“Our Sonoma County, and particularly Healdsburg-based sparkling wines, are truly the envy of the rest of the world. These wines are simply the best on the planet outside of France but sell for half the price …” declares Peter Posert, after tasting an array of sparkling wines in our area
I love the sound of a cork being popped. It's joyous! Champagne experts advise that the cork should sound like a sigh when it's removed properly. I say, "no way". I like to hear the pop!
I love to see sparkling wine being poured into a glass as the tiny bubbles bring the wine to life. I tilt the glass slightly to preserve the bubbles rather than have them dissipate into foam.
I love the sensation of the bubbles tickling my tongue like little stars exploding on the tastebuds. All the more reason to preserve those bubbles!
I love to see the bubbles rising from the bottom of a Champagne flute. It's trendy these days to drink sparkling wine from a larger glass. I know it enhances the aromas, but it can kill the bubbles.
I love that sparkling wines go with such a wide array of foods. We often have a bottle of sparkling with dinner, especially with spicy foods that are hard to pair with other wines.
My top five reasons to love sparkling wine probably need no further explanation, however for those of you who have just popped the cork on a bottle of Champagne or other sparkling wine and want a little more detail while you’re sipping your bubbly, here are the answers to your burning questions.
The professionals say that when removing the cork from a bottle of Champagne or other sparkling wine it should sound like a whisper or a sigh. This is the most controlled way to open the bottle and ensures no precious bubbles are lost.
Of course, I love the sound of a cork being popped. You can still open the bottle safely and treat yourself and your friends to that celebratory “pop”. First, make sure the bottle is chilled, and after removing the foil, hold your thumb over the wire hood while you untwist the cage. Then holding the bottle in one hand, tilt it 45 degrees, and with the palm of your other hand grab the cork and cage. Twist the bottle – not the cork - until the cork comes out with a pop.
If you want your friends to think you’re a sommelier or don’t want them to know you’re opening yet another bottle, follow the same steps as above but hold you palm very firmly over the cork and twist the bottle very slowly to achieve the “whisper” or “sigh”.
In all cases, be sure to point the bottle away from anyone. No matter how careful I am, every so often, the cork comes bursting out before I’m ready for it. Other times, the bubbles start overflowing from the bottle – I never know why because our bottles are always well chilled – and my first instinct is to stand the bottle upright, so the wine doesn’t come bubbling out. Wrong! It’s counter intuitive, I know, but the best way to keep too much wine from spilling is to keep the bottle at 45 degrees until the foaming stops.
Tilting the glass allows the sparkling wine to flow gently down the side of the glass as it is poured slowly out of the bottle. It’s also helpful to pause for a few seconds after pouring a small amount into the glass before resuming a slow pour. This allows the effervescence to subside preventing excessive foam.
Opening the bottle carefully (#1) and pouring it gently into the glass (#2) are key to preserving the bubbles. Did you know that for every carbon dioxide molecule that turns into a bubble, four others escape into the air? So, pouring gently is very important. Once I’ve poured my bubbles, I put a champagne stopper on the bottle and put it back in an ice bucket or in the refrigerator.
People often tell me they don’t drink sparkling wine because they don’t want the whole bottle at one time and it goes flat (I say, invite more friends!). Now I will confess that a bottle does not last long in our house, especially now that my beer-drinking husband has decided to replace beer with bubbles. Nevertheless, I have found that a bottle of bubbles will keep for as long as a week with a proper stopper. The only time it doesn’t work is when there is less than a glass left in the bottle.
The answer is that the proper glass has changed over the centuries, partly because Champagne and sparkling wine have changed – becoming more effervescent, dryer and more aromatic. Tastes has also changed. In the 17th century, “most of the wines made during this time were only lightly effervescent and pink. For the English, the coupe was the ideal glass to show off the charms of their favorite beverage,” according to Vivino News, Tips and Tricks.
Later the flute, or flûte à Champagne became the proper glass. Scenes of tall, elegant glasses being raised in a toast come to mind and evoke celebration. Flutes are usually notched inside the base causing that beautiful stream of bubbles rising in the glass. I must admit, I love flutes, the taller the better, and I love watching that stream of bubbles ascend and create a little ring on the top of the liquid.
Lately, I have come to appreciate a glass more closely resembling a white wine glass, with one condition – it must be notched. I want to see, and I want everyone around me to see that it is sparkling in my glass! If you can’t tell it’s sparkling wine by the shape of the glass, then you must have the telltale stream of tiny, elegant bubbles floating up through the wine.
Probably the most surprising thing I’ve come to appreciate about sparkling wine over the years we’ve been making it is that it can be enjoyed with a variety of foods and can be the featured wine for the whole meal. Before we started crafting our own sparkling wines, I assumed it was something to drink at weddings or brunches – although that was usually cheap sparkling wine mixed with orange juice. How else could a restaurant afford “bottomless mimosas”?
I could write a book on all the wonderful meals that go with sparkling wines. We now make six different sparkling wines, and we have fun trying them with specific dishes. We continue to experiment. Here are a few of my current favorites:
Keep up to date on the latest wine releases, events, and promotions.