These tips may be from 1979 — but bubbly smarts know no decade.
By Samantha Toscano
Breaking out the sparkling cocktail isn’t just about hoping the cork doesn’t hit someone or popping in a few strawberries because that’s what they do in the movies. And the proof is in our December 1979 issue.
Added fruit aside, here’s what you absolutely need to know before the bubbly starts to flow and the fun begins:
Why It Bubbles
Champagne begins as a still wine and is made sparkling by a second fermentation, creating natural effervescence. In the traditional French method, the second fermentation takes place in the individual bottle — more expensive champagnes in the United States are made this way as well. With less costly American champagnes — labeled “bulk process” or “Charmat process” — the second fermentation takes place before the wine is bottled.
The Many Varieties
Natural: Dry, no sweetness. Fine as an aperitif. Pair with seafood.
Brut: Dry, little or no sweetness. The most popular type, fine for general entertaining. Perfect with every course and as an aperitif.
Extra Dry: Faintly sweet. Good with desserts, fruits.
Dry, Sec, and Demi Sec: Fairly sweet. Good for afternoon, evening refreshment, with desserts.
A 750-ml. or 25.4-oz. bottle of champagne, the most popular size, yields six to eight glasses. If you need more than one bottle, the 1.5-liter magnum bottle is the better buy — it has the same neck, air space as a smaller bottle, more wine. For a toast, you can figure on one glassful per person. For an aperitif, one or two glasses per person. For dessert, one glass for each guest is usual. For an evening of entertaining, plan on a third to a half of a 750-ml. bottle for each guest.
Store bottles in a cool, dark place where temperatures do not fluctuate widely. Lay the bottles on their side so the cork doesn’t dry out, allow air to enter, wine to leak or spoil.
Use elegant stemmed glasses: the traditional flute, or tulip- or egg-shaped glasses. They show the bubbles rising in a continuous stream and concentrate the wine’s aroma. Avoid saucer-type “champagne glasses.”
Cool bottles ahead: The best way is to let the bottle sit in a pail half-filled with ice and water for about 30 minutes. Or, chill (don’t freeze) bottles about three hours in the least cold part of the refrigerator.
Open bottles carefully: To avoid wasting wine. Don’t shake the bottle; hold it in one hand with the other, remove the wire muzzle. Now, slightly tilt bottle away from you and hold cork firmly while rotating the bottle itself. Pull bottle down gently and slowly to reduce internal pressure. Cork will come out with a soft “pop,” with no loss of froth. Wipe off the rim before serving.
Pour with finesse: Tilting each glass to keep foam or “mousse” from spilling, fill the glass a quarter full; let the “mousse” settle. Continue until glass is two-thirds full.