Here at The Manual, we talk often about things like beer and bourbon on this site, in addition to tons of other delights that start with the letter B (Bacon! Beards! Barbecue!). As well-rounded and well-educated gentlemen, it’s important to know about all types of things that start with the letter B. We aren’t talking about any of those things this time, though. In this case, we’re talking about bottles of Champagne. (Was that a stretch? Oh, 100%. Do we care? No. Why? Because booze.)
You never know where a night will take you. Sure, you might end up pouring drams of cask-strength Scotch whisky for your buddies while sitting around a fire, but you might also end up somewhere in a tux, expected to be able to serve and enjoy a nice bottle of bubbly.
If your modus operandi for opening Champagne has been to point the bottle away from your face and see how far you can pop the cork, well, we’ve got some news for you: That isn’t the best way to serve up sparkling wine. In addition to possibly shooting your or someone else’s eye out, it’s almost a waste of good wine. Shocking, we know.
Luckily for you, we sat down with master sommelier Brahm Callahan to find out everything you need to know about serving Champagne. 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.
How to Open a Champagne Bottle
As we mentioned above, popping the cork is not the best way to do it. Instead, follow these steps:
- First, loosen to cage around the cork.
- Next, 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.
- Finally, 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.
If you want to get fancy, you can always try sabering the bottle.
The Correct Temperature for Champagne
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 its enemy; the colder a wine is the more you can hide its flaws, the warmer it is the more it shows its 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.
Pouring and Pairing Champagne
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 wholeheartedly 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.
Article first published by Amanda Gabriele on May 4, 2015. Last updated by Sam Slaughter.
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