Chances are pretty good that you’ll be raising a glass tomorrow night to toast the beginning of a new year.
Chances also are good that the wine in that glass will be Champagne, or perhaps some other type of sparkling wine.
Which brings up the question: How much do you know about Champagne? This five-point sparkling wine primer will turn you into an instant Champagne expert… or provide you with just enough information to be dangerous.
- Words on the bottle label can help you know what type of grapes were used to make the Champagne. “Blanc de Blancs” means that white grapes were used — almost always Chardonnay exclusively. “Blanc de Noir” means that red grapes were used — mostly Pinot Noir, but often with some Pinot Meunier added.
- Some Champagne has a vintage year on the label, while some does not. In general, a “vintage Champagne” is made in years when the weather cooperated, enabling the picking of exceptional grapes. However, that does not mean that a “non-vintage” Champagne is an any way inferior. Many Champagne houses bottle non-vintage wines exclusively, often blending wine from several vintages in order to maintain a “house style.”
- Champagne should be served ice cold in order to keep the bubbles alive after a bottle has been opened. The most effective type of ice bucket is one filled half-way with ice, and then topped with water, leaving only enough room for the bottle.
- The great glass controversy — Who would ever imagine that the type of glass used for serving Champagne would be controversial in 2015? Didn’t we get rid of those flat, bubble-depleting tulip glasses a long time ago? Well, now some are saying that the long, tall flute should be replaced by a standard wine glass, the wider the mouth the better. That’s fine if you intend to swirl and sniff the Champagne, just as you would a still wine. But I’ve always thought of Champagne as a fun beverage — one to be sipped and enjoyed rather than sniffed and pondered. Ultimately, though, the choice is yours.
- Don’t forget the food. While we think of Champagne as a beverage of celebration, it’s much more than that. Besides Sunday brunch and “small plates”/tapas fare, it pairs beautifully with spicy Southwest cuisine, shellfish and sushi.