With the end of Dry January in sight, Champagne might just be the perfect drink if you’ve been off the booze since New Years Eve. According to a study by the University of Reading, drinking one to three glasses of champagne a week can actually improve your brain health and prevent memory loss. Its also around just 90 calories a glass.
We asked chief bubbles connoisseur Francoise Peretti, Director of the Champagne Bureau UK for her tips on how to do it right. Bottoms up…
1. Forget the coupe
Contrary to everything you’ve been told about champagne etiquette, if you want to take full advantage of the taste of this delicate drink, choose a tulip-shaped glass with a wider base and slightly narrower at the top. This will release more of the aroma and allows the champagne to breathe, creating a fruitier, superior taste. Only ever serve at two thirds full (never to the rim). Drink at 8°C-10°C after 3-4 hours in the fridge or 30 minutes in a Champagne bucket filled with ice.
2. Don’t store it in your kitchen.
Chances are that unlike Marilyn Monroe (who once took a bath in a tub filled with 350 bottles of the stuff) you don’t have your own home cellar. But that doesn’t mean you have to make the common mistake of storing it in the kitchen by your oven, or out in the garage where it will freeze in winter and boil in summer. Keep your bottles at a constant room temperature somewhere else in the house or invest in a cabinet/conditioning storage such as a EuroCave which will ensure your Champagne bottles are kept in optimum conditions.
3. Learn how to open it
There are up to 6 different atmospheres, twice the pressure of a double decker tyre, in a bottle of champagne. So opening the bottle is a science. First, take off the foil, then untwist the wire cage, from this point keep your thumb firmly on the cork, twist the bottle – not the cork – anti-clockwise. The pressure will ease off the cork which will easily come off without wasting any of the precious liquid within.
4. Know how to taste
Ideally, you should take your time to enjoy the sensory pleasures one at a time. First you should enjoy the colour and the bubbles (sight), then the aromas (smell). Finally, and only once having done the others, you’re ready to taste it. Champagne is a versatile wine which can be served as an aperitif, with your food or as a stand-alone drink.
5. Pair it with seasonal ingredients
February, March and April are good months to enjoy Champagne with risottos, grain-based bowls and salads such as winter spelt, lentils, rice or/and quinoa as well as hearty and tasty pasta dishes and white fish such as cod, hake, halibut or seabass. Despite many people plumping for red wine with cheese, Champagne is surprisingly good when paired with goat or ewes such as Wigmore from Berkshire, Ticklemore from Devon, Innes log from Staffordshire or Berkswell from Warwickshire. If French or Italian cheeses are your thing, go for a young or aged Comté or Parmesan with your bubbles.
6. Learn how to choose it.
Champagne comes in a wide diversity of styles from Non-Vintage (a blend of several years) to Vintage (blend of wines from the same harvest) to Rosé to Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) to Blanc de Noirs (100% Pinot Noir and/or Meunier). If you’re after a lighter, lively style go for a Blanc de Blancs. After a dry January break one of these 100% chardonnay wines will ease you back and complement week-end breakfasts as well as lighter fish-based dinners. They will also cut through rich or fatty dishes.
7. Spot a good one.
There are around 49 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne. The smaller the bubbles, the better the quality. So look closely.
8. Invest in some glassware to enjoy it
Good glasses like those by Riedel Champagne Veritas do make a difference.
9. Know a couple of facts to impress your friends
The former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is said to have been served champagne every day at 11 am in a special one-pint bottle. He reportedly drank 42,000 bottles in his lifetime, whilst also running the county. Champagne also doubles up as boot polish. In the 19th century, members of English high society polished their boots with bubbly. Seems like a bit of a waste to us…