Ditch that ice bucket! An expert spills tips on how to better enjoy special-occasion Champagne.
So many clichés accompany Champagne that it’s tough to know where to start. Some open it dramatically, letting it spray everywhere (and wasting a quarter of the bottle). Others pop strawberries into flutes of the good stuff (two errors there). Then there’s that ice bucket, intended to keep bubbly super-cold—and thus blunting its gorgeous bouquet.
When you’re drinking cheap Cava, Prosecco, or other sparkling wines, sure, it’s fine to get it very cold, mix it into cocktails, or enjoy it however you like. There’s no disputing taste, after all. But if you’ve splurged on a very fine bottle of French Champagne, you want to let it shine.
I chatted with Mylène Soulas of Maison Krug on a recent trip Reims, France, and she told me a few things the average champers fanatic could tweak. (Krug retails for $145 and up, and is considered by many experts to be among the world’s tastiest bubblies.)
Here are her five tips for how best to enjoy that Champagne you just splurged on.
1. Don’t Ice It
Many people drink high-end Champagne too cold, says Soulas. You want it at 50-55 degrees, as opposed to on ice or even straight from the fridge, both of which would be too cold. You can taste the nuances and enjoy the bouquet of bubbly better when it’s the proper temperature. Most people serve it much too cold, which Soulas says “is like going to the opera but listening outside of the venue with earplugs.” That said, if it’s not a fine Champagne, “At this temperature, if there’s a flaw in the sparkling wine…oof.”
2. No Flutes
If you have a choice, drink fancy champers out of white wine glasses, not narrow flutes, so as to better appreciate its bouquet. (You can’t get your nose into the mouth of a flute!)
3. Don’t Pair It With Dessert
Because most top-notch bubbly is “quite dry,” says Soulas, you actually don’t want to pair it with dessert—including those ubiquitous strawberries. It’s not a natural pairing.
4. Do Pair With Specific Savory Foods
That said, Champagne actually pairs beautifully with some Chinese dishes and mild Indian food, says Soulas. She remembers being surprised when she paired Krug with salade Ardennaise, a traditional French potato and bacon salad she grew up eating, and it was a delight.
5. Don’t Shake the Glass Too Much!
Though I’ve seen experts differ on this, if your inclination is to madly swirl the glass in order to get that booming bouquet of flowers, truffles, or whatever else your pricey bubbly is about to deliver, try to restrain yourself. “The cellar master doesn’t like it when you shake the glass,” said Soulas, adding, “You want the effervescence.” So don’t ruin in 20 seconds what’s taken years to perfect!
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Gourmet.com, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen.