Serving Champagne professionally takes some serious training and practice. Sommeliers train long and hard in order to get every detail of Champagne service right. When serving Champagne – or any sparkling wine, for that matter – there are many individual steps to take and pieces of equipment to use, including the famous Champagne bucket. It’s a complicated and potentially dangerous business, and a good sommelier makes it look easy while keeping everybody safe. You don’t have to be a sommelier in order to step up your Champagne presentation game, though. Consider these few tips and tricks for the next time you find yourself about to pop open a Champagne, Cava or Prosecco at a dinner party, anniversary or other special occasion.
Not all sparkling wines are created equal, and it is worth carefully considering which Champagne or other sparkling wine is right for your occasion. For a small dinner party with limited guests, you may only want a bottle or two as an aperitif. A non-vintage Champagne from a quality producer is always a good bet here, so look for something like Bollinger Special Cuvée or Möet & Chandon Brut Impérial. Maybe it’s a wedding reception or large outdoor gathering and you are buying by the case. Depending on your budget, consider a Cava or Prosecco instead. For something very special such as a wedding anniversary or loved one’s birthday, consider a vintage Champagne – all the better if that vintage has some special meaning for the recipient!
Temperature is key. You will want to chill your Champagne in the refrigerator to somewhere between four and eight degrees Celsius. It’s important to also make sure that the wine has achieved a consistent temperature. You don’t need to be too scientific – just feel the neck and body of the bottle with your hand. If they feel grossly different, then give the wine a little more time in the fridge.
Preparing the Champagne Bucket
Presenting Champagne in a bucket to your guests is a sure-fire way to impress. Champagne buckets are widely available, so get yourself a nice one. Fill it with half ice and half water. If you really want to impress, you might consider draping a folded white napkin over the side of the bucket, but in a casual setting this really isn’t mandatory. Place the Champagne bucket somewhere out of the way on the dinner table, or on a side table if you have one available.
How to Open Champagne
Champagne, Cava, a lot of Prosecco and most French crémants all have similar style closures and should be opened in the same way. There is a huge amount of pressure inside a bottle of Champagne, so it’s vital that you know what you’re doing when it comes to opening time. Haphazardly popping corks can lead to personal injury and property damage – and wasted wine! Take your properly chilled bottle and have a napkin or cloth at hand. Remove the foil capsule, either by pulling the tag or by cutting below the cage with the blade of your corkscrew.
Next, drape your cloth over the top of the bottle, find the ring of the cage and carefully loosen it – though do not remove the cage yet. Now, hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle, with the top facing away from your guests. Gripping the cloth firmly and holding onto the cork and cage underneath, start to gently twist the bottom of the bottle back and forth, slowly. Do not twist the cork or the cage. Continue, slowly, until you feel the pressure give and you can ease the cork out of the bottle, and voíla!
Using the Champagne Bucket
After serving your guests, place the wine gently into your Champagne bucket. This will keep it nice and cool until you’re ready for some more. At this point, your cloth or napkin is very useful as it allows you to keep your table clean and dry.