Monday, December 24, 2007

Ways of opening a bottle of Champagne

Broadly speaking, there are two methods of opening a Champagne bottle: the messy way and the proper way. The messy way is to shake the bottle to build up the bubbles within the neck space of the bottle and make a splash when the cork is removed. The other way is to do it like a craftsman and uncork the Champagne in style with safety in mind. The pressure that shot the cork out of the bottle is almost 3X your tyre pressure. It can blind one’s eye if the cork is shot directly into the eye.

So, let me describe the most common methods of safely opening a Champagne bottle. Of course, before opening the Champagne, it must be chilled and is at its serving temperature (10C-12C).

Without splashing
This traditional and least exciting method is to ensure that the cork is being removed in the most controlled condition.
1) Remove the paper seal from the bottle opening and the neck. You can peel it off rather easily using the extended edge of the seal designed for this purpose.
2) After removing the paper seal, it is time to remove the wire cage. From this point onward, your left palm should be over the cork as a precaution and the bottle should be pointed to a safe direction even though the cork is not loosened yet.
3) After removing the wire cage, hold the bottle bottom with your right hand and cover the cork and bottle opening with your left palm (if you are right-handed). Make sure that both your hands are firmly held onto the bottle. Now, you can use your right hand to gently rotate the bottle clockwise to loosen the cork.

The cork should be released from the bottle with a whoof sound and will not fly off to hit any objects. All this while, your left palm is firmly covering the bottle opening and the cork will now sit safely in your left palm.

With a sabre - Sabre à Champagne
This method is ceremonial and fun. You should only do this when there is an open space, preferably in a garden party or a ballroom with high ceiling. The equipment you need is a sword and a bottle of chilled Champagne. If the Champagne is not chilled (above 13C), le sabrage can be dangerous. This art of opening builds on the fact that carbon dioxide gas is most stable at temperature between -56C and 20C. If the Champagne bottle has been left in room temperature (in Singapore context, it will be 28C -35C), some carbon dioxide may be in liquid form and sabrage will leave behind undesired glass debris. Therefore, chill the Champagne to 10C before preparing for sabrage.

Once the Champagne is taken out from its cool storage, use a piece of clean cloth to wipe away the condensation so that you will have a firm grip of the bottle. Next, remove the paper seal and wire cage at the cork as described above. Now, locate the crease along the side of the bottle. This is where two halves of the bottle meets. Notice that the crease goes all the way to the lips of the bottle opening. This part of the lips is the weakest and we will be striking at this point later.

Next, hold the bottle firmly with your left hand (if you are right handed) and hold the sword with your right hand. Point the bottle to a safe position (@45C elevation from ground) and position the sword with the blunt side of the blade against the crease of the lips. Practice a few strokes with the sword gliding down the seam towards the lips of the bottle with applying force. Once you feel confident, slide down the sword along the crease towards the lips with a firm strike. As long as the bottle is chilled and you are applying the appropriate amount of force upon strike, the neck of the bottle will break easily with a gush of Champagne flowing out from the bottle, clearing away any glass debris.

You will pour the first glass into a clear Champagne flute and check to make sure that there is no floating glass pieces. Once this is confirmed, normal serving can proceed.

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Effects of Global Warming on Champagne

There has been much talk about global warming and its effects on our environment. It manifests in the form of climate change with rising temperature in many parts of the world, occurrence of draughts and unpredicted rainfall patterns. Food and beverages that we consumed will be amongst the first to experience this change as the health of agriculture and crops are the timely thermometers. Indeed, in agriculture science, vines are found to be most sensitive to climate change. So, for those of us who enjoy the fabulous fermented grape juice, we will be first to know how global warming is affecting even the little pleasure in life.

Amongst all the grape varieties, pinot noir is the most delicate and temperamental, although once the winemaker gets it right, the wine can be unforgettable. This grape is an important contributor to Champagne, in addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Pinot Noir gives the wine an additional degree of complexity with an enhanced fruit character and when blended with Chardonnay, the heady aroma of baked apple and yeast can be a mouth watering experience.

So, what will happen when global warming sets in and will we still have the same style of champagne that we are so in loved with? While I am still researching on the viticulture impacts and possible solutions to champagne makers, I would like to ask the readers a few questions about your ideal champagne style and hopefully, using some of these feedback to mitigate the impact of climate change on our future champagne:

a. Based on your memory and tasting experience, what qualities are you looking for when drinking champagne?
b. What is the ideal style of champagne for you?
c. One of the possible effects of global warming on champagne production is that the wine may have a higher alcohol level. Is this something that you can accept?
d. If one day, Champagne decides to certify another region (Europe or Asia) to be its extended champagne production region, will you be willing to try the new wine (assuming the price offered is within 20% of the original champagne label of your choice)?

Please feel free to reply to this article via or you can simply reply to this blog.

Copyright of Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte (Singapore) Ltd


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Decanting a sparkling wine?

I was recently been told that it is possible to decant a champagne and still enjoy its finesse. With all curiosity, I opened a bottle of sparkling wine made with Methode Champenoise to experiment this unconventional way of drinking champagne. To make the whole experience worthwhile, I prepared a couple of oriental appetizers to go with my tasting.

To begin with, I use a decanter that has a stopper (so that the carbon dioxide does not escape too readily). After opening the chilled wine bottle with a loud "pop", I poured the wine immediately into a champagne glass as my reference sample. I then decant about half the bottle and let it rest for 5 minutes. Now, I have two samples (undecanted and decanted) each resting in its glassware for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, I start to observe the beautiful bubbles for both samples. Since the decanter has a broader surface, the bubble is not rising as beautifully as that of the proper champagne wine glass. After 5 minutes, I tasted the undecanted wine and feels that it has its normal fizzy self, citrus nose and a lemony palate. This sparkling wine uses the blending of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier with 3 years lees contact. Now, I pour the decanted champagne into another similar glass and tasted it with high curiosity. There is still the fizziness but much less intense, the lemony palate is smoothened and it tastes more like a still wine that survived through the second fermentation. The creamy character of the wine is accentuated. To my pleasant surprise, I find the decanted sparkling wine very welcoming and indeed exhibits more fruit characters than its original sparkling form. The amount of oxygen exchange with the wine during decanting has removed the sharp edges contributed by the fruit acidity, softening the palate. There is still sufficient carbon dioxide to give the fizzy texture.

Food wise, I have an Indonesian styled deep fried squid and the ever popular Chinese dry fried prawns. They are perfect companion to a sparkling wine, decanted or not. Overall, I think this little experiment has yielded pleasant results and I don’t mind presenting it to my guests in the next dinner party. Cheers!

Copyright of Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd

Labels: ,