Photo by Brian Kaiser.

Bottle Of Bubbly

So, you didn’t win the championship game, you haven’t married the love of your life and the only toast you’ve made lately is loaded with butter and jelly totally violating your 30-day no gluten diet. But, you still want something of the bubbly variety, so what do you do? Forgive yourself. According to Sommelier Gregory Stokes and Chef Josh Dalton, there is no wrong time to pop a bottle of champagne. Any day of the week, any occasion, Veritas Columbus and its handcrafted pairing menu is the place to go for all things champagne.

Knowing what wine to pair with a steak can be stressful. But you know what’s not stressful? Bubbles. As odd as that may sound, bubbles make you happy, just as the quote found in the center of the thoughtfully-created menu states:

“I drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone, when I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.” -Lily Bollinger

Stokes seconds Bollinger’s sentiment quipping, “No one has ever cried into a glass of champagne.” They both make good points. No one grabs a bottle of champagne to drown their sorrows; it always been a drink of celebration. Stokes points out that festivity is the way champagne was marketed, resulting in champagne isolating itself from the mainstream, everyday beer and wine market. Despite acquiring a somewhat intimidating reputation in 1863, original champagne was actually considered to be a botched batch of wine. It is up for debate who actually invented or discovered that botched wine was a bubbly surprise, but there is no debate that it has been a hit ever since.

Even if you aren’t an expert in all things wine and champagne, Stokes says it is ok to start small. First timers can start off with an inexpensive bottle of champagne first. The price shouldn’t affect your decision initially, no matter what, “If you are drinking bubbles you have already won,” Stokes smiles. Contrary to his first experience with “bubbles,” which was a bottle of Dom Perignon, he chuckles at the memory. “I didn’t understand the hype; it was very dry. But now it is one of my favorites. I was so young and hadn’t quite acquired the taste for it.”
This brings up a good point. When you try the best and it doesn’t live up to the expectations, it can be a turn-off for the whole category, which happens in a lot of cases. Luckily at Veritas, there is such a diverse sampling of champagne that you are bound to find your personal favorite. It doesn’t hurt to have Sommelier Stokes and Chef Dalton’s expert opinions and recommendations either. (614) sat down with the Veritas pair for some bubbly conversation and advice to bring bring a bit of sparkle to your table.

(614): Why do you think that sparkling wine/champagne has been overlooked when it comes to food pairings?

Stokes: Most people just assume that sparkling wines are for celebrating, but they are truly everyday wines, right for every occasion. Sparkling wines absolutely are the most food friendly and easiest to pair wine. Once you have tried a great sparkling pairing, you rarely look back.

Is there any distinction between sparkling wine and champagne?

Dalton: Yes and no. If you are drinking sparkling, you are already winning. If you drink Champagne (the real stuff from Champagne), you are totally winning.

Stokes: I could go into the technical differences, but I think that sums it up pretty well.

Have you both always agreed on pairings? If not, which pairings took a little more convincing?

Dalton: For the most part yes, but one of the things I love about working with Chef is that he is constantly pushing me to be more daring with pairings, to not do the tried and true thing. So it’s a great give and take.

Why should champagne/sparkling wine be considered for more than just celebrations and fancy toasts?

Stokes: Because it is truly one of the greatest beverages in the world. I like drinking it anytime. Someone occasionally will ask, ‘What are you celebrating?’…because it’s Tuesday.

What are both of your top three pairings? Any individual picks?

Dalton: Clearly caviar is a no-brainer. And potato chips. It also goes great with anything that has some spice in it. I love it with Thai food.

Stokes: Rosé champagne with a well-salted medium rare steak and pomme frites is one of the greatest pairings I’ve ever had. The texture of the champagne against the richness and saltiness is unbelievable. Oysters are definitely an obvious perfect match and one of my favorite. Give me a couple dozen oysters and a magnum of champagne, and I call that a perfect Sunday afternoon. Charcuterie works perfectly too. The long and the short of it is that champagne loves salt, fat, and acid.