Caviar lovers have been known to pair their favorite salty sturgeon pearls with ice-cold vodka or crisp pale ales, but there’s no better match for this ocean delicacy than champagne.
Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion at a fine restaurant or enjoying an indulgent night in with friends or that special someone, caviar and champagne are sure to satisfy the senses as an appetizer or after-dinner treat.
What makes champagne such a perfect accompaniment to caviar, and how should you pick the right bottle based on the caviar you have on hand?
Here’s our complete guide to pairing champagne and caviar with some tips to maximize your enjoyment of this classic combo.
Even if you aren’t a connoisseur of either item, you just know intuitively that caviar and champagne make a suitable pair (and a romantic feast). They are in the same league in terms of luxury, and if you’re going all-out on quality caviar, why hold back on this classic caviar pairing?
Much like caviar, champagne houses must adhere to one Golden rule for their products to be considered champagne. As we know, roe is only considered caviar if it comes from one of the many sturgeon fish species. In that same vein, bubbly wine can only be considered champagne if its grapes are harvested from vineyards in the Champagne area of France.
But aside from their high-class association, there are deeper reasons for why caviar and champagne make sense together.
For starters, you’ve got the light and zesty flavor tastes and aromas of champagne that create a beautiful contrast with the salty, smooth flavors of the caviar.
Top-shelf champagnes are known for tastes such as almond or brioche with fruity notes that make you think of orange peel and lemon. These wines don’t overpower the palate and allow you to experience the full effect of the caviar in between sips.
There is also a cleansing effect that champagne brings to the table, unlike heavier oaky white wines or bold reds. The flavor of these sparkling wines does not linger for long, ensuring that you keep the caviar flowing and don’t miss a beat in the conversation.
Of course, champagne has that definitive sparkle not present in most white wines that commonly get called upon with caviar. This doesn’t only add a tantalizing visual component to pouring and serving the beverage, but it also has a distinctive effect on the tongue when washing down a bite of delicate caviar pearls.
There’s also the element of temperature matching that heightens the experience of slightly chilled champagne and the cold beads of caviar on your spoon. If you’re enjoying your caviar with warm blinis or roasted potatoes, there’s even more to engage the senses.
You don’t have to be a gourmet to fully enjoy this pairing and learn something new about food and wine. The beauty of this pairing is all in the experience. Each sequence is like a tennis match between different textures and tastes.
Creamy followed by crispness, salt followed by sweet butter followed by fruit. What you get is an exciting back-and-forth dynamic between bursts of caviar and the refreshing, cleansing sensation of lightly fizzy champagne. What could be better than that?
There’s plenty to be said about how great caviar and champagne go together, but how can you tell which pairing is best for your tasting experience?
The common wisdom suggests you should match the quality of the wine with the food, and the same principles can be applied here to make your decision easy.
For example, if you somehow come across some Beluga caviar (the most highly acclaimed in the world), it makes sense that you’d also be spending $200 on a bottle of Dom Perignon. If you want to take things even further, look for a Louis Roederer Cristal that will run you closer to $300 and put an exclamation point on the evening.
A top-tier Ossetra or Kaluga caviar will be more of a realistic acquisition, and while you can still spend as much as you like on champagne, there are plenty of mid-range wines that also work perfectly to meet your needs.
Krug champagne is a great option to offset the salty pearls with a robust bouquet of fruity flavors and a clean finish. You’ll also find a slight minerality to this wine that will complement the oceanic sensations of the caviar.
There is always room at the table for a bottle of Taittinger, a champagne with a rich history from the French countryside. Remember, true champagne must be sourced from the precise region in the north of the country, so be sure to check for authenticity if that is your priority.
Of course, you can always take things down a notch and opt for sparkling wines that do the trick for a caviar tasting, even if they aren’t technically considered real champagne.
California sparkling wine will not let you down when matched up with caviar. They may not be champagne, per se, but you can find some excellent bottles for a far more affordable price than similar products created by European vintners.
You’ll find several unique blends of grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, offering a similar flavor profile to real champagne and all the bubbles you want.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to look for sparkling wines and champagnes on the drier side, with labels indicating “Brut” varieties. If wines have too much lingering sugar or fruit, you may miss out on some of the nuances of the caviar and overload the senses.
Don’t be fooled by the “Extra-Dry” label on these wines – this means that there is slightly more sugar in the bottle. “Dry” is even sweeter, and other varieties are meant to be for dessert.
Learn the labels, and don’t worry too much about picking the perfect bottle. Just follow these tips, and you’re sure to have a fantastic experience with your caviar.
SERVING AND TASTING
When it comes time to invite your friends over for a tasting, you want to have all your bases covered for serving caviar and champagne the right way. Preparation should start before anyone arrives, and all accouterments should be in order to save you any stress.
Your caviar, which should be stored just above freezing point in the cold part of your refrigerator, needs to sit out on the counter for around 15 minutes to reach perfect texture. Champagne, on the other hand, should be lightly chilled to around 45 degrees.
A couple of hours in the fridge will bring your champagne to the right temperature, but don’t let it sit in there for too long.
Do your best in terms of timing and make sure that each item isn’t too warm or cold when serving.
When everyone has gathered around, crack the jar or tin of caviar and pop the bottle of bubbly for all to observe and enjoy. This is the grand reveal, so put on a show!
Fill everyone’s narrow-neck flutes with champagne (about halfway to the top) and make sure nobody gets too thirsty as they dig into the salty caviar and snacks.
If you're serving food alongside your caviar bar and champagne, look for snacks that will complement this blend of tastes.
Bagel wafers can be a wonderful vessel for sturgeon roe, and Daniel Boulud smoked salmon and sour cream can create a creaminess that doesn't compete with the caviar's sodium. Your guests can also pair salmon with Meyer lemon schmear for a fresh, crisp bite. For a hint of sweetness at the end of the night, top off your menu with champagne-soaked strawberries.
FINDING GREAT CAVIAR
Thanks to sustainable aquaculture practices, it’s easier than ever to find high-quality caviar, and it won’t clear out your wallet in the process.
The most reliable way to get caviar is to order online, where boutique purveyors pack every order fresh and ship overnight to ensure top quality. Be sure to read up on reviews and stick with distributors with a great reputation for service.
Caviar should not be stored in your fridge for more than a few weeks, so do a bit of planning to make sure you serve it in an optimal timeframe!
Whether you make a reservation at the best champagne lounge in New York, head to a surf club restaurant in Florida, or grab a silver spoon and some Dom Pérignon from the comfort of your own home, a caviar and champagne pairing is something you absolutely need to experience for yourself.
Maybe you'll experience this new pop to ring in the new year, or use this iconic pairing for a special anniversary.
Follow this guide to the world of caviar and champagne, and treat yourself to an amazing evening of flavor and fun.