A 5-Point Sparkling Wine Primer

Luxury party champagne glass in nightclub neon lights.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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
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Posted in Wine in the Glass
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