Monday, December 10, 2007

Champagne 101

Nothing says "happy holidays" better than the cheerful pop of a champagne cork. From brunch to dinner to way-past-midnight parties, champagne is one of the wine world's most versatile and most universally loved performers, perfect for the holiday season's variety of gatherings. And despite its traditional association with luxury, today's market offers many fine options for under $25 a bottle.

The sales associates at your local wine shop or liquor store—and even at some finer grocery stores—will be happy to help you find a champagne to fit your taste, your menu, and your budget. Once you get it home, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your bubbly:

  • Storing: As champagne is more sensitive to light and heat than still wines (hence the thick green glass it's bottled in), store it in a cool, dark place, either standing up or on its side.

  • Chilling: Champagne should be served chilled, but not too cold, ideally between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. To chill a bottle quickly, place it in a bucket filled with ice, water, and a dash of salt for about 20 minutes. Never chill champagne in the freezer.

  • Opening: First, carefully remove the foil wrapping and the wire cage. Cover the cork with a towel and grasp it firmly with one hand, then with the other hand, turn the bottle slowly and let the cork gently slide out.

  • Serving: Serve champagne in tulip-shaped flutes, which are ideal for preserving bubbles as well as aroma. To minimize foaming during the pour, tilt the glass slightly and pour slowly into the side.

(Hat tip: Novus Vinum)
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