18 Apr 2024

A Champagne Lifestyle

Symbolic of celebration and success, champagne never fails to get the party started. Whether it’s a few romantic glasses à deux, or dozens of bottles for a party, there is a right way and a wrong way to serve a bottle of fizz.

It is rumoured that a monk, Dom Pérignon, in the village of Hautvillers in the Champagne region, first invented champagne in 1668. Only champagne made from the Champagne region in northern France is allowed to be labelled ‘champagne’.

Champagne is made from a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. Méthode Champenoise – the method used to make champagne – is the process of creating the bubbles. A solution of sugar and yeast is added to wine to create a second in-bottle fermentation.

Champagne is governed by numerous exacting rules that aim to maintain the highest standards, including: the wine must only come from the Champagne region, the vines must be grown and pruned in a specific way and the grapes must be picked by hand.

Go Vintage

Vintage champagne comes from the crop of a single year. A vintage bottle, therefore, always has a date on the label. A champagne house will only produce vintage champagne from very good years and will typically release it after about six years. Non-vintage (NV) champagne is blended from the crop of different years; there is therefore no date on the label.  It can be varied in quality but there are many very good non-vintage champagnes available.

How to Store

Ideally, bottles of champagne should be stored horizontally, but it is more tolerant of vertical storage than wine. Find a dry, dark place with a consistent, cool temperature. Non-vintage champagne is generally released for immediate drinking rather than cellaring, so don’t hesitate before popping the cork…

How to Open Champagne

•Ensure that the bottle hasn’t been shaken.

•Peel off the foil from over metal cage covering the cork.

•Make sure the bottle is pointing away from you, companions and valuables.

•Remove metal cage over the cork.

•Hold the cork in one hand and the bottle in the other.

•Smoothly twist the bottle (not the cork) so that the cork comes out gently.

•Aim for a sigh not a pop

Resist the temptation to shake the bottle to create an explosive opening – it is criminal to waste good champagne, even if you are celebrating, and considered much better etiquette to ease out the cork as quietly and unobtrusively as possible. Popping a cork can be dangerous: the pressure inside a champagne bottle can launch a cork at an alarming speed of 13 metres per second.

How to Serve Champagne

Champagne should be served chilled (optimum temperature is about 7°C), and glasses must be scrupulously clean – even the most minuscule remains of washing-up liquid can cause the champagne to lose its fizz. The sign of a good champagne is a consistent stream of small bubbles, that create a light froth around the edge of the surface, called the ‘mousse’.

Pick up the glass by the stem and tilt it to a 45-degree angle. As you gently pour the champagne ensure that it touches the side of the glass to prevent foam and excessive bubbles forming. Stop once you have poured approximately one inch into the glass and wait for any foam to subside. Resume pouring until the glass is half full, or to the widest point in the glass. You should never fill a champagne glass to the rim; you need space to allow the aroma to release in the glass.

Champagne Glasses

Champagne coupes (or ‘saucers’) were the original champagne glasses, which became very popular in England in the early 19th century. They are broad, with a shallow bowl, and a short, elegant stem. It is rumoured that the shape of the bowl was modelled on the breast of the ill-fated French Queen, Marie-Antoinette (other contenders include Madame de Pompadour); these stories are almost certainly apocryphal. These glasses are the best way of allowing flavours to develop and displaying the effervescence of the champagne, but the fizz will dissipate more easily because of the larger surface area.

Champagne ‘flutes’ first began to appear in the 1920s and have become the default contemporary choice. They are tall, slender and elegant, and designed to preserve the flavour and carbonation of the wine.

Tulip glasses began to appear in the 1930s and offer an excellent compromise. Similar in design to the flute, they have a broader, rounder middle and a narrow top, which helps to funnel the aromas which develop inside the wider bowl towards the nose and ensures that the bubbles do not escape.

In all cases, the glass should be held by the pinching the top of the stem between your thumb and forefinger which ensures that your hands do not warm the champagne.

Delicious Champagne Cocktails

•Kir Royale
Add one measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) into a flute and then top with champagne. Garnish with a fresh blackberry or raspberries.

•Peach Bellini
Add approximately one finger’s depth of peach purée to a flute and then top with champagne. A slice of fresh peach makes the perfect garnish.

Also known as a Buck’s Fizz, this is a combination of champagne and orange juice. It’s a refreshing drink, popular at brunch, that can be mixed to your taste.


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