1. CHILL YOUR BOTTLE TO THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE
Between 7 and 10 degrees Celsius is your goal, with 8 degrees the optimum temperature for most bubblies. Too cold and you’ll lose flavour, especially with older vintages. Too warm and you’ll end up with a lot of foam, says Stefan Kobald, former sommelier at The Saxon, who is now based at City Social in London. “That’s because the bubbles and molecules are more active in a warm bottle.”
2. DON’T PUT IT IN THE FREEZER
Independent somm Roxan Waldeck says it’s too easy to forget about the bottle and overchill it – or end up with an explosion. “For quick-fix chilling, rather fill one third of an ice bucket with cold water, add a generous amount of ice and a cup of salt. You’ll be able to pour your Champagne in 15 minutes, tops!”
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT GLASS
Flutes are great for showing off streams of bubbles in non-vintage sparkling wines, and coupes are usually perfect for older vintage Champagnes, but the trend is to pour bubbly into a white wine glass. “The broader glass allows you to swirl the wine, releasing the aromatics,” says Roxan. And never prechill your glasses as you’ll lose some sparkle, advises Juliet Urquhart, beverage manager at The Silo Hotel in Cape Town.
4. OPEN THE BOTTLE THE RIGHT WAY
Remove the foil and loosen the cage (the pros say this takes six twists of the wire). Leave it resting over the cork to give you grip. Now, says Juliet, hold the cork steady with your thumb and use your other hand to slowly twist the bottle. “This gives more control, and the cork will release without much noise.”
And that means you stand less chance of a foaming bottle. “But if you’re starring in a music video or find yourself at a Grand Prix – go wild!” is Roxan’s verdict.
5. NEVER LEAVE A PARTIALLY OPENED BOTTLE UNATTENDED
“If I saw a bottle without a cage I’d get myself as far away as possible! “ says Juliet. The cork is under pressure and removing the cage can easily result in a self-opening bottle.” (It’s also an open invitation to any MCC lover lurking nearby to move in on your territory.)
6. DON’T POINT THE BOTTLE AT ANYONE
Though it really depends on how much you like the person, says Stefan. “I know from experience that it really hurts when you’re hit by a cork as there are approximately 8 bars of pressure in a bottle of Champagne.” Roxan puts it in perspective: “That’s three times the pressure in one of your car tyres.”
7. HOLD THE BOTTLE AT THE RIGHT ANGLE
Tilt the Champagne bottle at a 45-degree angle when opening (it’s safer) and hold the glass at the same angle when pouring (to retain the fizz).
8. CHOOSE A MAGNUM FOR A CROWD
“A standard bottle holds six glasses,” says Roxan.” For eight to 10 guests, open a magnum so you can top up glasses.
9. TRY A VARIETY OF BUBBLIES
“Extra Brut, demi-sec, doux – all delicious but different,” says Stefan. “I love dry Champagnes for everyday drinking. Demi-sec and doux are sweet styles, so might not be easy to drink on a hot day … unless you’re drinking Moët Ice Imperial, made specially to drink over ice. Add fresh fruit for a refreshing experience.”
Related reading: how to decipher bubbly bottle labels.