Champagne Smarts – Know Your Stuff

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner and if you’re like a lot of us, you may have champagne on the brain… or maybe you have sparkling wine on the brain and you just think that it’s champagne – that’s possible too.

Copper Champagne Bucket

You may or may not know that the only sparkling wine that can legally be referred to as champagne, is a sparkling wine that is actually made in France’s Champagne region (about 80,000 acres of land approximately 90 miles northeast of Paris.)

The severe climate, dry sub-soil, inconsistent sun and limited harvest join forces to create a one of a kind type of bubbly that can be emulated but never duplicated.

If it comes from California, Massachusetts or anyplace other than Champagne, it’s probably still delicious – you just can’t call it champagne. It’s simply a bottle of sparkling wine.

Did you know…

The signature bubbles in champagne are the result of an accident! Way back in the 1700s they wanted their wine to be flat – like it had always been. After a couple of “mistakes” gave them bubbly, carbonated wine, a very bright monk by the name of Dom Pérignon (yep, Dom was a monk) decided to embrace the drink and make it even better, bubbles and all. Before he knew it, his “accident” was in high demand for French aristocrats and royalty.

It’s a Cyclical Market

50% of champagne is sold between January and the end of November

25% is sold between December 1st and the Christmas holiday on December 25th

25% of annual sales occur in just one week, the final week between Christmas and New Years

Types of Champagne

There are six kinds:

  • Brut is the most common variety and also the driest
  • Extra-dry which is actually less dry than Brut (a bit misleading, no?)
  • Sec is kind of a semi-sweet
  • Demi Sec is very sweet
  • Vintage bottles (created using grapes that all come from one particular harvest)
  • Non-vintage bottles (made with a blend of grapes from various years)

Storing & Chilling

It’s fitting that champagne is fancy and refined, seeing as it’s pretty fragile for a drink. It’s definitely far more light and temperature sensitive than other wines. This means it should be stored upright or horizontally in a cool, dark environment (40-60°F) to avoid any trouble.

When you serve it, you want to make sure that it’s chilled but not too cold. Champagne reaches its ideal temperature (which is 40-45°F) after about three hours in the refrigerator or twenty minutes in a bucket filled with ice and cold water. NEVER chill champagne in the freezer.


Cut the foil and undo the the wire cage thing (it’s actually called a muselet.) Once that’s off, grab the cork in one hand (some prefer to do so at an angle, with a towel) and then turn the bottle with the other (holding it at the bottom.) The cork comes off easily that way.


You need a tall, tulip shaped flute that allows the bubbles room to move around. This gives the aromas a chance to release, too. Make sure the glasses are clean and rinsed well (soap residue will make the champagne go flat.) When you pour, only fill the glass two-thirds full.



  • M December 28, 2010 @ 12:30pm

    Champagne, Cava, Sparkling Wine, Bubble Water…whatever you want to call it…It’s wonderful. I don’t need a reason to celebrate to drink Champagne. I drink it all year round and for any reason. I’ll cheers to my fingers for being able to type this comment ;-P

    Cheers to KegWorks and to the end of 2010 and a brand new 2011!

  • Hannah December 28, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    M – cheers to you AND your fingers too :*

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