Sparkling Wine — It’s Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

Grapes on the Vine

Sparkling wine, whether champagne, Cava, Prosecco, or the dozens of other styles available, is becoming more popular as consumers realize it’s no longer just for special occasions. It’s great for parties or to start a meal, and sweeter styles make and excellent choice to pair with dessert. Some of the fuller-bodied styles, particularly those made from dark-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir, even work with main dishes like salmon or lobster.  

But unlike still wines, special care must be taken when handling sparkling wine.  The pressure in a bottle of champagne can be as much as six atmospheres – about the same pressure as in a truck tire – so here are a few things to consider:

  • Make sure the bottle is well chilled – fridge temperature is ideal, but maximum 6-8˚C. When properly chilled, the bottle will be easier to open – it won’t gush out – and the bubbles will last longer. 
  • Slant the bottle at a 45° angle away from your guests, mirrors, expensive chandeliers, etc.. Remove the foil cover and while keeping your thumb on top of the cork, carefully remove the wire hood.  Hold the cork firmly with one hand and gently twist the bottle with the other. Allow the pressure of the sparkling wine to push out the cork, keeping control as it releases. (It should make a hissing sound, not a pop.)
  • If you want to impress, pour using the punt, that indentation in the bottom of the bottle. Put your thumb into the punt and rest the underside of the bottle against your palm and fingers as you pour. It takes a bit of practice — best to try this for the first time in front of your guests.
  • Fill each slim flute or tall tulip-shaped glass first with a small pour of wine, then top up to the two-thirds mark. This prevents the bubbles from overflowing the glass.
  • Never chill your flutes, as the condensation on the glass will burst the bubbles.

Bonus party tip: if you are planning a stand-up reception with appetizers, choose a lighter-style sparkling wine like Prosecco Extra-Dry, blancs de blanc champagne, or Cremant.