Champagne 101: Selecting, Serving, and Sipping
What’s a party without Champagne? Who knows… From weddings, birthdays, New Year’s Eve, to Valentine’s Day and more, electing Champagne as the celebratory drink of choice is never wrong. However, choosing the best bottle of bubbly can be quite the challenge. Brut, Extra Brut, Doux—where do you begin? Here to help, we have a step-by-step guide to help you choose the perfect bottle of Champagne with confidence.
Step 1: Know the difference between Champagne & Sparkling Wine
All Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. To be classified as Champagne, it must adhere to the following:
1.) Made exclusively in the Champagne region of France.
2.) Produced from traditional Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier).
3.) Made by Méthode Champenoise (the traditional Champagne making method that requires a second fermentation in the bottle).
Step 2: Find your sweet spot, Extra Brut to Doux
Do you have a sweet tooth? During the last stage of production, sugar is added to balance out the acidity. Depending on the amount of sugar, the bottle will fall under one of the following categories, listed from dry to sweet.
Brut Nature – Otherwise known as bone dry! Brut Nature has no residual sugar.
Extra Brut and Brut – Very little detectable levels of sweetness remain, making them perhaps the most versatile of Champagnes when it comes to food pairings.
Sec, Demi-Sec, and Extra Sec – Dry, medium-dry, and extra-dry, these levels have noticeable sweetness but can’t quite be considered a dessert wine.
Doux – Can you say dessert in a glass? This is as sweet as Champagne comes with over 50 grams of residual sugar.
Step 3: It’s all about the grapes
There are three grape varietals used to make Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. On the label you will see the following:
Blanc de Blancs – Or “white of white” refers to Champagne made from Chardonnay grapes typically grown in the southern part of Champagne known as the Côtes de Blancs. Lighter in style, this acidic, fruit-forward, and crisp wine makes a great aperitif.
Blanc de Noirs – Means “white of black” and is a white Champagne made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or both. This style is usually more full-bodied with moderate flavor intensity which makes it a perfect match for a variety of foods.
Rosé- All day! Made with only one grape or all three, it must contain a percentage of a Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier to get that favored pink color.
Step 4: Non-vintage vs. Vintage
It all comes down to how much you are willing to spend to impress your guests or the in-laws.
Non-vintage: Exactly what it sounds like—not from a particular year. Champagne that consists of a few years blended together for consistency and balance in acidity representing a “house style.” Best enjoyed within a year or two from purchase.
Vintage: When a year is too perfect to pass up, the Champagne is declared a vintage. Low in supply and high in demand, they typically age 10-15 years and are on the pricey side.
Step 5: Let’s pop some bottles!
You can buy the best bottle of bubbly out there, but if you don’t know how to serve it then don’t bother. Champagne is best served chilled at 45 degrees and poured slowly to savor the bubbles.
Tip: If you’re in a pinch for time, add salt to your ice bucket to speed up the chilling process!
We hope the above provided some guidance and foundation for you this holiday season.