We’re of the thinking that a little (or a lot) of bubbly pairs well with pretty much everything. But instead of just randomly popping bottles, we’ve asked The Bazaar by José Andrés at SLS Beverly Hills’ head sommelier Rachel Macalisang to refine our champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Here, she talks all things bubbly and walks us through the best way to drink champagne with dinner through to dessert.
How did your interest in champagne begin?
Growing up, I was influenced by the music my older siblings listened to. That included a lot of 90s rap and hip hop. I remember hearing “Juicy” by The Notorious B.I.G. and wondering what Moet was. And, later on “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg. Pouring champagne and “poppin’ bottles” instantly gave you street cred! I was intrigued and bought books and learned about it.
Early in my wine career, I was able to work for some big champagne houses and really learn about its depth and complexity. Later on, in the Bay Area, my wine director had built the biggest champagne list in the city. I honed my palate there.
Any myths about champagne you’d like to clear up?
Champagne is one of the world’s most versatile wines appropriate for all occasions. A great glass of champagne should start every meal. All too often, champagne is like a jewel in your treasure chest only to be brought out and worn during special occasions. But champagne has diversity and range of dryness to sweetness levels that make it easy enough to pair with every course in your meal—from caviar—to a tomahawk steak—to flan. It’s magic!
What is your all-time favorite champagne to drink?
The most exciting value champagne I’ve encountered is Frank Bonville Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. It’s all estate grown grand cru chardonnay grapes. The nose is generous of white flowers, fruit, and cream. It has a precision, beautiful minerality, and a very long finish.
Salon is by far my all time favorite—simply stunning, compelling and so immensely elegant. It is one of the greatest and most expensive blanc de blancs. It is a precious wine with a finish that lasts forever.
What champagnes are best to pair with appetizers?
Brut style champagnes like Canard Duchene Brut Cuvee Leonie or H Billiot Fils Brut are delicious at the beginning of the meal. Brut styles with fried foods or salty items like caviar are best friends.
Roses champagnes like Billecart Salmon Rose or Rene Geoffroy Rose de Saignee pair well with The Bazaar menu items like King Crab Lata, Fermin Platter, Embutidos Platter, Gazpacho, Jamon Iberico and Farm Fresh Egg and Beef Tartare.
What pairs well with entrees or heavier foods?
Richer vintage champagnes like 1998 William Deutz and Bollinger La Grande Annee 2004 are amazing with things like the Tomahawk, braised wagyu beef cheeks, and oxtail buns. These champagnes have finer bubbles that cleanse the palate and change the tactile experience in a way no still red wine can do for beef.
Finally, what should we drink with dessert?
At the Bazaar, we have Veuve Rich & Pol Roger Rich. They pair with Chef’s Nitro Coconut Floating Island, Apples Carlota and Opalys Crema with Strawberry Meringue. Demi-sec champagnes have a kiss of sweetness that can highlight desserts without being overbearing.
Any last piece of advice?
Use a regular wine glass in lieu of a flute. It enhances the taste, experience and smell of your champagne. Don’t be afraid of the bubbles! Champagne throughout dinner is a match made in heaven.
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