Everything You Need To Know About Drinking Champagne

Plus how to pour and serve with flair!

Updated on August 11, 2017 15:08 pm

Aaron Goldfarb

what and how you should drink champagne

For most folks, champagne remains a bit of a mystery. Sure, everyone drinks the good stuff at weddings and other momentous occasions, but aside from those random celebrations, the French sparkling wine is too often ignored. It’s thought of as too pricey, too snooty, too expensive and confusing to pick out, and even too difficult to open and pour.

The intoxicating bubbly need not be so inscrutable, though. Champagne is just as accessible as any other wine, if you have a little knowledge. What exactly differentiates champagne from other sparkling wines? Where does it come from? Believe it or not, most people don’t know that champagne is an actual French region! What glasses should you serve your champagne in? And how to best to serve it? Most importantly, this article will help you realise champagne need not only be served when there’s something worth toasting.

What exactly is it?

Champagne is always sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne. The taste is somewhat irrelevant; where and how it’s produced is the key. To officially be “champagne,” a sparkling wine must come from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France, some 100 miles east of Paris, in the most northern wine-producing area of the country—a land of chalky, limestone-rich soil.

infographic of when to drink sparkling wine

How to serve champagne

Unlike most wines, champagne is to be served cold, with a liquid temperature in the 43–48 °F range. That range is generally best for appreciating and enjoying a champagne’s aroma and flavors. A bottle can be chilled down either by placing it in the refrigerator for a few hours, or by placing it in a bucket of ice and water for a good 20 minutes. (If storing a bottle for an extended time period, keep in a cool cellar or room, unless you specifically have a wine refrigerator).

Also different from most wines is the cork situation. As champagne is sparkling and the contents of a bottle is under pressure, there was a need to create something to prevent cork blowouts. In 1844 Adolphe Jacquesson invented something called the muselet—sometimes referred to as a “cage” in America—to stop this problem. While early versions of the muselet were difficult to remove, today champagne has become one of the easiest (and most fun!) wines to open.

When opening a bottle, for safety purposes, point the neck of the bottle away from other people. Twist the wire clasp and slowly remove the muselet, exposing the cork. Now slowly ease the cork out of the bottle, keeping your thumb over it to prevent it popping out on its own accord. The cork should come out with a sound that is often described as a “sigh” (not a “pop”).

When pouring, hold the base of the bottle with your thumb in the punt and your fingers around the barrel. Serve guests by pouring an inch or so into everyone’s glass. After that settles, you will able to top them off—this method is best for preventing any frothing over. Champagne bottles are meant to be finished quickly, in just one sitting, so drink up!

infographic of how to make a champagne tower

Pairing foods with champagne

While most people think you can’t enjoy a great meal without wine—or vice versa, that great food accentuates great wine—champagne is usually given short shrift when it comes to pairings. But it need not be. Champagne is a highly-versatile beverage alongside cuisine, owing to its high levels of acidity and minimal amount of sugar.

Now most people have probably done the sort of “decadent” food pairings that so often are found partnered with champagne—you know, oysters, foie gras, caviar, and the like. Those are delicious, but more middle- and even low-brow foods will work just as well. (One surprisingly terrible food pairing for champagne? Wedding cake.)

In fact, champagne is so great because it doesn’t overpower foods, leaving you many options. The foods that work best though—whether high-end or not—should be salty and fatty. Snacks-wise, everything from nuts, olives, and charcuterie, all the way to more budget-friendly munches like popcorn, potato chips, and french fries work surprising well. Of course, champagne works splendidly with cheese, preferably the more aged and stinky varieties. Champagne is likewise divine at breakfast as we all know, where a cheesy omelet is a perfect pairing. For dinner entrees, a rack of lamb, poached salmon, buttery lobster, creamy pastas, and even fried chicken work quite nicely.

infographic of how to saber a bottle of champagne
The next time you pop a bottle of bubbly, do it with the confidence that you can't go wrong!

Article originally published in Fix.com. Edited and reposted with permission.

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Cover photo courtesy of Easy Weddings


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