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Pairing sparkling wine and cheese

If Caviar often is the first thing that comes to mind when you're deciding what to serve with champagne, besides the obligatory strawberries. Beyond that, however, cheese is a wonderful complement to champagne. Cheese and champagne are like two distinct personalities coming together. On the one hand, you've got the bubbly, effervescent champagne. On the other, there's a mellow, perhaps aged cheese. It's great chemistry.

Champagne is a sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. In Spain, sparkling wine is called Cava; in Italy it's known as Prosecco, Asti or Spumante in Italy; and in Germany it's Sekt. Whatever you call it, sparkling wine is a refreshing change of pace to more traditional wines. The effervescence of Champagne is what makes it the perfect partner for cheese. Its bubbles help break down cheese's acids and butterfat. Champagne is particularly good at breaking down some of the denser, more aged, mountain cow's milk cheeses. In addition, the less "Brut" the Champagne or sparkling wine, the more likely it will balance the relative saltiness of the cheese.

Following is a quick run-down of the types of sparkling wine and suggested cheese pairings:

Brut is the driest champagne. Ironically, extra dry is not as dry as Brut. Chèvre is a good choice.

Extra dry:
This champagne has a touch of fruity sweetness, finishing on a dry note. It lands in the middle of the spectrum. You’re safe with a Camembert.

The perfect dessert bubbly, demi-sec should not be paired with food that is sweeter, as it will come off harsh and dry. Go with tangy bleu or Roquefort cheese.

Blanc de Blanc:
This bubbly is made from 100% Chardonnay, which lends a toasty, nutty, rich quality. A mild cheese, such as Boursault, is a good pick.

Blanc de Noir:
This champagne is made from mostly Pinot Noir, giving it a refreshing, citrus quality. Brie is a good bet for this bubbly.

So the next time you pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly, bring out the gourmet cheese. In no time, you’ll be toasting the delicious duo.