Champagne with fried foods is an iconic — and irresistible — pairing. The Wall Street Journal and Southern Living have extolled the virtues of the quintessential high-low match, and it inspires an annual charitable event in Chicago, the aptly named Fried Chicken and Champagne Fest. A few years back, New Yorkers were treated to a dedicated fried-chicken-and-Champagne restaurant, Birds & Bubbles. (It has since closed due to a rent dispute, not lack of popularity.)
“Fried foods need bubbles,” Katie Morton, wine director of Manhattan’s Vini e Fritti, Marta, and Caffe Marchio, says. Vini e Fritti (the name translates to “wine and fried”) opened in October 2017 and offers an insanely well-priced Champagne list alongside an array of fritters. “Fried foods are rich, so it’s nice to drink something refreshing while you’re chowing down on something like a crispy fried sandwich. Not to mention Champagnes normally have a good amount of acidity to them, which makes your mouth water for another bite.”
While Champagne’s scrubbing bubbles make it a versatile pairing option, it’s possible to zero in with even more specifics. Morton advises thinking about not only the flavor of your fried food, but also its weight.
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“The richer the dish, the more acid you need in your wine,” Morton explains. “Vini e Fritti chef Joe Tarasco has shown me the crazy and diverse amount of ways there are to fry things.” Fried foods can have light or heavy batters, and some items can be breaded before being fried. A richer dish, like Vini e Fritti’s fried mozzarella and anchovy sandwich, would pair well with a high-acid blanc de blancs cuvée, whereas a lighter option like fried squash or mushrooms could marry nicely with a softer, rounder blanc de noirs.
While it’s possible to get super nerdy and specific when it comes to fried food and Champagne pairings, newcomers shouldn’t be intimidated. There’s really no wrong way to pair fried food and Champagne.
“My best advice is to get a bottle, order a couple fritti off the menu, try a bite of something, and have a sip of wine,” Morton says. “See if it makes the food taste better, and if it does, then you’ve discovered the joy in bubbly and fritti.”