Planning on picking up a bottle of bubbly for New Year’s Eve? If you’re somewhat of a novice in the world of sparkling wine (like me), you must read Eva’s champagne primer after the jump. For instance, did you know that extra-dry is sweeter than brut? (Seriously!) So study up before party time, and you’ll have the added bonus of getting to wow some guests with a little wine wisdom.
Let’s talk champers. Whether you’re looking for a bottle to bring to a New Year’s Eve party or wondering what to pop at your own place, there are some key things to keep in mind.
First of all, the taste. In the world of sparkling wine, the word dry can mean sweet. So how do you know what to buy? It all depends on your personal preferences and how you plan to serve it.
The main classifications you’ll find on sparkling wine labels are brut, extra-dry (or extra-sec), sec, demi-sec and doux, with brut being the driest and doux the sweetest. Brut is considered the classic and is usually a safe bet, but if you and your crowd prefer sweeter drinks or you plan to use the sparkler for cocktails like mimosas, choose an extra-dry.
What’s in a name? That which we call champagne by any other name tastes just as fabulous.
Sparkling wines from California have long been popular, but many other countries have their own great bubblies. When in Rome, or when looking for an Italian sparkling wine, choose prosecco. Craving something Spanish? Go for cava. And with South African wines gaining in popularity, you may want to try their sparkling variety, called Cap Classique. For a real show-stopper, look around for sparkling shiraz from Australia — this sexy, bright-red bubbly is usually fruity, not too sweet, and easy to drink.
How do you open it? People seem to fall into two camps: those who know The Best way to open a bottle, and those who flat-out refuse to do it. My thirst for champers helped me get over my initial corkaphobia, and I’ve tried various methods to get things flowing. The key thing I’ve learned is to twist the bottle while keeping the cork steady. This helps keep the cork from flying, which is always a good thing. Here’s my technique, but please feel free to comment with your own — and if you’ve ever sabered off a cork, you have to share what that’s like.
1. Remove the foil from the top of the bottle.
2. Loosen the wire top around the bottle with one hand. While doing this, place your other hand on the top of the bottle, just in case the cork is ready to pop.
3. Keeping your hand on the cork and holding the cork steady, slowly twist the bottle clockwise. The cork should come out quickly with a small “pop” and stay in your hand, not bounce all around the room.