How to Open a Bottle of Champagne

how-to-open-a-bottle-of-champagne

A bottle of bubbly is the height of sophistication, but to put a twist to a great quote of our generation- with great style comes great responsibility. Being properly able to open a bottle of champagne is an art and fumbling at it will dissolve all your good reputation of charismatic host. In fact, a faux pas in opening this drink may be considered a travesty in some circles. So before you introduce this gem of your alcohol collection, learn a trick or two to do justice to the hundred dollar bottle.

The Proper Way

There are actually not many variations of the normal, proper way of opening a bottle of bubbly, even though hosts often try to alter the steps to wow their guests. But if you are of the more traditional mold, here are the steps to follow:

Make sure the champagne is chilled and calm. There is usually a gold foil wrapped around the cork of the bottle. Tease it out and remove the foil.

Keep the cork pointed away from you (and unsuspecting guests) so that it doesn’t pop out and take out someone’s eye.

You will see a wire frame over the cork which is intended to prevent accidental uncorking, which may occur due to pressure build-up. Loosen the cage and undo it. Also, keep a thumb firmly over the cork to prevent unpleasant surprises.

Put a towel over the cork. Now holding the cork stationary, gently turn the bottle by holding the base. In this way, you get to ease the cork off instead of popping it out. This is definitely less theatrical than popping the cork out, followed by a generous gush of champagne, but it does not waste any of the golden liquid.

Pour the champagne quickly into glasses, but make sure you pour it gently by the side and not splash it down. This way you will not lose the bubbles.

After pouring into each glass, do a quick turn of the bottle a bit to catch the liquid dripping down the lip of the bottle.

Sabrage

This is a tradition of opening a champagne bottle with a sword or a knife and it originated in France in the era of Napoleon. It is a widely popular party trick and is one of the coolest ways to open a champagne bottle. But unlike the popular opinion, it does not require great skill nor is it highly dangerous. Well, not unless you are doing it way wrong. Here’s the how-to:

Remove the foil.

Run a finger below the lip of the bottle and you will find a seam because champagne bottles are made of two pieces of glass.

Slide the dull edge of the knife on the seam from bottom.

In one fluid and mildly forceful motion, slide the knife from the bottom to the neck and pop. If you hold the bottle in a forty five degree angle, there will be little spill and there is no glass breakage.

So there you have, a proper way and a fun way to open a champagne bottle.

Champagne Bottle Sizes

champagne-bottle-sizesIt is always a wonderfully relaxing experience to enjoy a flavorful glass of champagne alone or with one of your favorite meals. There are many things that contribute to your enjoyment of champagne. One of those things is the way in which champagne is fermented.

The Process

The initial process of making champagne is similar to that of making most wines. Grapes are picked and fermented. A second process takes place inside the champagne bottle. Yeast and sugars are added to the fermented grapes and the combination is stored inside the champagne bottle to undergo the second fermenting process (aging). It is during this process that the size of the champagne bottle can have a effect on the quality and taste of champagne that is produced.

Champagne bottle sizes

The size of champagne bottles began to vary in the 1700s. As the sizes of bottles varied it was discovered that larger bottles have to have a few advantages to the smaller champagne bottle sizes. Aesthetically, the larger bottles seem to be more appealing to champagne drinkers. The larger bottles allow for better aging of the champagne. The different sizes of champagne bottles each have a different name with a different meaning. The list of champagne bottle names follows:

Piccolo means small. It is the smallest size of champagne bottle that you will find. It holds one tulip of champagne.

Demi is a 375 ml bottle for champagne. You will be able to pour at least 3 flute glasses of champagne.

Bottle is the standard sized bottle from which you will enjoy 6 glasses of champagne.

Magnum means “great” in Latin. It is seen by the producers of champagne as a “great” bottle to use to age champagne. You will enjoy at least 12 glasses of champagne from the Magnum.

Jeroboam holds about 24 glasses of champagne. The name comes from the first king who ruled the Northern Kingdom in Israel. The name means, “he increases the people”.

Rehoboam is also named after a king who, during the 10th Century BC, ruled over the Kingdom of Judah. The name means, “he who enlarges the people”. This bottle contains 36 glasses of champagne.

Methuselah is named after a person of the Bible who is said to have lived longer than any other person. This bottle contains 64 glasses of champagne.

Salmanazar holds a total of 72 glasses of champagne which is equal to about 12 bottles of champagne. The name is a combination of names from five different Assyrian kings.

Balthazar holds 96 glasses of champagne, approximately 16 bottles. Named after an Arabian King who was present after the birth of Jesus and presented him with gifts.

Nebuchadnezzar contains 120 glasses of champagne. It is named for one of the most powerful kings of Babylon.

Solomon is a rare bottle of champagne. It is usually only found in champagne houses in France. The amount of champagne this bottle contains is debatable, however the popular amount accepted is 144 glasses of champagne.

Sovereign holds 34 bottles of champagne.

Primat contains the equivalent of 36 bottles of champagne and weighs about 143 pounds.

Melchizedek, the final bottle of champagne, contains 40 bottles of champagne.

How Champagne Flavors are Categorized

how-champagne-flavors-are-categorizedChampagne is an oft-misunderstood beverage. The processes by which it is formed, its taste, and even its naming conventions can baffle even a seasoned wine aficionado. While champagne may mystify experienced imbibers and practiced gourmands alike, the basics behind how it is classified are quite simple to understand.

Just as many types of wine are categorized by their flavor profiles, champagnes too are often classified according to how they taste. All champagnes can be categorized according to their level of dryness. This quality is inversely related to sugar content and corresponding sweetness. This means that less sweet champagnes are invariably drier than sweeter varieties. Wine connoisseurs, it must be said, tend to value the sophistication of drier varieties over the simple pleasures of sweet champagnes.

Whether you are carefully selecting a champagne for a celebration, or simply trying to find the one most suitable for your weekday meal, you can use the following categories to guide your purchase:

  •     Doux
  •     Demi-sec
  •     Dry
  •     Extra Dry
  •     Brut
  •     Extra Brut

If you were seeking a sweet, sugary champagne, you would do well to purchase a Doux or Demi-sec variety. These sorts of champagnes pair well with fruits and desserts. Their natural sweetness can harmonize well with either and provide your guests with a satisfyingly sweet conclusion to their meals. In addition, if you are feeling bold, you can successfully pair a Doux or Demi-sec with a salty dish. The natural sweetness of these champagnes complements the salty flavors in Asian and Latin American dishes, further enlivening them on the palate.

Extra Brut and Brut (pronounced “broot“) are dry varieties and tend to pair better with entrees and cheeses than do Doux and Demi-sec champagnes. Extra Brut champagnes function best as aperitifs. They are best served before a meal when their natural tartness and astringency can be used to stimulate the appetite. Brut champagne, which has a crisp, bracing dryness leavened with subtly sugary notes, is the most popular of all champagne varieties. It is versatile and can accompany either entrees or desserts successfully. Extra Brut and Brut champagnes can, in fact, make admirable accompaniments to subtly sweet desserts. They make excellent companions to desserts containing dark and semi-sweet chocolate, as well as fruit-based sweets.

While champagnes are commonly classified according to the dryness-sweetness scale outlined above, there are a range of characteristics you can you use to help you select just the right champagne for any occasion. All champagnes can reasonably be said to possess apple, pear, citrus, cream, vanilla, and nutty notes in their flavor profiles. Generally, however, fruitier notes tend to prevail in New World champagnes while their Old World opposites feature creamy, yeasty and nut-like flavors. Old World varieties are often more subtle, while New World champagnes can possess a forward and assertive sweetness that makes them suitable as dessert wines or for celebrations.

Champagne has an undeserved reputation for unsophistication. It is irreducibly associated with sweetness and, as a result, often paired only with foods complementing this dimension of its often complex flavor profile. Champagne is typically paired with chocolates, fruits, and cheese and while these pairings are not misguided they do tend to foreground only one aspect of the beverage’s multifaceted personality. Champagne, if selected carefully, can be paired with many different food items.  It is neither less sophisticated nor less versatile than wine. One needs only to understand its flavor spectrum to incorporate it into any occasion.

Has the California Drought Burst Your Bubbles?

Have a glass of your favorite sparkling wine in hand? Good – savor every drop. Drought and Farming have never been a good word combination, and with California in the midst of one of the worst droughts in the century we should all do a little rain dance for our favorite wine growers and makers. Here’s the good news: the overseas market is so competitive that most wine makers and purveyors won’t be able to raise their prices much at all without the risk of losing customers.

The bad news? If crop yields continue to decline as the result of the drought, some of your favorite vineyards may go out of business. That’s not good for any of us, especially since the first ones to go are the smaller family-run and boutique vineyards that help to keep the wine industry exciting.

California Drought Shouldn’t Affect Your Bubbly Anytime Soon but a Little Rain Would be Nice

Here’s the reality – some vineyards are drying up, others are faring a little better. In an article on wine-searcher.com, Lake County vineyard owner and manager David Weiss said, “I’ve been growing grapes for 20 years, and we haven’t seen anything like this. If we don’t get significant rainfall between now and bud break, the vines are going to suffer.” Growing grapes requires quite a bit of water. In a drought year, the water table shrinks significantly and some wells will actually dry up, forcing grape growers to buy their water, an incredibly expensive endeavor and one that gets agitated neighbors and community members pointing fingers.

“Wine is a luxury, it’s not a necessity,” said Rosemary Bourgault in an interview with Bloomberg’s James Nash. “I love wine. I love the industry,” commented Bourgault, “but we need to protect our water sources, not abuse them. Water is priceless.” This sentiment is one that is shared by many of the residents that live in areas that produce wine grapes. While that opinion is understandable, it’s difficult for long-time family wine growers, many of whom have grown grapes for five generations or more, to hear that their livelihood isn’t worth fighting for or worthy of community support.

Most wine experts agree that although this current drought will come to an end, more dry seasons will be upon us. Climate change predictors show that while areas like Napa’s wine growing regions may dry up, the climate in other areas will become more ripe for growing grapes (pun intended), and that brings a huge sigh of relief for those of us who love to drink sparkling wines.

How Will the Drought Affect California Sparkling Wine Consumers?

So the question remains: “How will the current drought affect California’s sparkling wine industry and its consumers?” Nobody can be 100% sure of the answer, only time and future grape harvests will tell. But here’s what the experts are predicting:

  • For this year, all signs point to a good harvest and that bodes well for the consumer. The drought and the heat have caused the harvest to commence a couple weeks early, but most of the crop yields are still within a desirable range, albeit smaller than previous years.
  • Winemakers will get smarter and more creative with the ways they irrigate, or don’t, and where they choose to grow their grapes. This should still yield large enough grape harvets to ensure sparkling wine prices won’t be affected in the near future.
  • We may see some delicious sparkling wines as a result of the drought. Did you know that forcing vines to grow longer, stronger roots to access water at deeper soil levels often yields a more robust and flavorful grape? 2014 and 2015 may produce some surprising award-winning sparkling wines.

For now, most farmers and wine aficionados are trying to maintain a positive outlook. Hopefully, a combination of creative growing practices and improved weather conditions will get the industry back on track. In the meantime, toasting your glass to a nice rain storm or two wouldn’t be the worst idea. Cheers!