When asked on what occasions she drank champagne, the late Madame Bollinger famously replied,
“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.”
How to serve Champagne
To open a bottle of champagne, first remove the foil and the wire from around the cork. Hold the bottle at 45 degrees, with the base in your strong hand and the cork in the other. Twist the bottle while holding the cork steady (if you do it the other way around, you risk shearing the cork). The carbon dioxide in the bottle, along with your gentle encouragement, should result in the cork emerging slowly, not with a loud bang, but with a satisfied, seductive sigh.
Champagne is best served chilled, straight from a cool cellar or after a couple of hours (not days) in the fridge. To pour, grasp the bottle by the base with your thumb inside the indentation.
It is better to serve champagne in “tulips” or “flutes”, which retain the wine’s effervescence, rather than the “saucers” – allegedly modelled on Marie-Antoinette’s breasts – which allow the sparkle to dissipate.
You don’t have to treat champagne just as an aperitif, as it goes well with such foods as caviar, rich ptés, smoked salmon, gravadlax, oysters or lobsters. Sweet champagnes are perfect with sweet soufflés, fruit tarts and strawberries and cream.
Champagne comes from the northernmost vineyards in France, in the valley of the river Marne, centred round Epernay and Rheims. Only wines from this designated area, made from chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir by the “champagne method”, may call themselves champagne.
· The word champagne guarantees the wine’s geographical origin, but not its quality. It is better to drink well-made sparkling wine than poorly made champagne
· A champagne-stopper will keep the bubbles fresh for up to 36 hours
· If you are out of crème de cassis, a thimbleful of Ribena works surprisingly well for kir royale
This week we are hosting the Grand Marques Champagne Tasting at our Store in Los Angeles, hope you can come in and taste some bubblies.