Wine Time

Odd Pair: Pizza and Champagne (Socialism)

Champagne socialist, noun depreciative (originally and chiefly British): a person who espouses socialist ideals but enjoys a wealthy and luxurious lifestyle; confer limousine liberal noun. -- Oxford English Dictionary

In this day and age of the 99 percenters, there's no irony lost in the fact that the realm of wine -- once reserved for the 1 percenters -- is now open to the rest of us.

A generation ago, wine was served and consumed by the bourgeoisie in our country only for special occasions and the thought of ordering wine in a restaurant was considered wildly extravagant, a privilege owed only the entitled among us.

Today, wine and wine culture have pervaded the fabric of Americana. My 78-year-old mother, a Jewish matron and grandmother to six, who rarely drank wine in her youth, opens and nurses a bottle of her favorite $20 Dolcetto on a weekly basis.

My in-laws in Orange, Texas have a preference for the Alexander Valley Carignane from California that I sent to them at Christmas. And my father-in-law, the Reverend Branch -- a Methodist pastor and proud pawpaw to our ten-week-old daughter -- and I regularly discuss the nuance of oak-cask aging and alcohol content (he has a weakness for traditional-style Brunello as well).

And if you're reading this blog, you're no doubt part of a rapidly expanding movement of wine lovers who share their interest in wine and help to build our vinous community through social media (the art of writing a tasting note on the Twitter, the medium perhaps best suited to enological expression, is one of the great demotic phenomena of our lifetime in my not so humble opinion).

So the other night when I paired some greasy New York-style peperoni pizza with a bottle of our favorite Champagne (Bollinger Special Cuvée), the Oedipal reversal of wine connoisseurship and enoic snobbery was not lost on me.

Can you imagine what the wine and food elites of our country would have said ten years ago -- or even five years ago -- at the thought of such a pairing? The marriage would have been met with the same derision that you hear in a Parisian's voice when he dismissively and disapprovingly notes, mais vous êtes américain.

Today, with the chains of elitism cast away, we discover that the blurred lines between the once sacred and profane open windows onto brave new worlds of sensorial pleasure and enlightenment.

With its traditionally low alcohol content and bright acidity, Champagne is by its very nature one of the world's greatest food-friendly wines. And while I'll never turn my nose up at caviar and Champagne or white Alba truffles and Champagne (two of the world's most sublime pairings in my experience), Champagne is served in our home at the dinner table -- whether accompanied by my shitake-white-wine-and-Parmigiano-Reggiano risotto or greasy takeout peperoni pizza.

Bollinger is our favorite: We love its distinctive toasty, yeasty notes. But there are many other great Champagne houses -- small and large -- that have entry-tier wines like this one in the market (around $50 in the Houston market).

Whatever you pair with your Champagne, rejoice (like we do) in the fact that Bacchus's peripeteia is our good fortune and that we live in an era of Champagne 99 percenters. After all, one man's pizza doesn't have to be another man's poison.

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Jeremy Parzen writes about wine and modern civilization for the Houston Press. A wine trade marketing consultant by day, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. He spends his free time writing and recording music with his daughters and wife in Houston.
Contact: Jeremy Parzen