how to

{new year’s inspiration: guide to champagne}

by

. . . before the clock strikes midnight tonight, we will have toasted a glass {or two} of champagne, bidding farewell to one year, and welcoming a new . . .

Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!

~ dom perignon, at the moment he discovered champagne

{a glamorous guide to champagne:}

champagne, a light sparkling wine made only in the champagne region of northeastern france, is different from all other sparkling wines in the world for three major reasons:

* a wine can only be labeled as champagne if it is made in the champagne region of france
* to be called champagne, it must be made only from the pinot noir, pinot meunier, or chardonnay grapes which grow in that region
* true champagne, as opposed to other sparkling wines, gets its bubbles by undergoing the fermentation process twice: once in barrels and again in bottles

{chilling}

* temperature determines the rate at which bubbles in champagne are released — a bottle should not be opened at room temperature, as it will quickly froth up and go flat
* chill ideally to 40-45 °F {4.5-7 °C, the lower temperature for parties and receptions where the room temperature is likely to rise
* chill champagne in a refrigerator for a couple of hours, but try not to leave it longer than a day, as the cork may stick or shrink
* emergency chilling in the coldest part of a freezer for 15 minutes is fine
* a bucket of ice and water (never just ice, as the water is essential for transferring temperatures) is still one of the best and quickest ways to chill a bottle of champagne, but faster still are the gel-filled jackets that are kept in the freezer and slip over the bottle for about six minutes

{opening}

* remove the foil to begin, or simply score around the base of the wire cage, then gently untwist the wire and loosen the bottom of the cage, but do not remove it
* holding the base of the bottle with your other hand, twist both ends slowly in opposite directions, backwards and forwards
* as soon as you feel pressure forcing the cork out, try to push it back in while continuing the twisting operation ever more gently until the cork is released from the bottle with a sigh, not a bang
* do not tilt the glass and pour gently down the inside, but top up each glass to between two-thirds and three-quarters full, and no more
* do not chill the glasses ahead of time, either by filling them with ice cubes or crushed ice, as it will have a negative effect on the release of the bubbles and the bouquet of the champagne

{glasses}

* a flute or a tulip-shaped glass is ideal, but nearly any vessel other than a coupe will do — the wide, shallow coupe is the worst possible choice for champagne, as the mousse goes flat far too quickly and the wine’s aroma can not be appreciated
* whatever glass shape used, the finer the rim the better
* if you have fine crystal, be sure to use it — the irregularities in this elegant glass keep the bubbles alive longer

santé! / cheers!
xo

{images: 1 – scarlett johansson for möet et chandon; 2 – style me pretty; 3 – livingetc; more information: laurel hiestand, marie claire, bbc, tom stevenson’s champagne & sparkling wine guide}

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