Fizz and chips | financial times

We are at that time of year when loyal hosts love to up their game. But what are wine geeks really eating when they’re popping corks behind closed doors? The answer, most of the time, is not fancy at all.

says Ariel Arce, the entrepreneur behind the bars New York Aires Champagne Parlor and Niche Niche, where farm champagne is served with caviar “bumps” and greasy potato chips. “I recently had a pizza with Fleury Rosé de Saignée that matches sweet and salty.”

Serve champagne with caviar and potato chips at Niche Niche in New York

Serve champagne with caviar and potato chips at Niche Niche in New York

“I also love Taco Bell. My favorite bubbles at Crunchwrap Supreme would be the Dhondt-Grellet Cramant Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut—it has the acid that fights the fat. Just because food is inexpensive doesn’t mean wine has to be.”

Raj Vaidya, COO of La Fête du Champagne in New York, is also a fan of pizza and fizz. “My favorite pairing, and one I enjoy a lot, is lean, very wild Champagne, mostly Pinot Meunier—I love Mussie Fells.” Vaidya’s other crush is South Indian street food—particularly masala dosas: “A slightly sour, leavened crepe made with rice and lentil flour with spices and vegetables tossed in. I love contrasting the dosa with the fantasy inherent in pink champagne—the little rose is like Billecart-Salmon’s signature un-vintage It’s a nice balance of those sour flavors.”

Sommelier Bert Blaize, co-author of When is the wineHe’s made her poor with a batch of more prestigious coffee than he’d like to say. “When I worked at the Clove Club, we often had champagne leftovers at the end of the week that needed finishing—I have very happy memories of coming home after the shift and eating a Deliveroo McDonald’s with a slightly flat Krug.”

How to match them: The best bubbles to pair with your burgers, and more

© Getty Images

Eric Rodez Rosie, £65.95,

Fried eggs
Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut, £45.99,

Marmite on toast
Josette Grande Reserve, £52,

© Alami

Scotch fried eggs
Coates & Seely Brut Reserve English Sparkling Wine NV, £32.95,

Potato Smileys
Krug Grand Cuvée, £380,

Billecart Salmon Rosé NV, £59.95,

© Getty Images

Fish and chips
Didier Herbert Cove 4, £95,

onion rings
Buy it: Georges Laval Les Chênes Brut Nature, £148,

© Getty Images

Fleury Rosé de Saignée, £45.95, or Mousse Fils Les Vignes de mon village, €45,

Shrimp cocktail chips
Buy it: Jean-Marc Sélèque Quintet Extra Brut, £49,

Some may consider this pairing a heresy. But Blaize says there’s serious science in flavours: “A good food match for champagne needs three things: fat, which softens and rounds out the acid in wine; protein to balance the mouth; and carbohydrates, which remove the richer aspects of aging on the knees.” [spent yeast]. And fast food is full of all three.”

Sandia Chang has poured wines at top restaurants including Noma and Per Sea. But it was her Fitzrovia Bubbledogs bar, which served sausages and independent champagne, that really made her name. These days, she runs the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Kitchen Table with chef husband James Knabitt, where a champagne flight costs £250. But she’s still a staunch advocate for the hi-lo: “Anything fatty and salty is great—I love Champagne with French fries. I also love Skips or shrimp cocktail chips with something very light and fresh like JM Sélèque’s Quintette blanc de blancs.”

Victoria Moore, author Fried Eggs and Rioja: What to drink with absolutely everythingloves sparkling wine “with the crunch of a Scottish fried egg” (although her preference is Coates & Seely NV rather than Champagne).

If it’s fried, it flies, basically – which bodes well for British cuisine. Peter Crawford, Scottish co-founder of Champagne Retailer of the Year, Sip Champagnes, likes to unwind with champagne and fish and chips. Didier Herbert suggests Cave 4, a Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend that marries rich, salty oak notes with tartar sauce-like acidity.

At Shoreditch bar Seed Library, the current fancy flop is Potato Smileys with Krug Grande Cuvée. Veuve Clicquot has also recently done a pop-up greasy spoon serving yellow label and fried egg. “The unexpected gets people talking, breaks down barriers and allows guests to have fun,” says Xavier Cadiou, director of Polar Black Events, creator of the Clicquot caff. “It’s a refreshing surprise for guests. There is confidence in breaking the rules.”

Veuve Clicquot opened a pop-up greasy spoon in London this year

Veuve Clicquot opened a pop-up greasy spoon in London this year © Patricia Niven

Not all Champenois see the funny side. But Odilon de Varine, the cellar master at Champagne Gosset, is game. He says, “I love Marmite and would pair Marmite on toast with Gosset Grande Réserve, because the aromatic bouquet is strong enough to match Marmite’s own strength. Marmite’s yeasty texture will pair with Champagne; its sense of iodine also responds to Marmite’s saltiness.” Charline Drappier’s guilty pleasure is Champagne Drappier Brut Nature and popcorn “especially in front of a movie.”

The red-hot Glue Pot restaurant in Champagne’s “capital” has been pairing burgers and rocking music with elegant fizz since 1970. The new menu reads like a who’s who of the farmhouse scene: Savart, Tarlant, Agrapart, Geoffroy, Brochet, Guillaume Selous.

You can sip Larmandier-Bernier with banana slices or Georges Laval alongside onion rings – all at a fraction of the price you’d pay for this champagne in restaurants abroad. I once dined there with the famous farmer, Eric Rodez. His strong, elegant wines went great with the food – especially the Ambonnay Grand Cru Rosé. I’m afraid it’s Big Boy Burger who beats me in the end.


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