When you think of classic Champagne and sparkling wine pairings, desserts may not be top of mind. While the most notorious Champagne pairings include caviar, fried chicken, and oysters– bubbly can be just as great a companion for your sweet tooth.
Whether you’re hosting a dinner party and need an after-meal aperitif, or are looking for some bougie indulgence, Champagne and sparkling wine is a great option to pair with your desserts. In this guide to sparkling and dessert pairing, we will take a deep dive into our favorite sweet dishes to serve alongside every style of Champagne and sparkling wine.
The Key to Champagne and Dessert Pairing
When pairing sparkling wine and desserts, a synergy between the sweetness levels of the dish and the wine is essential. The standard advice you’ll hear is that your wine should be just as sweet, if not a tiny bit sweeter than the dessert you pair it with. However, this is much easier said than done when it comes to pairing dessert and Champagne. While it is ideal in theory to have the sweetness levels of your bubbly and dessert match, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a dessert that contains the miniscule amounts of sugar you’ll need to pull this off– especially for the non-dosé bubbles that are all the rage today. Therefore, when it comes to pairing Champagne and sparkling wine– not all desserts are made equal.
This isn’t the time to bring out the saccharine-sweet American bakery items. Think crème brûlée instead of cupcakes. You’re going to want to stick to desserts that get their sweetness through butter, cream, marzipan, and pastry cream instead of sugar. Instead of sweetness, prioritize richness in your desserts. Buttery, fatty desserts will be cleansed by the high acidity in your sparklers, (this is why fried chicken and Champagne go so well together, the high fat content of the chicken balances the high-acid of the Champagne). Pairing dessert and Champagne is a balancing act between both the fat and acid as well as the sweetness levels of the dish and the Champagne.
When it comes to flavor pairing, choose a dish that will complement the wine’s delicate flavors without overpowering them. For instance, a chardonnay-dominant Champagne might have notes of cream, green apple, lemon and grapefruit– these delicate aromas would be squashed by heavy flavors of chocolate and caramel. Instead, a chardonnay-dominant blend is better suited for lighter apple or citrus-based desserts. A darker rosé bubbly, however, can take on a bit more, thanks to its bolder notes of strawberry, raspberry, and cherry.
Champagne Dessert Pairings
Champagne and dessert is the epitome of divine indulgence, there’s nothing else quite like it. There are endless styles of Champagne to choose from, and the intricacies of these styles matter when it comes to dessert pairing.
We’re going to get into the nitty gritty of every style of Champagne’s ideal dessert pairing, but we understand that not everyone who is seeking a suitable Champagne/dessert pairing is a hard-core bubble head! If you want to skip the geeky talk and cut straight to a foolproof dessert pairing for any style of Champagne or sparkling wine– we’ve got you covered.
Before we begin, the one-size-fits-all pairing for any sparkling wine is a plate of strawberries, dark chocolate, (or chocolate-covered strawberries if you’re feeling fancy!) and triple cream brie. Just arrange these components on a plate and pop your bottle! These Champagne and dessert pairings are foolproof, and will work with non-dosé to doux Champagne.
Brut nature Champagne is the driest on the sweetness scale, and contains zero added sugars. Its high acidity makes it the ideal companion to take on rich, buttery desserts. Our pick for brut nature Champagne is buttery shortbread cookies.
This is a grown-up cookie combo that we are living for, especially during the holiday season. Shortbread needs more love, and we just adore it alongside a sharp bubbly like a brut nature. Most shortbreads are as simple as can be, made from butter, sugar, salt, and flour. You can also opt for the French version of the shortbread cookie, the sablé. The key ingredients are the same, but the mixing technique is different than shortbread, resulting in the classic sandy texture.
Extra brut is the next step up on the sweetness scale, and can contain no more than six grams of sugar per liter. Wines with a dosage level between 0-6 grams per liter can also be designated as brut, which many producers prefer to do.
Our choice for extra brut Champagne is a simple fruit and cheese based dessert. For the more delicate cuvees, try these Baked Pears with Almonds, Honey, and Ricotta, or these Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone. For bolder blends, try Summer Berries over Whipped Goat Cheese.
Brut is the most common type of Champagne produced today, with a dosage level ranging between 0-12 g/l. Because this sweetness level can range so widely, we’re pairing our brut Champagne with our (and, potentially the world’s) most favorite not-too-sweet treat.
Strawberry shortcake is one of our favorites to pair with brut champagne. This strawberry shortcake recipe from Molly Baz is a great one. This recipe only uses 1⁄2 cup of sugar, so there’s no shot of sweetness overload. The bright strawberry and mild cream will pair nicely with brut Champagne (or just about any bubbly out there!)
The name “extra dry” might be a bit misleading, because with this step up in the sweetness scale, we are creeping into sweetness territory. Extra dry Champagne has a dosage level between 12 and 20 grams of sugar per liter. We want to highlight this notch upward in the sweetness scale and allow the sugar in the extra dry bubbly to shine by dialing the sweetness in the dessert back a bit.
We recommend pairing your extra dry Champagne with a brioche-based dessert. Brioche is buttery and rich without being overly-sweet. Try this recipe for citrusy Brioche au Sucre, or this Cremé Caramel Bread Pudding.
Dry, or sec Champagne has a sweetness level of 17 to 32 grams of sugar per liter. This is considered medium-sweet, and the sugar will be noticeable in your glass. A noticeable sweetness takes us to cake territory– but we can’t go full on funfetti. Instead, we are opting for a few sophisticated cakes that are a bit restrained in sweetness, but still satisfy your sweet tooth, nonetheless.
First on the docket is this spectacular (and trendy) Lemon Olive Oil Cake. These are spectacularly moist, a go-to dessert that will win over even those who identify as “not a cake person.” This olive oil cake is made even better when served with whipped mascarpone cream. This cake is rich without overwhelming the palate, and will complement the bubbly’s acidity while letting its sweetness shine.
Any olive oil cake or butter cake will do great here as long as the flavors and sweetness are mild. For bolder, toastier blends try this Hazelnut Butter Cake with Sea Salt Caramel.
We have officially entered the dessert wine zone on the sweetness scale! Demi sec Champagne has a dosage level between 32 and 50 g/l, and is traditionally paired with desserts like crème brûlée and French macaroons.
We won’t knock the classics, they are just too good here! These French desserts can be intimidating to make at home, but it’s definitely possible. Crème brûlée is the easier of the two to attack at home, we like this recipe.
French macarons, on the other hand, are a bit more tedious to make at home. Attempting the macaron is a challenge fit for intermediate bakers and up. If you want to skip the frustration, we recommend heading over to a local bakery for your macarons. French patisseries can be few and far between in certain parts of the US– if there isn’t one near you, we recommend ordering from Ladurée. These folks stock the macaroons at the Palace of Versailles and beyond, and even when delivered a world-over, they’re pretty damn good.
Doux is the sweetest of the sweet, with a dosage level greater than 50 g/l. We’re going all in with a pairing of chocolate fondue. Dip strawberries, apples, banana, pound cake, pretzels, and marshmallows into a pool of melted chocolate. The sweetness of the chocolate will complement the sweetness of the doux Champagne– it’s a no-brainer.
Blanc de Noirs Dessert Pairings
Blanc de Noirs translates to “white from blacks,” because it is a sparkling white wine made exclusively from black grapes. It can be made from 100% pinot noir, 100% pinot meunier, or a blend of the two, and typically has bright, fruity aromas of creamy dark cherry, strawberry, star fruit, white flowers, and vanilla cream.
To complement Blanc de Noirs big fruity flavors, we are pairing a Raspberry Almond Frangipane Tart. Any dessert that let’s berries or red fruit take center stage would be great alongside a Blanc de Noirs bubbly, but we love that the almond filling supports the toasty, nutty notes of the Blanc de Noirs.
Blanc de Blancs Dessert Pairings
Blanc de Blancs, or “white from whites,” is made from 100% chardonnay and boasts aromas of zesty citrus, lemon meringue, brioche dough, and cream.
We are looking to bring out those delicate citrus notes in our dessert pairing, so we are opting for a lemon cream cheesecake. It’s rich, creamy, and delicate enough not to overwhelm the delicate nuances of the wine. Try this New York Times recipe for Citrusy Cheesecake.
Sparkling Rosé Dessert Pairings
Blush style sparkling wines range from the driest of the dry to syrupy sweet, with common tasting notes of red forest fruit, citrus zest, stone fruit, melon, and white flowers. We’re opting to highlight those common-thread red fruit notes with dark chocolate. A bitter, high-intensity dark chocolate will allow the fruity sweetness of a rose bubbly to pop!
Prosecco and Dessert
There’s no better companion to the lively notes of citrus zest, green apple, and pear found in prosecco than a lemon bar. We think this pairing will take off like fried chicken and brut Champagne– it’s just perfect.
Cava Dessert Pairings
Cava is Spanish sparkling wine produced in the traditional method. This sparkler is primarily made with three varieties indigenous to the region: Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Paralleda, but it can include Chardonnay, pinot noir, grenache, monastrell, and trepat. Cava tends to be less acidic than Champagne, offers fruit-forward complexity, without any of the brioche notes found in Champagne.
Common cava tasting notes include exotic citrus, peach, quince, yellow apples, orange blossom, chamomile, and toasted almonds. To pair with all of those bright, fruity flavors, we’re bringing out the big guns in the form of authentic Spanish flan. This rich, creamy, and simple dessert will let the acidity and fruitiness of cava shine. If you’re feeling extra fancy, add a churro on the side– cava’s bold flavors and crisp bubbles can break through the heartiness of the fried dessert.
Pét-nat and Dessert
Pétillant Naturel translates to “naturally sparkling,” and is produced with the old-world sparkling wine method that predates methode champenoise. The key difference in pét-nat production is that these wines do not undergo a second fermentation. Instead, pét-nats are bottled during the primary fermentation process (foregoing disgorgement and dosage), resulting in light bubbles and a cloudy finish. Pét-nats can range in color from pale yellow to salmon pink– but regardless of the varietals used, most pét-nats will take on a rustic charm, quintessential to the natural sparkling method.
We are leaning into that rustic vibe with some of our favorite farmhouse-inspired desserts. Pair your pét-nat with cast iron apple crisp, peach cobbler, french apple cake, or a simple New York crumb cake. We lovingly refer to pétillant naturel as the beer of the sparkling wine world, so this is no time for the fussy French patisserie desserts. Opt for rustic, baked fruit desserts to highlight the yeasty-deliciousness of your pét-nat.
Franciacorta Dessert Pairings
Franciacorta is Italian bubbly with DOCG status, made exclusively with the méthode champenoise and produced in Brescia, Lombardy from grapes grown in the Franciacorta region– typically chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot blanc. Like Champagne, Franciacorta has several styles including rosé (at least 33% pinot noir), blanc de blancs, and Franciacorta Satèn (brut Franciacorta, produced with only five atmospheres of pressure.)
Common Franciacorta aromas include Rainier cherry, peach, lemon, brioche, and almonds. On the palate, Franciacorta is sharp and pure, with balanced acidity. Franciacorta is a star, and just as versatile on the dinner table as Champagne— but overly-sweet or flavor-packed desserts can easily overpower its complexities, so we are opting for simplicity.
Pair your Franciacorta with leaven cake. A yeasted cake will highlight the wine’s brioche complexities. Serve a simple leaven cake with summer berries, get fancy with this Honey Almond Brioche Cake, or stick to the Italian faire with Bossolà, a yeasted Italian doughnut hailing from Brescia.
It’s no secret that sparkling wine has a rightful place on the dinner table, but we recommend grabbing an extra bottle for dessert, too. Whether you’re curating a post-dinner aperitif for your dinner party or seeking a luxurious treat for your own indulgence, the marriage of Champagne and dessert opens up a new realm of possibilities.
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