As we enter the home stretch of the holiday season more and more sparkling wine will be purchased and consumed. To get the most out of your bottles, we present the top 5 things you need to know (to enjoy your sparkling wine more than everybody else).
1. Don’t open a bottle when it’s at room or cellar temperature. Some people, in a hurry, pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly before it is chilled, expecting to simply drop it into a bucket of ice to chill it down quickly. Unfortunately, when you open a bottle of bubbly at room temperature, you often lose a significant amount of the wine through it foaming wildly upon popping. Chill it down, and open it slowly and carefully (see below), in order to keep the bottle from foaming over. If you need to chill a bottle relatively quickly, put it in a bucket of ice with water, and move it around every few minutes — it will be at serving temperature in fifteen minutes. Or, this being Minnesota, just stick it in a snowbank for a bit.
2. Know your sweetness designations. As confusing as it may seem, “Extra Dry” actually means “A bit sweet.” From drier to sweeter the designations go from Extra Brut, to Brut, to Extra Dry. Often people are surprised at just how sweet an Extra Dry can be. If you’re a fan of dry wines, stick with Brut or, if you can find it, Extra Brut.
3. Serve sparkling wine with a bit of cheese or meat. Sparkling wine is by its nature high in acidity, and many people who shy away from it do so because the acidity builds up on their palate too much. To help temper the acidity, be sure to have some nibbles nearby. Triple cream brie works exceptionally well, and more robust Champagnes can handle cured meats like there’s no tomorrow. At the office, Champagne is often brought out for pairing with oysters.
*** update 12/12/12 *** Ann just chastised me for forgetting to include her and Terry Theise’s favorite Champagne pairing: popcorn! However, there is disagreement in the office on this, for my personal favorite pairing is french fries. Regardless, when it comes to Champagne and Sparkling Wine, salty = good.
4. Keep in mind that “Champagne” only comes from Champagne, France. If you go to a wine shop run by knowledgeable people, and ask for a Champagne, they will lead you to the ‘real deal’ which also means you’ll be spending more money. Granted, there is nothing that compares with a great Champagne (especially from a grower-producer), but there are other styles available from other parts of the world. See our post on Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine for a primer on other key regions and styles of bubbly.
5. Learn how to open a bottle correctly. This will save you from becoming part of the statistics of cork injuries (and ensuing lawsuits). As said by ABC News, “It’s all fun and games — until somebody loses an eye.” Check out our video below.