7 Things You Need to Know About Champagne
This Mother’s Day show her she raised a class act by uncorking a bottle of the finest bubbly you can manage.
There are endless opportunities for gifting and feting for Mother’s Day. But one of the unexpected ways you can make mom feel special is with a lunch or brunch complemented by a great Champagne.
Moet & Chandon’s Champagne expert (a term I prefer to “Wine Quality Manager,” her official title, but far less glam) Marie-Christine Osselin is an eloquent spokeswoman for this French product synonymous with special occasions and luxury. How deep is Osselin into the bubbly? Well, her business address in France is on the Avenue de Champagne and she was undoubtedly preordained for the pour by the charming French tradition of placing a tiny taste of Champagne on the baby’s tongue during baptism. Why was I not born French?
Like many international products of distinction (feta, Cognac, Gorgonzola), Champagne is a protected designation of origin product intimately tied to its country of origin. A product can only be called Champagne if it is produced from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France and undergoes a secondary fermentation of wine in the bottle to create carbonation, among other requirements. Everything else is just sparkling wine my friends.
There are so many reasons to pop a bottle of Champagne: not just for Mother’s Day, but for a retirement or wedding, graduation or opening night. Or just because it’s Tuesday. As Osselin says “just open a bottle of champagne and the moment will be special.” And contrary to the idea of champagne as a luxury item suitable only for sipping with oysters and caviar like something out of an Ernst Lubitsch film, champagne in fact pairs beautifully—depending upon the champagne—with a variety of foods including ratatouille, fruit salads with fresh berries, beef and fish. With a variety of Champagnes available—in the 18th century-old Moët Chandon family, a number of rosés, Ice Imperials, Bruts and Grand Vintages—there are countless options for Champagne and course pairings. Find your perfect pairing at wine-searcher.com.
Osselin offers some great tips for making your mother feel special by serving her Champagne, whether it’s with a simple lunch (Osselin recently discovered the merits of pairing Champagne with goat cheese, so a salad or main centered around the ingredient is a novel choice) or a multi-course dinner with a different Champagne pairing with appetizer, main and dessert.
1. Ice, Ice Baby
Chill Champagne for no more than four hours in the refrigerator before serving. Keep it cold on the table by placing it in an ice bucket 1/3 full of water and heaped with ice for 15-30 minutes.
2. There’s No Business Like Show Business
“It’s a show to open a bottle of Champagne” says Osselin, so practice your technique in private so you can perform well when you are serving Champagne. Presentation is important. Orient the label toward your guest initially so they can see the label, and open the bottle slowly and elegantly, always keeping your hand over the cork to keep it from flying.
3. Spin the Bottle
Turn the bottle not the cork when opening Champagne.
4. As the World Turns
So many rules! The golden rule is 6 twists of the wine cage (or muselet). And leave that muselet on. It’s there for a reason: to avoid a lifetime of eye-patch wearing. “A bottle of Champagne is like a bomb” cautions Osselin.
5. Flutes Are Moot
You don’t need special Champagne flutes to serve Champagne. “Champagne is a wine,” notes Osselin, “it’s just a different kind of wine.” It is meant to be served from wine glasses so you can get your nose in there and really savor the bouquet.
6. Champagne on Ice Is a Thing
The first Champagne meant to be served on ice, Moët
Ice Imperial is the perfect warm weather sip. But Osselin is quite specific and French on this front: 3 ice cubes per glass. Another recommendation: a pretty arrangement of mint leaves, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries presented along with the glass of ice Champagne that mom can use to customize her glass.
7. Don’t Tilt the Glass
You want to see and savor the bubbles when you pour so, like all things in life, keep it upright.
Want to impress Mom even more? Whip up one of these Champagne-based cocktails for Mother’s Day.
- 3 chunks of fresh watermelon (1 inch each)
- 0.5 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
- 4-5 mint leaves
- 4 ounce Moët Imperial Brut
In a Collins or highball glass, gently muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice, sugar and watermelon. Add ice and complete with Moët Imperial Brut. Garnish with 2 small watermelon dices in a pick and a mint sprig.
- 4 fresh raspberries
- 0.5 ounce lemon juice
- 0.5 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
- 1 ounce Belvedere vodka
- 3 ounces Moët Imperial Brut
Place all the ingredients in a shaker with ice, except the Champagne and shake. Strain into a glass and top with Moët Imperial Brut.
Spice Me Up
- 1 quarter size fresh ginger
- 0.5 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and hot water)
- 0.5 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1 ounce Cognac Hennessy
- 3 ounces Moët Imperial Brut
In a shaker muddle the ginger with the honey syrup and lemon juice, then add the cognac, ice and shake. Double strain into a rocks glass with a big ice cube. Add the Moët Imperial Brut and garnish with candied ginger on a pick.