No matter how much we talk about beer or bourbon at The Manual, as a well-rounded gentleman, it’s important to know about all types of booze. You never know where a night will take you. Sure, you might end up pouring drams of cask-strength Scotch whisky, but you might also end up somewhere in a tux, expected to be able to serve and enjoy a nice bottle of bubbly.
If you’re modus operandi for serving opening Champagne has been to point the bottle away from your face and see how far you can shoot the cork, well, we’ve got some news for you: That isn’t the best way to serve up the sparkling.
Shocking, we know.
Luckily for you, we sat down with master sommelier Brahm Callahan to find out everything you need to know about all types of sparkling wines. Callahan is the corporate beverage director of Himmel Hospitality group in Boston, which includes Grill 23 & Bar (a restaurant that has over 1900 wine selections alone), Harvest (in Cambridge, Massachusetts), and Post 390.
First? Knowing how to open the bottle. As we mentioned above, popping the cork is not the best way to do it. Instead, first you must loosen to cage around the cork. Then, hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from you with the cork and the cage in one hand and the bottom of the bottle in the other. Turn the bottom of the bottle, while applying slight pressure to the cork and cage. Soon, the cork will come out with the slightest hiss and very little (if any at all) spilled wine.
When it comes to the temperature of the wine you’ve just opened, Callahan says your choice should be based on two things: preference and making sure the wine shows best.
“Temperature is a wine’s best friend or it’s enemy; the colder a wine is the more you can hide its flaws, the warmer it is the more it shows it’s true expression. This can be a good thing if you are drinking great Champagne, but not so much if you are drinking a room-temp, $8 bottle of Prosecco,” he says.
Shooting for between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit is a good range. When it comes to cheaper stuff, which is made by the Charmat (otherwise known as the “Italian” or “Tank”) method, Callahan says the colder the better.
As for what glass to use, there is also some debate here (again coming down to personal preference, but since Callahan’s the expert, we’re siding with him). A Champagne flute — which most of us probably use when enjoying sparkling wine of any sort — helps keep all the bubbles, but can allegedly mute the subtleties in a great wine. Callahan’s personal preference is a white wine glass.
Once it’s time to pour, Callahan says that you shouldn’t be afraid to pair Champagne with various parts of the meal, not just save it for a toast. “The range of styles, grapes, and sweetness levels means that you can drink a different style and profile of wine with every course,” he says.
(One of our favorite pairings? Fried chicken and sparkling wine. Try it. It’ll change your life.)
Finally, what happens when you’re done? While you can find stoppers that seal the bottle, the best bet, Callahan says, is to drink it all. “As soon as you open it, the wine starts to oxidize and it will go flat — even with a stopper — after a few days. I suggest just making a friend and finishing the bottle,” he says. We whole-heartedly agree.
There you have it. Next time you’ve got a bottle of bubbly in front of you, there will be no need to worry that you’re going to screw something up. You can now serve and enjoy the finest Champagnes in the world with confidence.
First published on May 4, 2015 by Amanda Gabriele. Last updated by Sam Slaughter on November 29, 2017.