version, called cava. I also enjoy and recommend a Cremant, which is French sparkling wine made in regions other than Champagne.
The prices below are averages for how much the wines cost at my local stores. And will vary depending on where you live and shop.
- Segura Vuidas Cava ($11)
- Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut ($13)
- Piper Sonoma Brut ($16)
- Gruet Blanc de Noir ($17)
- Mumm Napa Brut or Brut Rosé ($21)
- Chandon California Brut Sparkling Wine ($23)
- Mirabell Brut ($30, a splurge for sure, but incredible wine)
I unabashedly love the new canned bubbles from brands like Underwood and even big-time California wineries like Francis Ford Coppola. Sparkling wines from a can aren't made in the traditional méthod champenoise (where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle). But I find them fun, fizzy, delicious, and easy on the bank account.
As a private chef who shares recipes made with fresh, whole ingredients, I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest a better bag of cheese crunchies. Yes, cheese puffs are cheese puffs are cheese puffs, but some ingredient lists are a little less suspicious than others. A couple of the brands below are made with better ingredients than the original (in my opinion). And Siete and Hippeas snacks are vegan.
The links below are not paid links where I get money if you click and buy. I'm including them to make shopping easier for you if you'd like to seek one out.
- Barbara's Original Cheese Puffs
- Pipcorn Real Cheddar Crunchies (I find this brand in stock at Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods, the cheese balls are really good, too)
- Simply Cheetos Crunchy White Cheddar
- Simple Truth Organic Multigrain Cheese Crunchies
- Siete Grain-Free Nacho Tortilla Chips (a satisfying, vegan-but-cheesy, lower-carb possibility)
- Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs
If you prefer not to partake in processed junk food, here are a few classic, delicious snacks and appetizers. And even a quiche that's perfect to eat for a champagne brunch.
If sparkling wine straight up isn't your favorite drink, a cocktail topped off with a little bubbly may hit the spot. And will also be downright delicious with any of your favorite open-the-bag-and-pour-into-a-bowl party snacks.
Frequently Asked Questions
All standard wine bottles, including champagne and sparkling wine, hold 750 milliliters which equal just over 25 ounces. Traditional champagne flutes hold about six ounces of wine, so you will get four glasses of champagne with each bottle. Less if you drink out of larger glasses and fill them all the way with each serving.
Most non-vintage (NV) champagne will keep for up to five years when stored properly. Vintage champagne, where a year is listed on the label, will often keep for up to ten years before going bad. If you are in possession of a bottle of decent champagne or sparkling wine and aren't sure if it's ripe for drinking, you can often consult the winery's website or contact them directly. Always store and serve sparkling wine chilled, at (warmer) refrigerator temperatures. The optimum range is between 45° F and 65° F. If you're storing champagne in a refrigerator, store it in a warmer area such as a shelf in the door.
I once picked up a small bag of Cool Ranch Doritos to truly test Professor Kolpan's theory that if it ends in "os", it's delicious with champagne. And the addictive chips with bubbles are a buttermilk-herb success. Perhaps not in health, but in momentary gastronomical pleasure.
I'm happy to tell you, this is not your average "food blog". But a collection of recipes tested and published by a professionally-trained private chef. There are few, if any, product links, or annoying pop-up ads. But there are:
- The culinary techniques and simple formulas for success
- Recipes that work for all types of diets
- How to save money on groceries
- A direct line to me, Chef Christina, to ask any cooking or baking questions you have, anytime
The first five emails will be my series: Just Cook. It's a free quick-start guide to get you cooking like a pro, without having your eyes glued to a screen. Think of it like free culinary school, with a friendly (not yelling) chef.
Because life's too short to waste time scrolling through recipes.
When you could be sipping wine while cooking, instead.
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