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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, December 29, 2018 1:00 am

Before popping that cork, heed Champagne tips

Elin McCoy | Bloomberg

This is peak Champagne season, when holiday revelers start thinking bubbles and obsessing over buying and drinking fizz.

U.K.-based marketing company Wine Intelligence just released a report that estimates 45 million Americans partake in sparkling wine annually-and some of them drink bubbly only during the holidays.

Of course, not all of that is expensive Champagne. But if you're not going to splash out a little more for effervescence around New Year's Eve, when will you?

Join the party. Just make sure you're doing it right.

• You're fooled by flash and familiar names. Most Champagne is the less-expensive nonvintage stuff that blends vintages to achieve a consistent taste and style. But you'll almost always get more bang for your buck by picking a bottle with a vintage date on it. (Krug Grande Cuve is one exception.)

• You're buying just a couple of bottles. Buy a case or two. Demand for Champagne skyrockets during holiday season, but at the same time prices drop sharply. A few years ago, Fivethirtyeight.com estimated the average price of a bottle was 18 percent lower at holiday time than during an average week.

• You're getting regular-size bottles for a party. If you plan to entertain more than four people, spring for magnums (the equivalent of two regular bottles).

• You're storing Champagne in the refrigerator. A refrigerator is not some wine-preserving cryogenic chamber. Three or four days in a food fridge before popping the cork is fine, says Mot & Chandon's wine quality manager, but the conditions are too cold and too dry for longer-term storage.

In general, take the bottle out about 15 minutes before serving. The ideal temperature is 47 degrees to 50 degrees.

• You're casual about opening the bottle. The pressure in a Champagne bottle (because of the bubbles) can shoot out a cork at nearly 25 mph.

Remove them properly, the way the pros do. First, take off the wire cage over the cork. Tilt the bottle so it's pointing away from anyone and put a towel over the top. Grab the top of the cork with one hand while you twist the bottle with the other until the cork starts to loosen and gently pops out. Pour slowly, so the bubbles don't overflow the glass. And don't you dare shake before opening.

• You're trying to cork up leftover Champagne. Or worse, you're wrapping the top of the bottle with Saran wrap. Have some pride! Instead, invest in a proper Champagne stopper with a tight seal that will keep fizz from losing its bubbles for several days.