As we head towards the pointy end of the year it is time to get our ‘festive’ on and commence popping. Over the next few weeks many of you will make the switch from a pre-dinner drink to the clinking of flutes filled with bubbly, nose tickling goodness. To help you choose, store, chill and pour your bubbles correctly, we've prepared our go-to guide on all things fizz.
Champagne or Australian sparkling?
To be called champagne a sparkling wine must originate from the Champagne region of northern France and be made using the "methode champenoise", in which secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle. Australian sparkling wine made using this same process will have "methode traditionelle", "bottle fermented" or "methode champenoise" on the label.
At Cape Jaffa Wines we use the charmat (or tank ferment) method. The bubbles in our Cape Jaffa Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay come from CO2 produced as a result of a secondary fermentation of sugar to alcohol. This is in contrast to the cheaper method of direct carbonation with CO2. Charmat method tends to create comparatively finer bubbles that persist for longer so it’s better quality than carbonation.
How cold do you like it?
Coldest is not always best. One of the most common mistakes people make is burying a bottle in an ice bucket or pulling it straight out of your fridge. You definitely want to keep it cool, but we recommend removing it from the refrigerator about 10 minutes before you're ready to serve, and assuming you're sharing with friends, you probably don't need to keep chilling it back down.
Flute, saucer or coupe?
We're sorry to burst your bubble, flute enthusiasts, but experts say that although flutes do retain the bubbles better than a coupe, the narrow opening concentrates the levels of CO2, forcing out an ultra-explosion of bubbles that ultimately distort the taste and aroma. The solution? Get the most oomph (both in terms of bubbles and flavour) by serving it in a classic wine glass. However, a flute is still a good option if that is all you’ve got handy.
So how do you open a bottle of champagne without looking like an arse who has just won a grand prix? The trick – after taking off the wire and foil – is to tilt the bottle to 45 degrees, grip the cork and twist the bottle, easing the cork out – let it hiss out, not pop out – and, when it is all the way out, keep the bottle at 45 degrees a few seconds longer. That way you won't lose any of that precious, fizzing golden liquid to the floor. They say when opening a sparkling it should sigh like a contented woman…we’ll leave that to your imagination.
Store it – with a teaspoon?
Sparkling doesn’t come with a screw cap so the biggest issue facing bubble enthusiasts is how to store an open bottle. Lots of people will insist that if you put a spoon in the neck and put it in the fridge the bubbles will stay healthy and boisterous. These people are both right and wrong. Put champagne in the fridge with a spoon in it and it will stay bubbly – but only because the cooling action of the fridge makes carbon dioxide more soluble and so more easily retained in the liquid. The spoon, alas, is entirely superfluous. Go get yourself a stopper and save your precious bubbles from a teaspoon inflicted death.
So, there you have it, you are now a bubble aficionado. So stock up, chill down and (don’t) get popping. Happy Australian Sparkling Season!
Here's our favourite crayfish dip recipe with a healthy splash of bubbles for good measure.
1 tub Robe Dairy Labneh or cream cheese if unavailable
1 1/2 cups cooked cray meat, roughly chopped
1/4 cup Cape Jaffa Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay
Season to taste with cracked pepper and sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh dill
2 tbsp sour cream
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Serve with your favourite crackers.