The Democratization of Champagne

The fine art of matching Champagne and hot dogs
Apr 9, 2010

As many of you who read my blogs know, I often write about the “behind-the-scenes” production of Champagne, from the work in the vineyards to the vinification and blending. I have also blogged in the past about Champagne and food pairing.

Indeed, let’s not forget that Champagne is a wine, first and foremost, and that it pairs very well with food. But sometimes, you just have to enjoy it without too much fanfare or introspection. That was the idea behind the democratization of Champagne.

The team at Moët Hennessy USA (MHUSA) organized an evening of Champagne at Bark Hot Dogs in Brooklyn. That’s right, hot dogs and bubbly.

These weren’t just any dirty-water dogs. Bark Hot Dogs founder Joshua Sharkey cut his chops in the kitchens of Bouley, Jean Georges and Café Gray. Bark uses high-quality, sustainable ingredients, sourced locally as much as possible. They even ferment their own sauerkraut in the basement.

We also learned the history of the hot dog, from Homer to Handwerker, along with some of the royalty and celebrities that loved the frank, such as King George VI of England, Princess Grace, Marlene Dietrich, Jayne Mansfield, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra.

But why Champagne? “I am fascinated by the juxtaposition of something as simple and as plebian as a hot dog, with a wine that is as luxurious and as refined as champagne,” explained MHUSA Director of Communications Jeff Pogash.

With that, we tucked into seven different dogs from Bark’s menu, including a Veggie Dog made from Yukon Gold potatoes, apple and sage and bound together with organic wheat and barley. There was also Käse Krainer with sauerkraut.

I thought some of the Champagnes, like the Veuve Clicquot Brut NV (Yellow Label), Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon 2000 and Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs NV, though delicious on their own, came up a little short against the more assertive flavors of the first four dogs. The acidity of the Champagnes worked with the fat, but the subtleties in flavor were lost.

The best matches were the NYC Dog with cucumber relish and the Moët & Chandon Brut Grand Vintage 2003 and the Krug Brut Grande Cuvée NV with the Chili-Cheese Dog.

Other guests, however, raved about the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs with the Bacon-Cheddar Dog.

The Moët Grand Vintage is a big, full-bodied bubbly, very concentrated and rich, and even shows with a hint of tannins on the finish. It had the body and flavors to stand up to the smoked pork and the topping of sweet and sour onions and mustard on the NYC Dog.

Likewise, the barrel-fermented character of the Krug, in addition to its depth of vintages in the blend, worked with the spicy, lightly sweet chili and cheddar cheese. The Krug was also terrific with the Käse Krainer and sauerkraut.

Overall, it was a fun exercise. Most of all, the message was to lighten up and don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your food and wine pairings.

Pairings France Champagne

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