Everybody loves a good glass of champagne to celebrate an occasion or cheers at midnight on New Year’s Eve, however champagne is a little bit more complex than the clinking of glasses during a celebration, and you most likely have been drinking it all wrong.
- The glass makes a difference– Coupes are out and tulip glasses are in! Why? Tulip glasses help preserve the bubbles and keep their concentration focused with less surface area no matter the cost or brand of champagne. The general rule about the bubbles is the finer the bubbles and the longer they go up the glass, the finer the product. For the test, we poured a Moet champagne into a coupe glass and a $6 prosecco in to a tulip glass. After almost an hour, the tulip glass preserved the bubbles and fizz in a concentrated area while the Moet looked almost flat because the bubbles were so dispersed. Some restaurants are still serving the coupes, but most of them have started using them for martinis. Interesting backstory on the coupe glasses; the coupe glasses were supposed to be modeled after Marie Antoinette’s left breast. Make sure you’re drinking your bubbly, no matter the price, from a tulip glass!
- Don’t shoot the cork out– This one does not make a difference with the taste of the champagne, but is definitely important with champagne etiquette. Everyone loves to hear the huge champagne bottle pop, which signifies that it is party time, but there is actually a correct way to open a champagne bottle. The last thing you want is to open a bottle of champagne in a restaurant and have the cork hit the ceiling (yes, my husband did this before haha). First off, there are always six turns to unscrew the champagne cage on the cork. Always six! The cage stays on, and you should be placing your hand over the cork, slowly turning the cork until a quiet, controlled pop occurs.
- Know the Lingo- There is such thing as label lingo on champagne, and not all champagnes are the same! Let’s first talk about sweetness level. Ultra brut is bone dry. If you hate any hint of sweetness, you need an ultra brut. Extra brut is still very dry, but not bone dry. Brut is the most common and designates a somewhat dry sparkling wine. Extra dry is probably my favorite. It is still somewhat dry, but sweeter than the extra brut if that isn’t confusing enough! Ready for more confusing? Sec means “dry” in French, but these bottles are sweeter than extra dry. Demi-sec is a sweet sparkling wine, and lastly, doux is the sweetest option. The other lingo you should look out for is where the champagne is from. Champagne is from France, and they tend to be the driest. Cremant is a sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne region in France and are also dry. Cava is Spanish and is typically dry and smoky. I personally am not a cava fan; it is my least favorite champagne type. Prosecco, my favorite, is the most common type from Italy in the Veneto region. It is often sweeter than cava and cremant. Lastly, we have the California sparkling wine which is the sweetest and easiest to drink.
- Choose your grape wisely– What? Champagne is made of grapes? Yes, it is, and there are all different kinds. Blanc de blancs are crisp and refreshing wines made of white wine grapes. Blanc de noirs are richer and made from red wine grapes although the actual wine is still white. Rose is what we all know it as! Pink in color made from a variety of different grapes that give off fruity and berry flavors. Admit it, we all love a good rose from time to time! NV means “non vintage” and includes a blend of different grapes harvested from different years.
- Pallet cleanse away! When you are not sure what to drink, have champagne! Champagne can pair with almost any food. If you decide on a different drink with your dinner, you can keep the champagne as a pallet cleanser. Finally, here’s your excuse to double fist! Marilyn Monroe bathed in champagne, so there is no reason why your tongue can’t bathe in it as well.
Well there you have it, the 50 shades of champagne and how to drink it to maximize your taste buds and the tastes of the actual wine! As Winston Chruchill said, “Remember it’s not France we fight for, but champagne.” Have your champagne and enjoy!
A special thank you to Leslie Britt, the sommelier at The Lodge at Woodloch for the excellent champagne tasting and education. I definitely learned some extra facts that I never knew before and hope you did too.
Check out more about Leslie and the wine at Woodloch at http://www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com/wine-list/