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Buying and Serving Champagne and Sparkling Wine

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If you’re entertaining with Champagne or sparkling wine, you'll want to know how to best serve bubbly and which foods work well with sparkling wines.

Following is some advice for buying and serving Champagne or any sparkling wine:

  • The ideal bottle size for Champagne is the magnum (equivalent to two bottles). The larger bottle enables the wine to age more gently in the winery’s cellar. Magnums (or sometimes double magnums) are usually the largest bottles in which Champagne is fermented; all really large bottles have had finished Champagne poured into them, and the wine is therefore not as fresh as it is in a magnum or a regular bottle.

  • Be wary of half-bottles (375 ml) and splits (187 ml). Champagne in these small bottles is often not fresh. If you’re given a small bottle of Champagne or any sparkling wine as a wedding favor, for example, open it at the first excuse; do not keep it around for a year waiting for the right occasion!

  • Sparkling wine is best served cold, about 45°F (7° to 8°C). Some people prefer it less cold (52°F; 11°C). Because older Champagnes and Vintage Champagnes are more complex, you can chill them less than young, non-vintage Champagne or sparkling wine.

  • Don't leave an open bottle of sparkling wine on the table; it will warm up quickly. If you want to keep the sparkling wine handy, you can place it in an ice bucket (half cold water, half ice). Use a sparkling wine stopper to keep leftover bubbly fresh for a couple of days — in the fridge, of course.

    [Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/DNY59]
    Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/DNY59

Champagne and other good, dry sparkling wines are extremely versatile with food — and they are the essential wine for certain kinds of foods. Following are some suggestions for pairing sparkling wine with food:

  • No wine goes better with egg dishes than Champagne. Indulge yourself next time you have brunch. And when you’re having spicy Asian cuisine, try sparkling wine.

  • Fish, seafood, pasta (but not with tomato sauce), risotto, and poultry are excellent with Champagne and sparkling wine.

  • If you’re having lamb (pink, not well-done) or ham, pair rosé Champagne with it.

  • Chunks of aged Asiago, aged Gouda, or Parmesan cheese go extremely well with aged Champagne.

  • Don’t serve a dry brut (or extra dry) sparkling wine with dessert. These styles are just too dry. With fresh fruit and desserts that are not too sweet, try a demi-sec Champagne. With sweeter desserts (or wedding cake!), go with Asti.


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