Wine with bubbles, what’s not to love? It plays well with other beverages as the base for famous (and infamous cocktails), can turn any event (Tuesday laundry, for instance) into a special occasion and is the one boozy beverage that one may drink in style and without impunity morning, noon and night.
And love it we do, America recently achieving the status of the world’s Number One bubbly consumer. I’m so proud!
But sparkling wine’s unique qualities pose unique questions, which I’ll try to answer, including:
Swirl it? Yes! Every wine wants to yawn and stretch after sleeping in the bottle. While sparklers ask for a lighter touch than table wine, a gentle swirl increases oxygen contact and seasons the glass with your bubbly’s delicate but distinct aromas.
Mix it? Yes! Bubblies are the inspiration for cocktails including the Bellini (created for Ernest Hemingway), Death in the Afternoon (created by Ernest Hemingway) and the Soixante Quinze (or French 75), said to have the kick of a French 75mm field gun!
The Chopping Block will feature the French 75 made with Citadelle Gin and Lanson Champagne during our February Celebration of Champagne and Bubbles.
Pair it? Yes! With bubbles to give lift to food flavors and bright acidity to cleanse the palate, sparkling wine pairs with the most unctuous, flavorful and decadent dishes.
A classic pairing is Blini, the small buckwheat pancakes favored by Russian Tsars as vehicles for their luxuries of caviar, cured salmon and Champagne. During our Celebration, TCB pairs Smoked Salmon Blini, Caviar and Crème Fraiche with Gruet Rosé, with soft fruitiness to balance the seafoods’ salt and smoke.
Pop it? It’s up to you. Nothing signals celebration like a popping cork, if you don’t mind losing a bunch of bubbles.
But unless you’re looking for a lawsuit, what you cannot do is shoot a bubbly cork from the bottle. Corks erupt from bottles at 60 miles per hour, a threat to breakables, including the human eyeball.
Flute it? If you’d like. Narrow flute-style glasses carry delicate aromas directly to your nose, but nowadays, more sommeliers are serving sparklers in white wine glasses, allowing flavors space to expand (with the added benefit of reducing the breakage cost of fragile flutes.)
Toast with it? Yes! Here are my favorites:
- “Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends.” (Francis Bacon, Irish painter.)
- “To Champagne - a beverage that makes you see double and feel single.” (Anonymous)
- “Kiss French, drink American.” (For the American bubbly lover.)
- “Here’s to Champagne, the drink divine, that helps us forget all our troubles. It’s made of a dollar’s-worth of wine and three dollars-worth of bubbles!” (Anonymous)
Which brings us to, can I…
Afford it? Yes and no. True Champagne’s exacting production techniques, limited geography and mankind’s best marketing keeps costs high. For more affordable, if less sophisticated, bubblies, look to other French regions and their sparkling wine including Alsace (TCB carries Cremant d’Alsace, Muré, $25 per bottle), and other countries including Italy (TCB carries Saracco Moscato d’Asti, $19.50 per bottle and Prosecco Superiore, Adami, “Bosco di Gica” DOCG, $20 per bottle.)
To savor and discuss Prosecco, Champagne, other international bubblies, including the French 75, all paired with luscious food complements, join me for a Celebration of Champagne and Bubbles. We're offering this special class just twice: