No one's really complaining when they're sipping champagne and eating wedding cake. I certainly wasn't at my own wedding, where we served traditional brut with a chocolate cake, covered in cream cheese frosting. In fact, it wasn't till nearly three years later, sitting down to a tasting with Chandon's head winemaker, Pauline Lhote, that I realized we — and nearly every wedding I've attended — had been playing it all wrong.
On a weekend away with Chandon in Sonoma, CA, we were treated to a tasting menu and a range of Chandon's sparkling wines to pair with each. We sampled the Brut, the sparkling rosé, and the newest addition to the Chandon family, the Sweet Star ($24). We were presented with the three wines at once and a feast of berries, breads, apples, whipped cream, citrus fruits, and desserts. Again, no one was complaining as we sipped the brut, pairing it with strawberries and whipped cream, as one does. Then, Pauline asked us all to try the same bite paired with the Sweet Star and there was a resounding — and audible — "mmmmmmm" around the room.
The change was subtle, but instant — and we all noticed it. Where there was a slightly acidic, and almost sour after taste with the Brut, the Sweet Star only enhanced the bright fruit flavor and sweet cream with just a smooth finish. The same was true when we paired it with a vanilla cupcake (heaven!), and even Thai food. Yes, really — it complements the coconut flavor and helps to balance the spice.
Why does it work so well? Naturally, we turned to Pauline to get some answers. As she explained, "Because of the bright acidity and the sweetness, the [Sweet Star] wine offers smoothness to the palate and enhances the texture and aroma of the dessert. If the dessert is fruit based, it's all the better! Sweet Star plays on the fruit notes and matches the acidity of the fruit beautifully." That's the big difference. The brut or champagne often has a dry finish that when paired with sweets, like wedding cake, can taste more acidic. It doesn't always complement the sweetness the best way, but the Sweet Star's sweet finish was made for pairing with desserts.
That's not to say I won't drink champagne when given the chance, but if I had a do-over at my wedding, I'd be washing down my cake with a glass of this instead.
Travel and expenses for the author were provided by Chandon for the purpose of writing this story.