Once upon a time I worked in an antique shop in my hometown. On slow days I would browse books from the shelves and one day I came across a little paper back titled French Wines so old its pages were coming loose. I turned straight to the chapter on champagne to learn all about
how a monk named Dom Pérignon once tried to solve a corking dilemma and ended up accidentally creating the first sparkling wine. Little did I know reading this book would be the first of several chapters in my life centered around champagne.
Later on in Paris I ended up working for one of the most famous champagne houses in the world. During that time I had the chance to visit their vineyards, explore their underground cellars, taste some of the finest champagnes ever made, and even sit down for some champagne lessons with their famous cellar master. Needless to say I got a rather fine education in champagne during this time!
If you’re like me then you will be ringing in the New Year with some bubbly. Seeing as it’s one of France’s greatest exports and flowing freely this time of year, I thought it would be the perfect moment share some of my knowledge of champagne etiquette with you here…
SELECTING YOUR CHAMPAGNE
• True champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France and made according to
the champenois method. Otherwise it’s just sparkling wine! Check the label carefully.
• To impress a discerning palette go for a Grand Cru, which comes from the finest grapes on designated plots of land in an area known as the Golden Triangle.
• If you prefer less sweet, choose a bottle of Brut, meaning that no sucre was added.
SERVING YOUR CHAMPAGNE
• Chill your bottle between 45-50°F in order to best taste its flavors. This equates to about thirty
minutes in an ice bucket or four hours in the fridge.
• When it comes to your glasses, certain shapes like the typical tulip and flute glass are ideal for
aromas to develop. However, I prefer the retro-chic champagne coupe. Some rumors say that
the shape of this historic glassware was formed around Marie Antoinette’s breast!
• Uncork it by holding it down with your thumb when releasing the wire caging to avoid premature popping. With a napkin, hold the cork and rotate the bottle in your other hand to loosen it gently.
• Wrap the bottle in a napkin or tea towel and place your thumb in the impression at the base of the bottle. If you need, balance the bottle with your hand from underneath while never grabbing its neck.
• You may need to make several pours to avoid overflowing with bubbles, and when finishing twist the bottle to avoid dripping. The tea towel will catch the rest.
ENJOYING YOUR CHAMPAGNE
• Champagne is typically best enjoyed before or after a meal, either served as an aperitif with some small savory snacks, or with dessert. It also makes a great substitute for dessert.
• Champagne can also be served during a meal like other wines. This, however, takes thoughtful pairing so study the notes of your champagnes before to know which plates they are best paired with.
• And don’t forget, champagne is best enjoyed in good company, and always in moderation and responsibly!