Brush Up Before You Toast the New Year With Champagne 101

When you begin planning your toast to the New Year, don’t let the drink of the evening be a last minute thought. Ring in 2014 with a classic that will surely promise just the right touch for a celebration that only comes once each year.

If you have never served champagne at a function before or simply wish to brush up on your champagne skills, begin here.

Champagne Facts:

-Champagne is a kind of sparkling wine.

-According to international agreement, it’s only champagne if it comes from Champagne, France.

-Most champagne is a cuvee, or blend, of three wine grapes: Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, and Chardonnay.

-Non-vintage champagne indicates that multiple years worth of grapes are utilized in the production of that particular champagne.

-Vintage champagne is comprised entirely of a single kind of grape from a single year’s crop.

-Prestige cuvee is considered a producer’s top champagne blend.

-Blanc de noirs, which literally means the “white of blacks” is champagne produced entirely from black grapes.

-Blanc de blancs means the opposite of blanc de noir: White from whites. This champagne is made exclusively from either Chardonnay grapes or Pinot Blanc.

-All champagnes are white because the skins are removed from the juice during the fermentation process. Some are made rosé by adding a small amount of red wine to the blend.

How to Pour Champagne:

When you uncork the bottle, do so with a firm grip or place a rag over the cork to avoid any airborne cork issues. The cork will be under tremendous pressure from the expansion of the carbonated drink, so removing it quickly can not only launch it, it can also lead to the wine spraying. When you begin to pour, do so slowly and allow for the bubbles to dissipate between pours to avoid any overflow.

Proper Champagne Temperature:

Champagne should be served between 39 and 48 degrees F. For specific temperature requirements of your favorite champagne, seek information directly from the producer. If you are in a hurry and must bring a bottle down to temperature quickly, place your bottle in an ice bucket with an even ice to water ratio.

Proper Champagne Stemware:

There are many potential options when it comes to champagne stemware but there are only a few I would advise considering: The flute, tulip, and, in some rare cases, the coupe.

Champagne Stemware

Champagne Flutes:

The flute is designed with a long stem and elongated, narrow bowl. This design is key to maintaining the signature bubbles in the champagne. By reducing the surface area of the liquid, the bubbles dissipate more slowly. The long stem also keeps the drinker from warming the liquid while enjoying it. This is your go-to champagne serving vessel.

Tulip Champagne Glasses:

Tulip champagne glasses, similar to the flute, have the long stem and bowl with one distinct difference in the bowl’s shape. Though long to maintain the bubbles, the midpoint of the bowl bells out to a point wider than the rim. This allows for proper swirling and enjoyment of the wine’s aroma without compromising the carbonation. This version of stemware is ideal in the event that you wish to properly detect the delicate aromas of a certain vintage. No need to utilize this kind of stemware for a quick toast or casual sipping.

Champagne Coupe:

The champagne coupe, also know as the champagne saucer, is a shallow vessel no longer commonly used for enjoying modern champagnes. Popular in the 1930s through the 1960s, the coupe was used to serve sweeter, less delicate champagnes. Today, the glass is viewed as inferior to the flute or tulip because of its broad-bowl design that contributes to a rapid loss of carbonation. I would only suggest this vessel for looks. If you wish to recreate the days of Marilyn Monroe, go for it, but it’s likely your bubbly will be not-so-bubbly before you have a chance to enjoy.

Wishing you the very best 2014!

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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