French fashion designer, Coco Chanel, said she only drank champagne on two occasions, when she was in love and when she was not.
We couldn’t agree more, and we applaud Miss Chanel for her superb frame of mind. After all, as American novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald rightly said: “too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right”.
A crisp glass of bubbly served at a perfect eight to ten degrees Celsius and in the appropriate glass (yes, some people do commit the unspeakable atrocity of serving bubbles in a wine glass!) lavishes classy refreshment on a hot summer’s day; it invigorates the soul and fills your veins with unimaginable zest.
Thirst quenching and fit for any occasion or time of day (even breakfast), champagne is like a sophisticated beer for the ladies – one of those elegant extras in life without which our existence would be oh so beige.
Champagne vs Sparkling Wine, It’s a French Thing.
But, before we go any further, we have to address the small but significant matter of right to the name “Champagne”.
Although sparkling wine is produced all over the world, legally the use of the name “Champagne” is reserved exclusively for sparkling wines originating from the Champagne region in France and made in accordance with Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne regulations.
You’re probably well acquainted with unquestionably authentic French Champagne’s like Moët & Chandon, Vevue Cliquot, Tattinger, G.H. Mumm, Bollinger, and Dom Pérignon.
These and many others are produced in the Champagne region in the traditional Méthode Champenoise and are legitimately named Champagne.
What is the Difference Between Sparkling Wine and Champagne?
South African sparkling wines made in the exact same traditional French method are referred to as Methode Cap Classique and should therefore be spoken of as MCC and not Champagne.
According to the Cap Classique Producers Association (established in 1992 to promote South Africa’s premium Cap Classique wines), all the serious producers of Cap Classiques are members of the Association, and they share a common objective of cultural and educational community upliftment – a good reason to support local!
With the Association fixated on constantly improving quality standards and establishing technical criteria and the organoleptic approval of base wines, our locally produced Cap Classiques are of exceptional quality and value for money. Call me whatever you want, but call me.
We confidently recommend stocking your wine cooler with locally produced gems like Pierre Jordaan Burt or Belle Rosé, Graham Beck Brut or Brut Rosé, Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut or Rosé and Pongracz Brut, Rosé or Noble Nectar for the sweeter pallet.
Since Champagne was associated with royalty in the early days and today still is considered a quintessential drink of class, mastering the art of serving Champagne is a salient requirement.
Champagne is like revenge, best served cold.
Just like roast chicken is best served hot and ice cream should remain frozen, so too Champagne and all other sparkling wines have to be served at the recommended temperature of eight to ten degrees Celsius.
Below eight degrees is too cold and numbs the taste buds, making it difficult to detect the aromas while if served above ten degrees Celsius, the golden nectar appears “heavier” and less bright.
Do You Pre-cool Champagne or not?
While it might seem like a good idea, Champagne must never be served in pre-cooled glasses or chilled in the freezer. The correct method of cooling is to store in a wine cooler at the correct temperature.
How Do You Serve Champagne?
To ensure optimal effervescence and development of the bouquet, Champagne must always be served in tall tulip glasses that have been rinsed with hot water and left to dry and cool off naturally. Any soap residue can cause the bubbles to go flat – no-thank you!
Open With Care
Bottles should be opened with care as freshness is its very nature. The first step is to carefully loosen and remove the wire cage and foil wrapping. Then, tilt the bottle safely away from your face and hold the cork with one hand while gently turning the bottle with the other. Be patient and let the cork slowly side out without popping.
Open With Style
To exponentially up the fun factor at your next dinner party, why not try your hand at sabrage?
It is quite fun to do and hugely entertaining for guests to witness their host sliding a sabre along the body of a Champagne bottle to break the top of the neck away, leaving the neck of the bottle open and ready to pour. Just be sure to point the bottle away from your face and away from guests to avoid a trip to the emergency room.
Pour With Ease
Once the bottle is open and the bubbles are reeling to fill the glasses, it is time to slowly pour into a tilted glass, giving the bubbles time to set as you pour and stopping once the glass is two thirds full.
Always hold the bottle by the base – never the neck. American novelist, Mark Twain said it best: “One holds a bottle of red wine by the neck, a woman by the waist and a bottle of Champagne by the derrière”.
The festivities are just around the corner
With Christmas and New Year just around the corner, there’s no harm in stock piling before the Festive madness. Stocking up now will also ease the burden on the Festive budget).
Although Champagne is ready for drinking upon release, it can last several years if stored in a cool, dark, draft-free place, devoid of excessive vibrations, like a high-end wine cooler that satisfies all these requirements and mimics cellar conditions.