There’s one thing guaranteed to impress on Valentine’s Day: Champagne.
To really make your evening go with a pop, you need to make sure you serve it just right so that you can really dazzle. Much of the tradition around champagne doesn’t actually show the wine at its best, and because you want to make a great impression, you’ll have to re-think what you know.
It’s all about the bubbles. Here’s how.
1. Pick your glassware wisely
1920s style Coupé glasses, the shallow bowl modelled (so we’re told) on Marie-Antoinette’s breast? The classic tall and graceful flute? If you insist on one or the other, go for the flute. A coupé gives a large surface area so the effect of the bubbles is lost and you won’t get the full aroma. A flute is the other extreme, concentrating the effect of the escaping CO2 and intensifying the aroma, but at the cost of irritating the nose and affecting how we smell and taste.
We recommend tulip-shaped wine glasses. They provide the perfect shape and surface area for the bubbles to work their magic.
2. Getting the temperature right
Champagne is best served around 7-9°C. Unsurprisingly, bubbles react to temperature. (Thank you GCSE physics) There’s an argument that the best texture and flavour occurs a few degrees warmer than we usually serve champagne, however the pressure will be more aggressive when opening the bottle so a little caution is needed. This is really only worth considering if you’ve got a top-notch bottle, as lower temperatures help mask any imbalance in the structure of the wine. If you’re feeling brave, try 12-14 degrees – so much more flavoursome!
3. Opening the bottle like a pro
If you have thoughts of Lewis Hamilton on the podium firing out a cork at 30mph and spraying Mumm everywhere, the only thoughts should be that it’s an utter waste and totally spoils the wine. Loud pops are out. You lose a huge amount of CO2 when you release the cork (around 75%) and you want as much of that in the wine as possible.
In the wine trade, the anecdote is that it should sound like a lady’s sigh – or as I prefer, an Angel’s fart. The champagne wants to escape, your goal is to stop it.
To do this, first remove the foil, then loosen the cage. This should take 6 twists of the wire. (5.5 if you’re being really precise) Hilariously, the wire snapped during the video, so the keen-eye’d among you may notice a slight discrepancy between my words and what my hands actually did!
Next, grip the bottle by the base with your off-hand, and use your main-hand to hold the cork. Point the bottle away from your Valentine at about 45° and gently twist the base, maintaining downward pressure on the cork as if you’re trying to hold it in while it tries to escape. As it comes loose, it will gather momentum and you’ll feel it come free. Slowly, let it ease out.
“Pffffft.” Excuse you.
4. Pouring perfection
Tilting the glass will allow you to slow the flow of liquid down the side of the glass, and result in less froth (and loss of CO2). To pour with some panache, though, try this. Place the glass on a table or flat surface, grip the base of the bottle with your main-hand (you can slip your thumb in the punt if you wish) and pour as thin and steady a stream as you can into the glass. It will froth aggressively for the first few seconds, then settle allowing you to slowly fill the glass in one. This is known as the ‘continuous pour’.
5. Sip, savour, enjoy
Look your valentine in the eyes, hand them a glass filled with delicately rising bubbles, and whisper sweet nothings. The rest of the night is up to you…
You can pick your perfect sparkles to serve here!