You can probably navigate a wine list fairly well, and you know your way around a liquor store. But one thing Americans tend to be less well-versed on is buying sparkling wine. That’s why many of us buy based on price or label.
Step one is buying the right Champagne for the right occasion. (And trust us, almost all occasions call for some bubbles.) Step two is serving it right. If you’re picking up a bottle of bubbly for Valentine’s Day, a holiday, or just because, read this first.
1. Know That Brut Means “BRUTally Dry”
The term Brut refers to the sweetness level in a Champagne, explains Raymond Ringeval of Palmer & Co. Those labeled Brut are dry—even more so than those called Extra Dry. Extra Brut is drier still. On the other end of the spectrum, Demi-Sec tends to be sweet and pairs well with dessert. There are also other expressions—such as Blanc de Blanc, which uses 100 percent Chardonnay grapes, and Blanc de Noirs, which use Pinot grapes. Of course, some occasions call for Rosé Champagne. They can be just as dry as their cream-colored counterparts, with a hint of tartness from the Pinot grapes.
2. Keep a Champagne Countdown
Of course Champagne and other sparkling wines should be served chilled. But too cold and you lose more nuanced flavors. Take Champagne (and other white wines) out of the refrigerator 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve. And be judicious with the ice bucket. If you’re going to go through the bottle fairly quickly, it’s probably okay to leave it on the table. Since Champagne is really just another wine, it’s perfectly fine to serve it in white wine glasses or tulip glasses with a wide opening. The tall stems with a small opening don’t offer enough room for you to smell the stuff.
3. Use it or Lose it
Don’t store Champagne in the refrigerator for more than a few days, as the cold can cause the cork to dry out and shrink, letting oxygen into the bottle and ruining the wine, Ringeval says. Store it in a cool, dark place (like a cellar) on its side. It can last years that way.