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Bottles in riddling racks in the caves at Taittenger in Champagne, France

World of Bubbles: Discover Sparkling Wine

cava champagne food & wine gifts glassware how to montana rae podcast prosecco sparkling wine winemaking Mar 15, 2022

The best parties start with bubbles, right?! We're going deeper than ever into the study and exploration of specific categories of wine. What better place to start than with the wonderful World of Bubbles?! We kick things off with this week's episode of The Wine Ship Podcast where I cover grape growing for sparkling, winemaking techniques, and the major production regions of Europe.

Here on the blog, you'll find bonus content including key lifestyle info on service, glassware, accessories, aging, storage, food pairing, and gifting. Plus, I've added a couple of fun videos on how to open sparkling wine either by hand or by saber!

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Join The Wine Ship Club for free access to our LIVE members-only virtual tasting on April 12, 2022. If you miss it, you'll have access to the recording in the club member dashboard!

We'll be tasting four amazing sparkling wines from the Old World and learning together as we discuss the flavors and styles of Champagne, Crémant, Cava, and Prosecco.

We'll also be announcing the winner of our April club member giveaway -- an incredible champagne SABER sponsored by our friends at Boisset Collection. Becoming a member automatically puts you in the running to win so sign up ASAP!! 

Ready to try some amazing sparkling wine?! Check out The Wine Ship's World of Bubbles Wine List! We've tried almost all of the bottles on the list and we'll be adding to it over time.

Got a bottle of bubbly you think we should add? Drop it in the comments below to share it with the rest of The Wine Ship Cru!

Let's get into the lifestyle and enjoyment of sparkling wine, shall we? 

Service

I'm generally not as big of a stickler as a lot of wine people, but there’s one cardinal law when it comes to sparkling wine that simply can’t be broken and that’s the serving temperature. Sparkling wine needs to be served cold, cold, cold! Technically, the recommended temperature is between 45° and 50°F. To achieve this, I recommend moving the bottle from the refrigerator to the freezer (just don’t forget about it!) or an ice bath 20-30 minutes before serving. The high acidity and refreshing style is always best expressed when served icy cold.

Another important reason to make sure your bottle is cold has to do with the pressure and risk of explosion. Think of when you leave a beer sitting out in the sun. When it gets hot, it can explode, right? Heat increases the pressure in the bottle. If the wine is even slightly warm or agitated, the cork can fly out and cause serious damage.

Also, let the bottle settle for a few days if it was shipped to you or has been through a long, bumpy car trip. If you just can’t wait, letting it chill in the freezer or ice bath will help a lot too. Just be extra mindful when you open it so it doesn’t overflow and waste that bubbly goodness!

How to Safely Open Bubbly

I know that POP from a newly opened bottle of bubbly is fun and festive, but a true pro can open a bottle and barely make a sound. In the video below, I walk you through the steps of safely opening a bottle of sparkling wine without spilling a drop.

Glassware

I like to think of glassware like speakers. The ones you choose are going to have an impact on your experience! Sparkling wine is inherently festive and therefore it deserves to be served in a special glass. Below are a few of my favorite glassware solutions for bubbles.

The Flute

The classic choice in glassware for sparkling wine, the flute is designed with a long, narrow bowl designed to minimize the surface area in contact with the wine, therefore prolonging the bubbles. As you know, serving sparkling wine ice cold is super important, so it’s always best to serve the wines in a glass with a stem to keep the heat from your hands as far away from the wine as possible.

My Pick: Zwiesel Glas Pure Tritan Crystal Stemware Collection Glassware, 7.3-Ounce

Why I Love It: Absolutely modern and elegant, this glass is amazing for serving any sparkling wine as well as sparkling wine cocktails. French 75, anyone? The angles are gorgeous and the glass is sturdy enough to make them dishwasher safe so there’s less breakage.

The Coup

A classic throwback style of glass with that oh-so-Gatsby aesthetic. This also has a stem, but the bowl is quite wide. The larger surface area means the bubbles dissipate much quicker in a coup. For this reason, I really don’t recommend using a coup for sparkling wine unless the aesthetic is your primary motivator. If you do use it for bubbly, I recommend pouring tiny amounts more frequently so the wine stays cold and fizzy. I do, however, LOVE a coup for cocktail service!! You’ll find cocktail recipes and tips in the Mixology section of The Wine Ship Club dashboard.

My Pick: CB2 Eve Coupe Glass, 10-Ounce

Why I Love It: The clean lines and sharp angles of this glass are so Art Deco. They are sturdy and gorgeous and can double as an extra fancy way to serve dessert!

Stemless

Since serving sparkling wine as cold as possible is so important, I don’t recommend using stemless glasses UNLESS you’re spending the afternoon soaking up the sun at the park, pool, or seaside. Then, and only then, do I give the thumbs-up for using stemless.

My Pick: Govino Stemless Plastic Flute Glasses, 8-Ounce

Why I Love It: Even though they don’t have stems, I just love the shape and concept of the plastic glasses from Govino. For those times when you’re away from your normal glass selection, they really are awesome. A couple of tiny caveats though: 1) they claim to be dishwasher safe, but I don’t recommend it! The heat from the dishwasher can be too much for the plastic and the shape can get distorted. 2) There’s a small impression in the side intended as a place for your thumb to rest when you’re holding it. The heat from your hand is going to transfer quickly into the wine and warm it up, which you don’t want! I recommend filling these only halfway at the most and holding them at the top instead.

 

Keep it clean!

Clean glassware is always so important when serving wine but it’s crucial when it comes to sparkling wine. Even a trace amount of dish soap or dust in the glass can have a negative effect on the quality of the bubbles and flavor of the wine. Rinse and polish your glasses thoroughly before each use.

Accessories

Beyond glassware, there are a few fun accessories that I love for sparkling wine. Some are crucial and others are just for fun. My favorites are below. Click on each one to learn more!

  • Closure: On the rare occasion you don’t finish the bottle of bubbles it’s nice to have a closure on hand that’s intended for use on sparkling wine bottles, especially if you need to transport the bottle once it’s open. 
  • Saber: Scroll down to my saberage tutorial to learn how to use this bad boy safely and effectively!
  • Glass Polishing Cloths: Get any water spots or gunk off your glassware with these microfiber polishing cloths. They don’t leave any fuzz behind and the glass is crystal clear.
  • Coravin Preservation System: If you’re tasting several sparkling wines side-by-side or tasting a really expensive collectors bottle, this new innovation from Coravin can be a great addition to your wine accessory collection. It’ll keep the bubbly fresh and fizzy for up to four weeks after opening!
  • Chiller: No wine lover’s household should be without a wine chiller. Get those bottles cold and keep them cold by filling this halfway with ice and cold water.

 Aging

Whether a sparkling wine is suitable for aging depends on the style of wine. In general, wines made in the Champagne Method are better suited to aging than wines made in the tank method. The contact with the lees and very high acid of Champagne and similar style wines means they can last for years and years. Prosecco and Spumante wines are intended to be drunk young, fresh, and fruity so don't hold those back.

Sparkling Wine Storage

All wine is best stored in a cool, dark place. It’s important to avoid direct sunlight and keep the bottles away from vibrations from appliances like a washing machine. If you have a wine fridge, awesome! If not, a cool, dry basement or closet can work great too. Remember, Champagne is stored in underground caves for decades in France! Aim for a storage temperature of around 50° to 55°F if possible.

If you’re planning on enjoying your bubbly in the next couple of years, it’s recommended that you store the bottles upright as opposed to on their side to prevent the cork from getting too moist. If you’re storing a special bottle that you plan to enjoy years down the road, store it on its side. Whether upright or horizontal, once you’ve got your bottle in place try to leave it be and move it as little as possible until you’re ready to enjoy it.

If you’ve got an open bottle on hand that you’re not going to finish, a closure or Coravin Preservation System as noted in the Accessories section above can be useful. If you’re at home, a piece of cling wrap around the neck of the bottle can do the trick. Just store it upright in your fridge and enjoy it within 2-3 days.

Pairing Sparkling Wine with Food

I'll start by saying that sparkling wine can be so much more than an aperitif! The high acid, refreshing style of Champagne, Crémant, many Cavas, and other wines produced in the traditional method make them well suited for pairing with food. The lees contact that imparts those bready characteristics is also super friendly with lots of flavor combinations.

Try a contrasting pairing by combining a high acid sparkler with a rich, fatty dish like fried chicken, potato chips, pasta or risotto with cream sauce, or even a marbled steak. For a lighter option, have it with a pan-fried fish with lots of fresh citrus. For something simple, pair your bubbles with a classic triple-cream brie, gouda, or chèvre.

If your wine is sweet, try it with a hard, salty cheese like Parmesan or Manchego. For something absolutely decadent, pair sweet wines with fruit-based desserts.

For a bite that works with just about any sparkling wine, try whipping up a batch of Deviled Eggs topped with bacon and fresh chives. You can’t go wrong with these at brunch or as an easy appetizer!

 

Bubbles as Gifts

Wine makes an awesome gift and sparkling wine is usually a safe bet. It’s festive and beautiful and even if it’s not the recipient’s favorite style, it’s always great to have a nice bottle of bubbly around the house for entertaining. Of course, there’s a massive range of price points to choose from. You can make a lasting impression without blowing your budget by giving a great, affordable bottle of Crémant or Cava as a gift since the quality is there but the familiarity may not be. Introducing people to amazing new wines is always welcome!

If you’re shopping for someone you know loves Champagne in particular and you’re ready to drop some money on a bottle, look for a vintage Champagne. In excellent years only, Champagne producers will make single vintage Champagnes. These are highly sought-after wines that make an incredible present for someone who you know will appreciate it. Here’s a link to learn more about vintage Champagne with info on some of the best vintages out there.

If you’re going to a party, I highly recommend looking for a large format bottle of sparkling! You can find bubbles in Magnum (1.5L = 2 regular bottles) and ​​Jeroboam (3L = 4 regular bottles) sizes, as well as other even bigger options. A large bottle of Prosecco is a great way to make some friends!

Speaking of alternative sizes, you can also find bubbles in half or even quarter bottles. These make super cute ‘thank you’ gifts and stocking stuffers!

How to Saber Sparkling Wine 

Need a fun new party trick?! Few things get the party started like a little sabrage! Although it appears intimidating, sabering is actually super easy and so much fun as long as you follow my instructions. If you don't, it can be dangerous and can lead to serious damage so please be careful and watch the entire video!

There's so much more to discover in the world of sparkling wine and this program will only grow and evolve! We'll continue the journey next week with our Cava special featuring guest winemaker, Arthur O'Connor. Until then, get yourself some amazing bubbly and raise a glass to the joy of life!

Cheers, Montana and The Wine Ship Cru

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