There’s no better time than Christmas and New Year to enjoy the magic of Champagne! Here are my 5 top tips to make sure your champagnes are enjoyed in the best possible way.
1. Display them in a beautiful ice bucket
You have probably spent a lot of time making your selection, and more time and effort on setting a beautiful table, so why not make the champagne the centre piece with a beautiful ice bucket. Try freezing some flower buds in ice-cube trays for added effect.
2. Make sure it is properly chilled
Non-vintage champagne should be served at about 8 – 10ºC and Vintage champagne slightly warmer at 10 – 12ºC to allow their intricate flavours to best be expressed. Chill bottles for 2 – 3 hours in the refrigerator, or put a mixture of half water half ice in an ice bucket and place the bottles in there for 20 – 30 minutes.
Contrary to popular belief, champagne will not be ruined if put in the freezer – however, be careful not to leave it too long (not more than 30 minutes) or the bottle my shatter.
It is best not to store champagne in the refrigerator longer than the time it takes to chill it, because the cold air can dry out the cork, and the flavours in the bottle may become tainted.
Nothing gets a party started like sabring a bottle of champagne! Make sure that you know what you are doing, and you have plenty of people free space for at least 5 metres in front of you. Never point an uncorked bottle of champagne with the cage off in the direction of anyone. And remember – the bottle once cut is very sharp! For some tips on The Art of Sabrage, click here.
4. Choose the right glasses
Champagne is best enjoyed in tall tulip shaped flutes for enhancing the champagne tasting experience. This shape is wide enough at the bottom to open up the wine and reveal the flavour, narrow enough near the top to concentrate the flavours to the nose and tall enough to allow the bubbles to rise. The glass needs to also be a very fine quality, clear glass to allow the drinker to fully appreciate the spiralling ascent of the bubbles and display the mousse.
For complex older champagnes, a wider glass that curves back in towards the top is better, and it should only be filled about half way. The small, slow bubbles of aged champagne deliver the aromas slowly in the wide part of the glass, and by not filling it too much, there is time for the complexity to develop as the bubbles rise up. The aromas are trapped in the space at the top of the glass, allowing the drinker maximum pleasure.
5. Look others in the eye when you clink!
There are many theories of how the tradition of clinking glasses came about. One of the most likely stems back from the days when poisoning was a common threat. Back then people would intentionally pour some of their drink in the other person’s cup (and vice-versa) in order to test whether or not poison was present. If you trusted your drinking partner, however, instead of sharing liquids, you would just clink your glass against theirs to let them know, while looking at them straight in the eye. So it represents trust and friendship.
These days it is often considered rude not to look into someone’s eyes as you clink, or more frighteningly, if urban mythology is to be believed, cause all kids of bad luck such as seven years bad sex!