It’s New Year’s Eve – time to break out the bubbly. But before you start clinking stems and singing Ne-Yo’s “Champagne Life” at the top of your lungs, consider these new rules for Champagne.
Firstly, don’t feel like you have drink Champagne from a flute. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. “It looks gorgeous and shows off the artsy side, but it doesn’t allow you to absorb the aromas,” says Charles Ford, sommelier of RM Champagne Salon in Chicago, who recommends drinking out of a wider, bowl-shaped Burgundy glass. “The more oxygen the wine sees, the better. Allowing a bubbly to grab on to that much oxygen opens it up and loosens it up.”
Though Champagne should always be served cold, it can be too frosty. According to Kimberly Prokoshyn, head sommelier of Rebelle in New York City, the ideal temperature is 47-49 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure the drinker can appreciate the wine’s nose and full flavor profile.
While celebrants love popping the cork, “that’s not good for the wine,” says Ford. “You want the built-up gas to come out slowly, so the cork should come off with a whisper. The more a bottle gets shaken up, the worse it is for the Champagne. It will lose its effervescence quicker, and it fluctuates the flavor.”
Going one step further, some enjoy sabering off the cork for a showy presentation. “It’s super cool,” admits Brent Kroll, general manager of Proof in Washington, D.C. “However, if you get a faulty glass bottle, it could explode and hurt you or someone else. And there’s nothing cool about holding a broken bottle while being soaked.”
The biggest no-no is calling wine Champagne when it’s made outside of Champagne, France. “Anything else is not quite Champagne,” says Ford. “Even a top-notch Italian sparkling wine can’t quite get there.”
As far as what to drink this New Year’s Eve, Ford has a couple of suggestions. If you’re on a budget, buy a bottle of Domaine André et Mireille Tissot Crémant de Jura Rosé, a blend of Pinot Noir, Poulsard, and Trousseau. Have the urge to splurge? He recommends Jérôme Prévost Champagne la Closerie “Les Beguines.” “You’re lucky to drink this tasty treat when you can,” he says.
Looking into the next year, Prokoshyn bets on a growing interest in grower Champagnes, which are crafted by grape farmers and their families. Ford agrees. “These little growers got overshadowed for a long time, but now they’re getting the spotlight,” he says. “And it’s cheaper than Champagne from the big houses.”
Kroll predicts drinkers will gravitate toward brut nature Champagne. “As dry as possible,” he says. “I love it with oysters in a half shell or things with brine because it’s lean and austere.”
No matter what, expect plenty of bubbles in 2017. “Champagne never goes out of style,” says Ford.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Courtesy of RM Champagne Salon, taken by Madeline Northway.