Perfect wine match
Most everyone is happy to have a glass of sparkling wine along with a piece of cheese or a bit of caviar. But pour a glass with dinner and the same people may express surprise: Isn't Champagne an aperitif? The fact is, good bubbly is an adept partner with many different kinds of foods. Its higher acidity makes it a particularly refreshing match with rich dishes like this shellfish gratin. Furthermore, the best Champagnes and California sparkling winesparticularly bruts, the driest blends of Chardonnay and Pinot Noirare full-bodied enough to harmonize with the gratin's mustard flavors. A prime example is the Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Nonvintage ($45), which happens to be one of the most popular Champagnes in the world. And with good reason: It's not often that you find so much grace and complexity in a nonvintage Champagneand its crisp citrus notes and lush yeastiness make it a natural with the gratin. If you prefer the riper, juicier California style, try the 1996 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut ($28). With its spicy apple and caramel aromas and flavors, it offers world-class depth at a good price.