5 December 2011
the essential guide to champagne
Before you pop the cork this holiday season, ensure you take heed of our foolproof champagne guide.
We’d like to think there is always a time to treat oneself to a glass of champagne, however as the holiday season rolls around, we find there seems to be ever-increasing popping of corks and clinking of flutes to toast to the year gone by. In preparation, we’ve put together a list of essential tips every champagne drinker should have on hand.
1. Champagne makes the perfect gift. If the recipient is not impressed by your offering – cross them off the list.
2. Always have a bottle chilling in the fridge. There isn’t much a good champagne can’t do, so why reserve your intake to special occasions? Don’t get us wrong, celebrations always call for champagne, but the drink deserves to be extended much further than just the toast on New Years Eve. Treating such beverages merely as a liquid marker of success or achievement can make this easy to miss. Every once in a while, a spontaneous glass or two will do wonders for your spirits. It’s a libertarian issue, really. You drink wine to complete your meal, beer to relax and a cocktail to loosen up. You should drink a glass of champagne simply because why not?
3. Drinking champagne has spectacularly transformative qualities – the sky looks bluer, the company looks more attractive, your jokes are funnier, you have an instant je ne sais quoi.
4. There are good champagnes and there are great champagnes. A true champagne aficionado knows this. Know your vintages my friend 1990, 1996, 2002 are recent notables.
5. Champagne doesn’t always need to break the bank. Don’t get us wrong, expensive champagne is lovely, even more so if someone special is buying, but there is a time and a place for excess – it’s generally not one that involves being reminded of that $1000 bottle you splashed out on last Saturday night when it turns up on your credit card statement a week later. Unnecessary flashiness is tacky, so if you can’t afford it, opt for something with a little more subtlety (unless it’s someone else’s treat, in which case it would be rude to turn it down).
6. Magnum Force: Always think big. A magnum – or in other words, one of those supersized bottles you most often see lurking at the back of the bar is a worthy purchase. Who buys those things? Well it should be you. Find, or better yet, make, the perfect occasion to invest in a magnum. Give new meaning to the ‘host with the most’. One magnum (two bottles’ worth) will easily serve a dozen guests and not only does the bottle itself look impressive, but the wine also matures slower in larger bottles, therefore it just tastes better.
7. Real champagne is only produced in France. If you’re throwing around the word – or the drink for that matter – it’s important to be accurate with the term. Just because it’s bubbly, does not necessarily mean it’s champagne. The word is accurate only when it applies to a wine that is created in the Champagne region of France, using ‘méthode Champenoise’ and matured for a minimum of 18 months. Only then can it be called champagne. A sparkling wine produced in Albuquerque is just that – sparkling wine from Albuquerque.
8. Champagne stoppers and savers are a waste of time, you’ve had good enough reason enough to open the bottle, we suggest you finish it.
9. Champagne should always be served cold, the ideal drinking temperature is 7 – 9 degrees.
10. Champagne is at its best when served in an elegant flute with a long stem and tall narrow bowl – thus preventing the bubbles from dissipating too quickly. Contrary to popular belief the Victorian coupe is not a recommended champagne drinking vessel, though it is hard to go past the history of this uniquely shaped glass. A birthday gift from Marie Antoinette to her husband Louis XVI, it was moulded in the shape of her left breast.