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Shellfish and Champagne

Buttery gratinéed shrimp, mussels and clams are a fabulous start to a New Year's—especially since they pair so beautifully with Champagne.

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 wines—particularly bruts, the driest blends of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—are 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 Champagne—and 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. 

--Tim Fish

Published January 2002
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