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Celebrate Champagne Day like a pro with these expert tips by Ada Chan, plus a delicious recipe for a pear and ginger champagne cocktail
BCL: What’s the difference between champagne and sparkling wine?
AC: Champagne is itself a sparkling wine. However, a sparkling wine can only be called “champagne” if the grapes are grown and the wine is produced in the Champagne region of France.
There can be other differences, including (but not limited to) where the wine is made, the grape varieties in the wine and how the bubbles are integrated into the wine.
BCL: What types of grapes are used to make champagne?
AC: The three main grapes used to make champagne are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier.
BCL: How do you chill a bottle of champagne?
AC: The ideal temperature for serving a bottle of champagne is at 6 to 9 Celsius. At home, refrigerator temperature (around 3 Celsius) is a good rule of thumb. I’ll usually put the bottle I’m serving into the fridge the day before, or of.
A bucket of ice and water with a tablespoon of salt added is a great way to quickly chill down a bottle. The addition of water and salt to the ice is key and you’ll find that in approximately 20 minutes, your bottle of champagne is ready.
BCL: What is the best way to store champagne, and how long can you store it for?
AC: Like other fine wines, store your bottles of champagne in a dark room at a cool, constant temperature (ideally 9 to 11 Celsius). A dark room or area is also important, as champagne can be particularly sensitive to light.
Sparkling wines can be stored horizontally, but they can also be kept vertically. This is because the CO2 gas in the bottle is able to keep the champagne cork sufficiently moist, so that the integrity of the cork and its seal is sustained.
BCL: What glassware should you use for champagne?
AC: Most people serve champagne in flutes. This is best for maintaining the fizz in your glass. Around the city, I’ve started to see the resurgence of the coupe. They are lovely to look at but with the wider glass, the bubbles will disappear faster and that’s one of my favourite parts of champagne!
I personally like to drink my champagne out of white wine glasses. It seems unorthodox, but try it out! These tulip-shaped glasses help focus the aromas of the champagne at the top of the glass while still keeping the bubbles.
BCL: What is the correct way to serve champagne and whom should you serve first?
AC: At a restaurant or at a nightclub, the person who selected it or is purchasing the bottle should be served first. A small pour to ensure that the integrity of the bottle is as expected. Then the other guests should be served accordingly.
At home or in a casual setting, the same guidelines apply. The person who brought or bought the bottle should taste it first. Usually there is a guest or guests of honour, so I would serve them first. But champagne is for celebration… in any place and for all occasions! The correct way is the one that makes you happy.
BCL: What are some basic rules of etiquette when toasting?
AC: Wait for the host to begin with the first toast, whether it’s to recognize the guest of honour or to kick off the festivities. After that, other guests are able to propose toasts themselves.
I like to keep my toast speech short and simple, where I will “raise my glass to celebrate…” or “thank so-and-so…” Amongst guests, it is always thoughtful and appreciated to propose a toast to thank your host!
Click through for suggested food pairings, how to open a bottle of champagne and a refreshing Asian pear champagne cocktail recipe…
BCL: What kinds of foods does champagne pair well with?
AC: With the various styles of champagne available such as non-vintage, vintage, rosé, blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, sweeter styles such as demi-sec, and finally, prestige cuvée, I believe that almost all types of foods can be delightfully paired with champagne.
Traditionally, champagne is enjoyed with seafood, such as oysters, at the beginning of a meal. But for me champagne is fun and right for any and all courses! I’ve hosted many champagne dinners where every course is paired with a different style of champagne. And I personally love drinking champagne with deep-fried foods like tempura, fried chicken and snacks like truffled popcorn or kettle chips dusted with Parmesan and herbs.
I also find that champagne is fantastic with Asian food. It’s a perfect match for dim sum and sushi. And there is nothing I love more than having a rosé champagne with Peking duck! For spicy Thai or Indian meals, I often will serve a sweeter demi-sec champagne.
BCL: Does it matter if you pick a dry or sweeter champagne for an occasion?
AC: Yes! Most people are accustomed to having dry champagne and with more and more people cutting sugar out of their diet, there is a trend for extremely dry styles of champagne.
However, I believe that the best champagne is one suited for the palate and enjoyment of you and your guests. So I will often serve a sweeter style demi-sec champagne with spicy dishes or delicately flavoured and textured desserts like “floating islands,” meringue floating on crème anglaise, or a white chocolate mousse.
Click through for a delicious Asian pear champagne cocktail recipe…