Summer has arrived and warm, sunny days leave us daydreaming about joyful outdoor pleasures: light-hearted garden parties, spontaneous bike tours, creative picnics, extended days by the sea, and most of all: barbecues, the smoky-savory happy hours of summer when we bring friends and family together around smoky fires. And there’s a way to make them even more special: with a bottle of champagne!
Isn’t champagne made for aperitif or chic, Michelin-starred gastronomical menus, you wonder? Well, of course, it is. But that’s just one side to the story, and champagne has many different stories to tell.
As a passionate champagne geek, I can’t help but repeat it over and over again: champagne pairs well with nearly every occasion – from simple to extravagant. You can catch many champagne lovers drinking their favorite bottles alongside a piece of meat grilled over hot flames, sprinkled with nothing but a pinch of fleur de sel and a hint of freshly cracked pepper. And honestly, what could be more extravagant than relaxing outdoors in the sunshine, popping a bottle of champagne, and serving flavorful barbecue food?
To make your champagne barbecue preparations a no-brainer, we’ve prepared a selection of mouth-watering grilling ideas, helpful pairing advice, and thirst-quenching champagne recommendations that will make your next summer barbecue a sparkling success.
Beef cuts are by far the most popular barbecue components and pair perfectly with the bold expression of Pinot Noir or Meunier. Young, fruit-forward champagne is great for simple cuts, while more complex and longer-aged cuvées fit the finest beef cuts.
Champagne to try with grilled beef:
Stronger-flavored red meats like lamb or duck can be a delicious option if you’re looking for new tastes and combinations, however, they require champagne that is just as bold and strong. A very vinous vintage rosé from red grapes that has undergone longer aging will add the needed complexity.
Champagne to try with grilled lamb or duck:
The more subtle flavors of pork or veal cuts, on the other hand, pair harmoniously with Meunier-based blends or pure Meunier champagne that provide supple texture and delicate depth.
Champagne to try with grilled pork or veal:
There’s an endless choice of sausages made from different meats, with various degrees of fattiness and a vast choice of seasonings from mild or herbal to spicy. Covering this wide field is quite a challenge for any wine. If you’re thinking about serving a variety of sausages, it’s best to stick with a universal champagne blend that has a generous palate weight and good structure. A classic non-vintage Brut style pleases many palates – from champagne newbies to more advanced bubbly lovers – and furthermore adapts easily to many different seasonings.
Keep in mind that extra-spicy sausages, such as merguez or chorizo, will easily overpower your delicate champagne, and instead choose milder sausages seasoned with fresh or dried herbs, sweet spices like fennel seed, or sweet or smoked paprika.
Champagne to try with grilled sausages:
Are you getting hungry by the mere thought of slow-smoked, marinated specialties like juicy pulled pork, barbecue ribs, or tender, fall-apart beef brisket? These slow-cooked American barbecue specialties demand lots of patience throughout the smoking process (count in a bottle of champagne to turn the long waiting hours into an extended apéro), but their deeply satisfying rich-flavored result is absolutely worth the effort.
As the flavorful rubs and marinades ask for a long list of spices, and often a good amount of sugar, too, they require champagne with intensity and vinous character that can stand up to the dish’s complexity. The rule is simple: the longer the list of spices the more complex the champagne needs to be, and the sweeter the rub or marinade is, the sweeter the champagne has to be.
If you plan to wrap your pulled pork or beef brisket in a sandwich or flatbread, it’s best to avoid adding pickles or sharp fresh onions that could affect the taste of the champagne.
Champagne to try with smoked BBQ ribs, pulled pork, or beef brisket:
White meats, such as grilled chicken or turkey, are very versatile in preparation and seasonings, and they are equally versatile when it comes to pairing them with champagne.
As their taste is rather subtle, they are usually served with sauces, aromatic butter, or other flavor-enhancing side dishes. Extra-brut non-vintage champagne that has undergone extended lees-aging is a lovely choice here, as it brings just the right dose of structure to highlight the taste of white meat and lots of creaminess to embrace most side-dishes.
Champagnes to try with grilled white meats:
Grilling fish and seafood is the most decadent of all barbecue options. White fish and seafood like swordfish, halibut, sea bream, scallops, prawns, and lobster develop a particularly aromatic taste and subtle sweetness over the grill and absorb smoky notes from the fire. Subtly seasoned with a whiff of fresh herbs, or simply topped with a knob of browned butter, they match heavenly with a refreshingly creamy Blanc de Blancs.
Champagnes to try with grilled white fish and seafood:
Salmon or tuna steaks, on the other side, can handle more intense champagnes and work well with rosé. One of the easiest and most delicious ways to pair tuna and champagne is searing the seasoned tuna steak for roughly one minute on each side and leaving the inside raw. In this case, you can go for a bold rosé de saignée. Grilled salmon, on the other hand, loves oak-aged rosé.
Champagnes to try with grilled salmon or tuna:
With all this culinary inspiration in mind, you’re now set for a long summer of sizzling hot barbecues paired with classy and refreshing bubbly.
Cheers to a happy and bubbly barbecue season!