Although the popularity of drinking bubbles has increased over recent years, there’s no doubt about it – there’s fizz and then, there’s fizz. The king of fizz? Champagne, of course. When it comes to celebrating – yes, Cava is delightful, and we’re certainly partial to Prosecco, but really only Champagne will do for special occasions. We quizzed Francoise Peretti, the Director of the UK’s Champagne Bureau UK on the art of drinking our favourite fizz – it’s something she knows quite a bit about after all! Everything you ever wanted to ask about Champagne but never dared ask? Read on…
Aside from choosing the supermarket’s special offer Champagne, how should I choose which one to buy?
By reading the labels. The descriptions on the front and back of Champagne bottles provide a lot of useful information and help distinguish between a Brut Non-Vintage (a blend of several harvest years with no year on the bottle) and a Vintage (year on the bottle); Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) and a Blanc de Noirs (100% Pinot Noir/Meunier). It will also depend on what you are serving.
Which glasses are best – coupes or flutes?
The gorgeous-looking coupes – popular in the 30s – might bring out the flapper-girl in any of us, but sadly their large rims mean that the precious bubbles dissipate very quickly which is a real shame since it takes between 15 months and 10 years to put the sparkle into Champagne… The best way to savour champers is to drink out of flutes or even better tulip-shaped Champagne glasses.
Any tips on opening bottles so we don’t kill anyone?
A Champagne bottle has up to 6 atmosphere which is the pressure of a double decker tyre. But no need to be concerned if you follow these two tips: once the wire cage is off (‘muselet’) always keep you thumb pressed on the cork and still holding the cork firmly, gently rotate the bottle (NOT the cork) with your other hand so the cork comes sliding – not popping – out. Easy really!
What about mixing Champagne with liqueurs – total faux pas?
Hey, it’s Christmas so anything you like goes. Personally, I prefer my Champagne unadulterated as it’s delicious and you can best taste and enjoy the complexity and freshness of the wines.
Any tasting tips?
Though we’re all keen to drink the bubbly in our glass, take the time to enjoy the colour of the wine and the bubbles and smell the divine aromas. It only takes a few seconds and it really is enjoyable.
Does Champagne marry particularly well with any specific canapés or desserts?
Champagne pairs well with traditional as well as more unusual Christmas ingredients and dishes. Choose a Vintage Champagne (blend of wines from the same harvest) to pair with turkey or white meat. Pink Champagne will be a perfect match to smoked salmon but has its place with cheeses too, especially goat and ewes cheeses. For Comté-style choose a Non-Vintage Champagne with a high content of Chardonnay. Finally choose a sweeter-style of Champagne to drink with your Christmas pudding or log if you’re having a more continental meal.
In the (very unlikely) case I’ve got some Champagne left over, what should I do with it?
Drink it the next day for a glamorous Champagne breakfast! The bubbles will keep up to 24 hours as long as you use a champagne stopper. Sadly using a silver spoon to keep bubbles in an open bottle of Champagne doesn’t work, but after all it’s Christmas and your wish might come true!
For more about Champagne, see the Champagne Bureau UK’s website, which is a source for accurate information and facts about the Champagne region and its unique wines.