Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!
~ Dom Perignon, at the moment he discovered Champagne.
We all love a glass (or two) of Champagne, but what do we really know when it comes to serving our favourite holiday sipper? Since holiday hosting seems to be in full swing, here are a few things you should know before chosing a bottle of bubbly for NYE.
1. Champagne is different from Sparkling Wine. Champagne with a capital "C" can only come from the Champagne region in France. Meaning that the grapes used to make the wine are grown in Champagne and the wine is made according to the specialised Champagne method. However, champagne (with a lower case "c") can be from other areas. Bottles labeled "Method Champenoise" or "Traditional Method" are made the same way true Champagne is but are moderately priced and just as good.
2. How to tell the difference between Sweet & Dry Champagne: For dry Champagne look for "Brut" on the label. If you prefer dry Champagne which is a little sweet look for "extra dry" or "extra sec" on the label. For sweet Champagne opt for Moscato, it has soft bubbly quality and pairs well with desserts.
3. How to chill Champagne: Temperature determines the rate at which the bubbles are released. A bottle of Champagne should never be opened at room temperature as it will quickly froth up and go flat. It's ideally served at 5-7°C. Chill it in the refrigerator for approx. 3 hours and once opened keep it cold in a bucket with a mix of ice and water.
4. How to safely open a bottle: While most people think opening a bottle of Champagne involves popping the cork, the cork should in fact ease out of the bottle with a mere whisper. Holding the base of the bottle with one hand twist the other hand on the bottle (not the cork) slowly in opposite direction. Let the pressure in the bottle gently force out the cork with a sigh and not a bang.
5. Champagne is best served in flutes or tulip shaped glasses. Tall glasses provide a great visual of a row of bubbles trailing from the bottom of the glass to the top and enhance the celebratory experience of sipping Champagne. Wide and shallow glasses make the Champagne mousse go flat quickly and it's aroma cannot be appreciated. If you have fine crystal, be sure to use it as the irregularities in this elegant glass keep the bubbles alive longer.
Tips | and suggestions:
* Wine Alternatives: If Champagne is not readily available on hand a few sparkling wine alternatives to try are Cava (Spain), Prosecco (Italy) and Sparkling (UK).
* Storing leftover Champagne: Although leftover Champagne is a rare dilemma since it is such a crowd pleaser, there are special sparkling wine stoppers that attach to the bottle and keep the wine bubbly for a day or two more. However, if you know you aren't going to consume the entire bottle beforehand try and purchase a half bottle which are easily available at wine shops.
* Recommendations: Each Champagne has its own nuance, do experiment and try a variety of them before settling on a brand and a style that you most enjoy. After all the most important thing to know about buying Champagne is to pick one that makes you the happiest!