Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend Assignment: Champagne and Hot Dogs

In Wednesday’s post, I wrote about the excellent Pommery POP Earth Brut NV Champagne. So this morning, as I was wandering around the Web, I was thrilled to find a piece written two weeks ago by the Wine Spectator’s Bruce Sanderson on a particular Champagne pairing.

Hot dogs.

I had to smile: This is exactly the sort of match that too many people would never consider because of a misplaced sense of propriety. Hot dogs, after all, are as basic as food gets: Ground mystery meat held together by some sort of casing (hopefully natural, but usually not...) is not exactly the first thing you’d think of when the topic of Champagne is raised. But, as Sanderson wrote, “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.”

Granted, his pairing experience wasn’t with your run-of-the-mill hot dogs--they were enjoyed with the offerings at Brooklyn’s Bark Hot Dogs, which “uses high-quality, sustainable ingredients, sourced locally as much as possible.” Which makes the pairings seem a little less off-the-wall.

Still, the important issue here is that a highly regarded writer for one of the most powerful wine magazines on the planet dedicated a blog post to the intersection of hot dogs and Champagne. This sends a message that the wine world is changing, growing more democratized, more open-minded.

More importantly, it’s a sign that America’s wine culture is growing ever more focused on the enjoyment of the juice itself and not on some antiquated and often irrelevant notions of how a particular wine is “supposed to be” enjoyed.

Many of the best restaurants are discovering this, too, and the best, most creative sommeliers are branching out and offering some outstanding pairings that most of us never would have considered before.

I had one of these experiences the other night, right here at home. It was 10:30, I’d just returned from teaching a wine class, and I was hungry. My wife had picked up chicken in oyster sauce with sweet stir-fried onions at a new Chinese restaurant down the street. And it was absolutely perfect with the Pommery POP Earth I’d opened to taste earlier in the day, the nuttiness of both the chicken and the bubbly mingling seamlessly, the fruit in the Champagne growing a bit more pronounced in the presence of the onions, the oil in the dish wrapping itself around the wine and rendering it even more seductively soft than it already was.

It was a perfect, and perhaps unexpected, pairing.

Keep an open mind with these things--you never know when you’ll discover the next great match.


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