To my sheer horror, I found out last night that one of my most glamorous and chic friends did not know how to open a bottle of champagne! This unpleasant discovery was made when the loaded weapon was pointed right at me: she had removed the wire cage (that goes around the cork) and the naked cork was aimed precisely in my direction while she aimlessly chatted about seeing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the Cannes Film Festival. I tried to remain calm as I diverted a total catastrophe by quickly snatching the bubbly from her and putting my hand over the cork. After accusing her of the crime, she confessed that she did not know how to properly open a bottle. I realized at that moment - if she does not know how to open a bottle of champagne - then there must be so many other lost lambs out there! So, in my mission to make the world a better (and safer) place for Goddesses everywhere: here are the guidelines of how to properly select, open and serve a bottle of champagne.
Select a Bottle
Marque - By definition, true "champagne" comes only from the region in France that bears the same name - which is 90 miles northeast of Paris. Everything else is technically "sparkling wine". Most wines are named after vineyards, while champagnes are named for the houses that produce them. These houses produces various brands known as marques: Bollinger, Charles Heidsieck, Krug, Moet et Chandon, G.H.Mumm, Joseph Perrier, Ruinart, Taittinger, Vueve Cliquot-Ponsardin.
Vintage - Unlike many wines, choosing a young champagne is not considered gauche. The manufacturing house typically holds the champagne for up to five years before releasing it for purchase. Also, champagne is often blended across the years with the "greatest hits" - though 80% of the grapes used in producing it must have been harvested in that year.
Size of Bottle - Champagne comes in a whole universe of sizes - and if you ever have the occasion to bust out the Nebuchadnezzar - please invite me! Bottle sizes: Quarter Bottle, Half-Bottle, Bottle, Magnum (2 bottles), Jeroboam (4 bottles), Rehoboam (6 bottles), Methuselah (8 bottles), Salmanazar (12 bottles), Balthazar (16 bottles) and Nebuchandnezzar (20 bottles).
Prepare, Open and Pour the Champagne
Chill - The bubbly is best enjoyed at a cool temperature (ideal is 43-48 degrees fahrenheit). If your bottle isn't yet chilled and you are in a hurry, you can place it in a bucket filled with a mixture of ice, water and salt. Under no circumstances should you ever leave champagne in your freezer for it will disturb the balance of the alcohol and ruin the expensive liquid.
Remove the Cork - There are a few layers before you even get to the cork. First, pull off the the foil to reveal the cork. The cork itself is protected in a wire cage that has a handle on the side. Pull that handle away from the side of the cage and untwist the wire. BE CAREFUL as you do so and point the cork away from anyone and anything you don't want to injure - there is a reason for that wire (there is 70 pounds behind it) and it could erupt at anytime, so keep a tight hold on it. Then, firmly gripping the cork with one hand, use your other hand to twist the bottle slowly and smoothly. You want the cork to emerge from the bottle with a gentle sigh, not a raucous pop.
Pour - Selecting your glass deserves a little bit of consideration. There are two classic types of champagne glasses: the coupe and the flute. The wide-shaped coupe was designed to allow the greatest surface area for the release of bubbles (designed after Marie Antoinette's bosom). The flute on the other hand, captures the bubbles. A crystal glass makes a difference with the bubbly because the surface is rougher than ordinary glass, which stimulates more bubbles in your champagne. When you are ready to pour, hold the bottle by placing your thumb into the dimple at the bottom of the bottle (called the punt) and splay your fingers across the barrel of the bottle. Tilt the glass towards the bottle, pouring slowly to not create any head.
Indulge - Hold your glass at the stem ( the long stem's purpose is to keep the heat of your hand from warming the nectar). Before you indulge, raise your glass with a glamorous toast worthy of a Goddess. The all time best toast with champagne is allegedly the first toast ever made with bubbly. Dom Perignon was a Benedictine Monk who is often credited for accidentally inventing champagne. As the story goes, after tasting his creation, he said, "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!"
Mon, May 26, 2008
by Ms. Dolphina