Everything You Need to Know About Champagne and How to Order It
Bottles to Try / What Is Champagne / History / How to Read a Champagne Label / What Glass to Use / Cocktails
There's no drink more synonymous with the word "celebration" than brut champagne: No wedding is complete without a first toast, a romantic dinner just wouldn't be the same without a glass of bubbly, and what else could you possibly ring in the new year with?
And yet, for all of our love of the sparkling stuff, between the "cuvées" and "
Read on for everything you need to know about the secret language of champagne, the essential equipment, and the wines you need for the perfect celebratory toast.
Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée, wine.com, $59.99
Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label, wine.com, $54.97
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, wine.com, $89.99
Krug Grande Cuvée Edition, wine.com, $199.97
Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut, wine.com, $44.97
Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2008, wine.com, $259.97
Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut, wine.com, $39.99
Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, wine.com, $59.99
Though it may be the drink of kings, at its most basic level, champagne is a white wine. To earn the right to call itself champagne, though, a bottle must meet the Appellation d'Origine Controlée or AOC standards. The most basic of these
A vineyard in the
champagne region of France
Of course, geography isn't the
A statue of Dom Perignon
As a byproduct of the Champagne region's climate, early frosts would send the fermenting yeast in bottle-aging wine into hibernation; when the temperatures warmed, the yeast would wake back up and begin fermenting the wine again, producing an excess of carbon dioxide and, in turn, bubbles. These unexpectedly fizzing bottles were prone to bursting, earning the drink the spurious nickname "the devil's wine."
Legend has it that Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon is responsible for turning these errors into a true wine style in the 17th century (though he was, in fact, originally charged with the task of preventing the bubbles rather than perfecting them). The style grew quickly in popularity, especially among the French upper class, and following Napoleon's invasion of Russia, became a go-to for the Russian Tsars as well, cementing its status as an elite beverage.
Type of grape
Designations by grape type are typically either Blanc de Blancs, which is made only from white
"Blanc de Blancs tend to be more fresh, lean and bright while Blanc de Noirs tend to be richer, denser and more red fruit driven," explains Charles-Armand de Belenet, general manager of Champagne Bollinger. However, not all champagnes are made purely from either red or white grapes—indeed, a blend of the two types is very common, so don't be put off if you don't see any "Blanc" on your bottle.
Unlike their still counterparts, rosé champagnes are typically made by one of two methods—either allowing the pressed grape juice to sit on the grape skins for a brief period before fermentation, imparting both color and richer berry notes, or by blending the pressed white wine with still red wine. "This adds structure and a unique complexity, intensity
While vintage and grape types may be immediately evident even to a champagne novice, dosage can seem more daunting to champagne
There are as many opinions out there about the proper glass from which to drink champagne as there are glasses themselves and the differences between them aren't purely aesthetic. Different glass shapes can drastically
Crystal Champagne Flutes, Set of 2, nordstrom.com,$25.00
The most iconic style, of course, is the flute. With its slender bowl and high, tapered walls, a flute glass is designed to show off the bubbles in your bubbly for a picture perfect effect and to preserve the effervescence of your wine through multiple rounds of toasting. The narrow mouth of the glass tends to interfere with the unfolding of the wine's fragrance notes, and in turn, the complete tasting experience, which makes it an also-ran in the eyes of many wine professionals. Try a flute with
Crystal Tulip Glasses, Set of 6, amazon.com, $89.90
Similar to a flute but with a wider bowl and rim, the tulip is a favorite among many sommeliers and champagne houses. The steep base helps encourage those beautiful, pearl-like trails of bubbles, while a rounder shape allows the wine to open up more fully so you can experience the complete expression of the wine. This is a top choice for vintage champagnes.
Lead Crystal Coupe Glasses, Set of 4, nordstrom.com, $50.00
Supposedly modeled from Marie Antoinette's breast (there's no evidence that this is actually true), the coupe has a kitschy appeal that's equal parts Gatsby-elegant and mid-century mod. It also happens to be on the list of sommelier's least favorite glasses for champagne due to its wide, shallow bowl which tends to allow both the bubbles and the aroma of the wine to dissipate quickly. If you prefer the look of a coupe, opt for richer, full-bodied champagnes that can tolerate a bit more dissipation.
WHITE WINE GLASS
Sauvignon Blanc Glasses, Set of 2, surlatable.com, $59.00
In recent years, many wine lovers have chosen to forgo the specialty glass debate altogether and treat champagne like its base spirit—white wine. The wider, deeper bowls tapering up to a slightly more narrow rim provide ample room for the champagne's aromas to unfurl while also directing them up into the nose instead of dissipating them out
Try one of these classic champagne cocktails:
.5 oz lemon juice
.25 oz simple syrup
Add gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a champagne glass. Top with champagne.
1 sugar cube
4 oz chilled champagne
Soak sugar cube in Angostura bitters, then drop
2 oz orange juice
2 oz champagne
Pour orange juice into a champagne glass and top with champagne.
.25 oz Chambord or creme de cassis
Add Chambord or creme de cassis to a champagne glass and top with champagne.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.