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Food & Wine Are my neighbours weird, or is it correct to serve Champagne after a meal, with dessert?

The question

Are my neighbours weird, or is it correct to serve Champagne after a meal, with dessert?

The answer

Count yourself lucky to have neighbours who serve Champagne. Sounds like you live on a great street. But in most cases serving Champagne after a meal is inadvisable. There’s one exception: when the wine is sweet.

You may have heard of the cardinal rule for pairing wine and sugary treats. Namely, the wine should be sweeter than the dessert. This excludes the vast majority of Champagnes and other sparkling wines because there are two prevailing styles of bubbly – brut and extra-dry – both of which are too dry. Serve a brut Champagne or an extra-dry prosecco with dessert and it will seem excessively bitter. You’d be wasting your money.

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I grant that there is a legitimate tradition of popping bubbly at the end of a festive meal. I grew up with such a tradition around the holidays. But in my case the dessert usually was, at most, only moderately sweet, such as an Italian panettone, which is more like a sweet bread than a frosted cake. Moreover, the wine tended to be either a spumante d’Asti or a moscato d’Asti, two medium-sweet Italian styles with a lot more sugar in them than bone-dry Champagne. Sparkling wine is, in principle, a perfect companion to airy, soufflé-like dough.

But generally speaking, if we’re talking about dry sparkling wine, pop the cork either before dinner as an aperitif or during the savoury portion, before dessert.

Beppi Crosariol will once again be participating as The Globe’s wine expert on the July 2019 Globe and Mail Seine River Cruise. For details on how to reserve your cabin on this voyage down the Seine from Paris to Normandy visit GlobeNormandyCruise.com.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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