Sparkling Wines: Serving Sparkly & Talking Bubbly

Serving sparkly
Serving sparkling wine with style may require a little instruction and some dexterity, but practicing can be half the fun. Begin with a bottle chilled to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. A minimum of one hour in the refrigerator is generally long enough to bring wine to the desired temperature, but sparkly should never be chilled in the freezer or there’s a chance the bottle may explode.

First remove the foil surrounding the cork, and then untwist the muselet, or the wire cage. A bottle of sparkling wine contains about the same amount of pressure as a car tire, and the muselet keeps the cork from accidentally dislodging. “While doing this, keep the bottle at an angle of 45 degrees and pointed away from you, but preferably not in the direction of the lady accompanying you, that pretty painting by Monet, nor the chandelier,” French says. “The trick is to get the cork from the bottle in such a way that a slight hiss is just audible. The easiest method is to gently twist the cork a little and as soon as it starts to give, restrain it with your hand.” Contrary to popular practice, a loud ‘pop’ is considered an absolute sin, as it wastes many of the wine’s delicate bubbles.

Most people prefer fluted or tulip-shaped glasses for serving Champagne due to their elongated shape, which causes bubbles to bounce off the imperfections of the crystal and create long ribbons of mousse; a flute’s narrow opening also traps the bubbles in the wine longer. “If you’re worried about presentation, remember that a poor quality glass can ruin the taste of a good quality wine. If you don’t have a flute, a good quality wine glass is just fine for serving sparkling wine,” Stonehouse says. In fact, during the 17th century it used to be considered à la mode to drink Champagne from a bowl-shaped glass called a coupe.


Talk the talk
Undoubtedly, the very Frenchness of bubbly can be intimidating to many. The following are some indispensable terms for talking about Champagne and sparkling wine like a connoisseur.

Blanc de blancs (blahn deh blahn): sparkling wine made only from white grapes, usually Chardonnay
Blanc de noir (blahn deh n'war): sparkling wine made only from black grapes, often Pinot Noir or Pinot Meuniere
Bouchon (boo shon):  the French word for the cork; the best wines use Portuguese cork
Brut (broot): the driest style of Champagne
Cuvee (koo vay): a specific blend of still wines used to make sparkling wine
Extra dry: confusingly, the term ‘extra dry’ actually means ‘sweet’
Mousse: refers to the carbonation or bubbles in sparkling wine
Muselet (mew zeh lay): the wire cage surrounding the cork
Vintage-designated: Champagne made from a blend of wines from a particular year

Of course, one needn’t learn a new language to enjoy sparkling wine. One need not even wait until the next wedding; try it out on a birthday, pair it with oysters, or serve some midweek to toast another Wednesday gone by. There are so many reasons to celebrate, so go on and break out the bubbly!