It is the drink of the Gods and definitely my choice always! Belgians LOVE their bubbly, we “out drink” the French even. We don’t only pop a bottle cause it is the festive season, we ( meaning I) also do so because it’s Friday. I read this summer a New York Times bestseller from a few years back: The Widow Cliquot ( by Tillar Mazzeo, click HERE ) and was enchanted to read if it was not for her tenacity and amazing leadership, we would not enjoy champagne today as we know it.
CHAMPAGNE vs BUBBLES – to qualify and use the name champagne, the grapes and bottling has to happen in the Champagne region in the North of France. Any other sparkling wine can not use the name. Italy has their prosecco, Spain has their cava. Other regions in France like Bugundy and Alsace have what they call a cremant.
HOW TO STORE CHAMPAGNE – for ready to enjoy, store up to several weeks in a temperature controlled fridge and laid flat so the bottle can chill evenly. Avoid keeping champagne in a fridge you store food in as after a few months it is possible some of the food odors entering the cork and altering the taste of the champagne.
To store champagne longer, a wine cellar at 10 C to 12 C degrees with a humidity level of 60 -70 percent is perfect . The bottles can be store laid flat or upright, as long as the seal is intact the angle is of no concern for champagne. However keep the bottles in a dark place as champagne is very sensitive to light.
Champagne contrary to wine doe snot age well. It is at its best 2 years after his engorgement and is in decline after. Vintage champagnes bring out the complex flavour but are generally sold ready to drink.
HOW TO CHILL CHAMPAGNE FAST – Best way to cool an unopened bottle in 20 minutes time is submerge the bottle ( all the way up the neck) in a bucket with half ice half cold water. This will gradually chill the wine. It will remain cool for a hours if you keep adding ice.
Champagne should be chilled before serving but NEVER in the freezer. The recommended temperature is between 6 C and 9 C degrees. I ve my champagne fridge ( yep I have a fridge only for champagne) set for 5 C degrees as I like my champers cold.
HOW TO SERVE CHAMPAGNE – Etiquette say you should open a bottle of champagne with care and only have a slight sigh, but I love to hear that POP, it is a moment of joy! To open the bottle: carefully remove the wire muzzle and the foil cap from the cork, hold your hand over the cork to avoid spontaneous popping. Hold the bottle in your hands at a 45 degree angle, hold the cork and slowly turn the bottle . Pour the champagne directly above the glass and fill 2/3. Too little is sad, too much will ve the champers warm up to fast.
If for some unexplained reason you find yourself with champagne leftover in the bottle, use a champagne stopper with rubber seal and clips to keep the bubbles intact. No metal spoon will do the trick.
The right glass is important! Now you will be surprised to read this but nor the flute nor the coupe are the correct glass to enjoy the bouquet and stimulate bubbles, it is a tulip shape glass. I however really LOVE a coupe and generally drink it that way. To savour an amazing vintage champagne I will use a tulip shaped glass.
HOW TO PAIR CHAMPAGNE WITH FOOD – start off your meal with a glass of champagne as it opens the appetite and sets the festive mood.
Brut drink with appetizers, caviar, oysters, lobster, a cheese plate ⇒ you need a dry champagne to match the power.
Blancs de Blanc drink with fresh water fish like trout cooked in a butter sauce. Also desserts with yellow fruit like peaches and mango.
Blancs de Noir drink with salt water fish like sea bass and sole and roasted poultry.
Vintage champagne drink with foie gras ( duck or goose liver), meat terrines, veal, ham , pork and charcuterie. Also anything with truffles or sour cream will excel with an older vintage ⇒ it will bring out the creaminess and silkiness.
Rosé champagne drink with poultry with a mushrooms sauce, beef and lamb. Stews are great with rosé as well. Of course also any dessert with red fruit and berries.
Demi sec drink with Chinese and Thai food and with chocolate desserts ⇒ balances out flavours
Most importantly, to sum it up : serve it chilled and enjoy!
Written and photographed by Sandra Slawinski without commercial deals.