Have you decided on a Champagne or sparkling wine to celebrate? Did you select the right glass? Do you know how to open Champagne correctly? If not, no worries. Here are a few tips on how to prep the glasses, chill, cork, and poor a glass Champagne or sparkling wine.
If you invested in expensive Champagne or sparkling wine glasses, you may want to wash them by hand using a very fragrance-free mild detergent. Add a drop of mild detergent to each glass and sponge the soap around to remove all stains or marks. Thoroughly rinse the glasses, ensuring no soap residue is left on your champagne flute as this will interfere with the flavor and affect the carbonation of the champagne.
Carefully dry the glasses (twisting a towel inside to dry puts pressure on the glass and may cause breakage). Store them upright and shelter them from dust use until the next use.
Chill the Bubbly
Bubbly is best at a cool temperature (approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Celsius)). If your bottle isn’t yet chilled yet and the countdown is near, place the bottle in a bucket with ice, water and salt to quickly chill it.
Don’t leave the bubbly in the freezer. Doing so will disturb the balance of the alcohol and ruin the liquid gold.
Cork and Pour the Bubbly
Old films show people opening bubbly with a loud popping noise of the cork, but the cork should ease out of the bottle with a slight hint of sound. We’re talking Champagne or sparkling wine, not a can of brewski.
Here’s what you need to do to open Champagne correctly and impress your guests:
First, pull off the foil to reveal the cork (bouchon).
Second, cover the cork with a lovely cloth napkin or your finger and untwist to loosen the wire cage (muselet). There’s 70 pounds behind the cork so you’ll want to be careful not to point towards a person or precious item.
Third, with the base of the bottle pressing you, tilt the top of the bottle away from you (and your guests) at a 45-degree angle.
Fourth, still grasping the cork and wire cage, gently twist the bottle and tilt the cork a bit to allow some gasses to escape. You’ll hear soft pop.
Fifth, pour the Champagne into flute or tulip glasses. If there is any leftover bubbly, use a Champagne stopper to preserve the wine’s sparkle for many hours.
Now that you know how to open Champagne correctly you can finally enjoy your glass of bubbly and move onto kissing and making resolutions.
Happy New Year’s Eve!!
How to Select Champagne and Sparkling Wine
How to Select Champagne and Sparkling Wine
I was switching TV channels when I ran across something that horrified me. Some hoity-toity reality show cast members were in a limo drinking Champagne out of plastic cups. It goes to show you money can buy you good Champagne, but obviously not taste. That led me to want to write a post on how to select Champagne and sparkling wine for New Year’s Eve or any celebration.
Champagne or Sparkling Wine?
It’s nearly countdown time to popping the cork and celebrating a new season. Before you head to the checkout with bubbly in hand, first decide if you’d like to celebrate with a bottle of Champagne or a bottle of “sparkling wine”.
Here’s the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine. Champagne with a capital “C” can only come from the Champagne region in France located about 90 miles northeast of Paris. No exceptions. This small area produces all of the world’s Champagne which comes with an expensive price tag.
Everything else produced outside of the Champagne region is technically “sparkling wine” and can be just as good and much less expensive than Champagne.
Sparkling wine is made throughout the world under different names. My personal favorite is Crémant (from France in the non-Champagne region). There are a number of other wonderful sparkling wines made in the world such as Sekt (Germany), Cava (Spain), and Prosecco (Italy). With all of these “sparkling wine” types, you’ll get a lot of bubbles and sparkle, just without the hefty Champagne price.
Selecting Champagne and Sparkling Wine
So, now you know how to select Champagne and sparkling wine and decided to go for it and splurge on Champagne. Great! If you see “vintage” printed on the bottle along with the year, it means that particular sparkling wine was made with what the winemaker considered to be exceptional grapes.
For some not only does the price of the Champagne matter, but the size too. The standard sized bottle will yield about 6 glasses of bubbly (125 ml each). For those out to impress, there’s a Magnum (2 bottles), Jeroboam (4 bottles), Rehoboam (6 bottles), Methuselah (8 bottles), Salmanazar (12 bottles), Balthazar (16 bottles) and Nebuchandnezzar (20 bottles). The biblical names make a strong statement about the worth of the bottle of wine.
If you’ve opted for a good bottle of “sparkling wine” look for “Methode Traditionelle” on the bottle’s label. This tells you the sparkling wine has been made the same way true Champagne is instead of the time-saving Charmat process involving bulk fermentation in tanks resulting in a lesser quality wine.
For either Champagne or sparkling wine you’ll want to decide on the level of sweetness starting from the driest Extra Brut (pronounced “broot”), Brut, Extra dry, Sec to the sweetest Demi-sec.
Finally, the last decision is how much money you’d like to invest. Luckily there are price points for every budget.
Selecting the Right Glass
You’ve invested in a bottle of Champagne, sparkling wine, or maybe even both. Now it’s time to select the right glass (and not a plastic cup).
It’s been said that the coupe, the first Champagne glass shape, was produced in the 18th century and modeled on the French queen Marie Antoinette’s left breast. In actuality, the coupe glass was designed especially for Champagne in England in 1663 as a means to get people to buy new sets of glassware for the ever popular elegant wine Champagne.
Although during that time the shallow coupes were considered elegant, the shape actually dissipates the bubbles. In fact, this is exactly what the sophisticated ladies of the time wanted—to not burp in public. They’d even use a glass stick to break down the bubbles. What a pity because the pearls are a significant part of Champagne enjoyment.
Flute or Tulip
Fast forward to today when we want to keep the sparkle in sparkling wine. The flute design is better at preserving bubbles and aromas than the coupe, and comes in various forms—elongated, slightly inwardly curved at the rim, straight-sided, “V” shaped and with a wide mouth.
Flute haters (yes, they do exist) say a flute is too narrow to capture aromas, so an enlarged tulip glass is favored by the wine professionals. Like a flower, some balloon out at the base and turn in at the top; others turn in at the top and then flare out a bit.
Whether you choose a breast, elongated, or flower-shaped glass, it will be so much better than a plastic cup. Pick a shape you like and then get ready to chill, cork, and pour.
Aeolus, Zeus, Poseidon, and Ouzo
Day 4 in Greece is not as I had envisioned it. I had imagined waking up on the island of Poros to sunshine, not wind, rain and cloudy skies. I imagined at least getting my feet wet in the gorgeous clear waters of the Saronic Gulf island, but Aeolus, Zeus, and Poseidon, Greek gods of weather had masterminded something else—a trip to an Ouzeri to drink Ouzo. We finished our tea on the balcony overlooking Askeli Bay. Despite the unforgiving weather, the views of the bay and surrounding mountains were outstanding. Especially today since several yachts were lining up for a regatta.
I put on the lightweight down coat I had purchased the previous day in Athens since I hadn’t properly prepped for travel. What a lifesaver considering the cold weather. My oh my, what activity could save us in these chilly temperatures? How about viewing the parade to mark the Greek national holiday—a celebration of the beginning of World War II? Still trying to figure that out!
The walk into Poros (a Greek island only a 45-minute ferry ride from Athens) is mainly downhill. The curves can be a bit daunting as the occasional car or motor bike drivers hug the road causing us walking-folk slight anxiety as we approached them head on. I felt safer as the seemingly orphaned dogs walked along our side running and barking after the drivers.
After 15 minutes we reached the center of Poros to view the festivities—classic pomp and circumstance between the city officials and military representatives, ending with the parade of school children marching down the dockside street to cheers from proud parents, locals, and visitors. It’s simple and uncomplicated, just like Poros.
The best view of the parade was from the Porto Café, directly across where the ferries land. It’s the perfect place to chill watching life slowly pass by as you wait for a cup of coffee or a glass of Greek wine while. We’re not ready for Greek wine just yet, we’re off to an Ouzeri.
In Greece, locals drink Ouzo with their mezedes (Greek appetizers) at an Ouzeri or taverna and boy do they drink a lot of it thanks to a heavenly activity. Around the 14th century monks living in a monastery on Mount Athos started distilling Ouzo. The national drink increasing became more popular and in 2006 the Greek government gained exclusive rights to the name. Therefore, if it’s not made in Greece, it can’t be called Ouzo.
As the sound of the ferry boat intensified, so did the stench of its diesel fumes. The boat wobbles to the dock and the captain graciously held out his calloused hands to help the passengers onto stable land.
As the boat continuously rocked back and forth, so did my nerves. Poros to Galatas is just a five-minute ferry ride but the thought of a small fishing boat taking me across waters to the Ouzeri, made me a bit squeamish. You see, I’m not an alcohol drinker, but the thought of visiting an Ouzeri sounded intriguing.
Before boarding, I looked disappointingly up at the dramatic grey skies and the ferry boat driver says “Tomorrow the sun will shine.” I answer, “Today I will drink Ouzo.” He replies, “Then today the sun will shine.”
On this national holiday, Galatas’ waterfront restaurants and cafes were pretty dead, but we continued to walk through town until we reached the Ouzeri. I figured we were close because the seemingly uninhabited town became alive with laughter, hooting, and hollering. Could those sounds be due to a Greek soccer match playing on television? Perhaps the emotions from Ouzo consumption were coming out of the local town folk? It was in fact both.
We placed our order and in no time a small bottle of clear liquid arrives along with a bowl of ice cubes, glasses, and water. I felt cheated receiving a tiny bottle, but became alarmed as the neighbor table of eight adults consumed one tiny bottle amongst them. Oh no, I think we’re in for trouble.
Could there be a science to drinking Ouzo aside from taking your time and consuming lots of mezedes? Well yes, because when mixing Ouzo with water it turns opaque and whitish. That’s because the anise oil dissolves and becomes invisible when mixed with a conventional alcohol content, but as soon as the alcohol content is reduced, the essential oils transform into white crystals, which you can’t see through. Bet you didn’t learn that is science class.
Seated amongst the locals, we slowly sipped Greece’s national drink which is made from a precise combination of pressed grapes and herbs and berries including aniseed, licorice, mint, wintergreen, fennel and hazelnut. Ouzo tastes medicinal and familiar. I think my mom gave me cough medicine that tasted like Ouzo. Wait, maybe it was Ouzo!
As the milky-colored drink tantalized our taste buds, so did the array of mezedes we ordered. Yummy anchovy fritters (Gavrokeftedes), pickled octopus (Htapodi xidato), fried squid (Kalamaria tiganita), oregano fries, and my all-time favorite fried cheese (Saganaki) surronded our tiny bottle of Ouzo.
With a 45% alcohol content Ouzo is powerful but not as powerful as the views of Poros from Galatas. Your eyes are drawn to the towering historic clock, the colorful blend of neo-classical homes, tavernas, and yachts. As my eyes drifted and the skies brightened, I think saw Aeolus, Zeus, and Poseidon or was the Ouzo speaking to me?