When it comes to toasting a special occasion or event, usually everyone heads for the Champagne. Sure, you can toast with wine, cocktails, soda, beer, but using the bubbly denotes that it’s unique. Most people call every kind of sparkling wine Champagne, but true one comes from the region in France which is known for producing the best sparkling wines on the Earth. That area, not surprisingly, is called Champagne.
The soil, climate and strict regulations for production in that region ensure that the quality of sparkling wine which is made there is unmatched. Because of the delicate nature of the Champagne and all the occasions where it’s usually served, it requires a little more than beer mugs and plastic cups to do it right.
Getting the best flavor out of your favorite doux or brut Champagne depends on more than just picking your favorite vintage. The way you choose to chill it before serving can have a dramatic impact on the taste.
The Ideal Temperature
A bottle of Champagne should be chilled before opening. The ideal serving temperature is between 6°C and 9°C, giving a drinking temperature of 8°C to 13°C once the Champagne has warmed up in the glass. Full-bodied Champagne wines- vintage, rose and older, maderized wines may be served slightly warmer to bring out their bouquet.
The same serving temperature applies to Champagne at the sweeter end of the scale, like Sec and Demi-Sec. Serving these any colder attenuates the delicious flavors but in that case- why choose the sweeter Champagne in the first place? Chilling to between 4°C and 6°C was a widespread practice in the 19th century when the wine was super-sweet. But if you serve a Demi-Sec or Sec Champagne at that temperature you will lose the sweetness for which you bought them.
Ways To Chill Champagne
1. Chilling In An Ice Bucket
The preferred and the most common method to chill Champagne is to place an unopened bottle in an ice bucket that should be filled to within roughly an inch of the top with half water, half ice.
Let’s assume that an ambient temperature of 20°C allow forty minutes to chill a bottle of Champagne cellared at 11°C, and at least two hours for Champagne at room temperature, and considerably longer in some individual cases. The advantage of chilling Champagne in the ice bucket is that the bucket brings wine down to the right temperature gradually and then keeps it there.
The contents will stay at 4°C for at about two and a half to two and three-quarter hours, which is roughly the same time as it takes for the ice to melt when you chill a 20°C bottle in a room with a 20°C temperature. Just keep sure that the ice bucket is topped up just to be on the safe side.
If you dry your bottle when you remove it from the ice bucket, there is no need to wrap it with a tea towel or napkin as you pour. Whatever may be said to the contrary, that isn’t the part of the Champagne tradition, and may also constitute a social faux pas if the napkin conceals the label.
It is essential that all of the bottle markings remain visible at all times to show off the bottle in all its finery and let the guest see the brand which they are drinking. If you must use a napkin or tea towel, tuck it under the bottle to leave the name of the marque in full view.
Only a complete philistine would probably think of chilling their Champagne in a competitor’s ice bucket.
2. Using A Refrigerator
If you don’t have an ice bucket, the refrigerator will do just nicely, just make sure to be discreet about it. Place the bottle in the part of the refrigerator which will give you the desired level of coldness, preferably laying the bottle on the side to avoid differences in temperature between the bottom and the top. Always allow more time chilling your Champagne in the refrigerator
Remember that the bottle will only stay chilled for as long as it remains in the fridge. It will start to warm up after that- not a problem with an ice bucket. Alternatively, let’s say for a picnic, a cooler bag can be handy.
You can keep your Champagne in the fridge for several weeks so you can have some fast and chilled at the right temperature. But remember not to open the fridge door too often for the resulting temperature changes may have an effect on the Champagne.
Restaurant cold stores suffer from precisely the same problem. Custom wine cabinets and hotel minibars, on the other hand, do the same job as a refrigerator, just with none of the issues that go with it.
Note the people who are blessed with their underground wine cellar can dispense with the need for the ice altogether unless they happen to like their Champagne super cold). Bubbly served straight from the wine cellar, as they do in Champagne, is chilled to perfection.
3. Chilling Vintage Champagne
Note that the above suggestions apply specifically to non-vintage Champagnes. For vintage ones, you want to follow slightly different rules to bring out the natural richness. As you probably knew, vintage Champagnes are derived from select grapes in a single year’s selection.
They like warmer temperatures than non-vintage Champagnes- getting your vintage to approximately 10°C at a serving time ensures that natural carbonation and taste is retained. Even 13°C wouldn’t necessarily be too warm a serving temperature for a vintage Champagne like Dom Perignon.
Heed These Storage Tips
Maintaining the complex aromas and tastes of a vintage or non-vintage champagne, for that matter- depends on the right storage conditions. A more extensive range of storage conditions may work here.
Aim for between 7°C-15°C but make sure you store Champagne in a dry, cool place. Champagne is pickier than many wines when it comes to temperature and light.If you wondered why Champagne is often packaged in green, opaque bottles, it’s because the darker color makes it more resistant to light and degradation.
The bottom line is that both non-vintage and vintage Champagnes taste best when they are stored in colder, darker locations. You want to make sure that you serve you serve your non-vintage ones at approximately 7°C and your vintage ones at between 10° and 12°C for best results.