Why Champagne?A bit of bubbly always goes down well, the sparkling fizziness reflecting joy and happiness.
Champagne is a classic choice but don’t underestimate a good sparkling wine. The New World and even the UK are making brilliant bubbly with the name the only point of difference (sparkling wine cannot be called Champagne unless produced in the designated region of France).
Unless you have the budget of Bill Gates, the cost for fizz needs careful consideration. Top-mark Champagne is not cheap but there is excellent Champagne from small houses worth considering; a good wine merchant will be able to recommend some. Impressive fizz without breaking the bank like Italian Prosecco or fruity New World fizz will also do the trick.
Choosing ChampagneThe style of wine inside the bottle will determine what you pay for Champagne.
A Non-vintage Champagne(NV) wine is a blend of wine from several different years – created to keep a house style. Generally less expensive nevertheless good.
A Vintage Champagne is produced from a single year. Most houses will only release a vintage wine if they feel the grapes harvested that year are of satisfactory quality; hence, they are more expensive than the NV wines.
Rosé Champagne is made by either allowing the wine to stay in contact with the red grape skins for a while or by adding in a little red wine. Again more expensive than NV.
In the UK there is predominance for drier fizz (Sec). However, a Demi Sec Champagne works well . It is medium dry Champagne and has a lovely touch of sweetness.
Before a meal, a chardonnay-based champagne, Blanc de Blanc , or sparkling chardonnay wine will prove light and refreshing or you might want to consider an upmarket sparkler from the New World. Budget wines to consider are Jacob's Creek Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir which uses traditional Champagne grape varieties. Spanish Cava makes a change in serving a bubbly that is different to champagne. This wine is made from only Spanish grapes so, although the method is the there is a full-bodied taste of vibrant Spain.
And let’s not forget our home turf. There are about 400 commercially operating vineyards in England and Wales , and of these about 10% produce some sparkling wine. A few of the vineyards were planted solely for this purpose, avoiding still wine altogether.
One highly recommended from top wine experts is Nyetimber Première Cuvée Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs Brut is giving Champagne a good run for its money.
Planning and Serving
- One bottle of Champagne will give five or six glasses.
- Champagne should be stored in a cool dark place.
- Champagne is best drunk chilled but never iced. The younger and livelier the Champagne, the cooler it should be served (8ºC). A mature or vintage Champagne will be perfect at 10ºC. Over-chilling will mean the Champagne is too cold to release its aromas and flavors.
- Open Champagne bottles carefully - the corks are under great pressure and could be dangerous. Grip the bottle firmly (perhaps using a tea towel) and ease the cork out gently, twisting the bottle one-way while turning the cork in the other direction. Aim for a quiet 'hissss' when the cork comes out, not a Grand Prix winner's explosion!
- To appreciate a Champagne wine fully you must give it the glass it deserves. Serve in tall, thin, plain flutes so you can see the pretty streams of bubbles rising through the liquid. The ideal shape is a tulip, the Champagne saucer is one to avoid as the aromas and bubbles have too much space and are soon lost into the air.