How many times have you tried to buy the fancy champagne for a special occasion but ended up feeling way over your head? You know that it is a big deal to have champagne, but you don’t know what makes it a big deal. The more expensive and French-sounding it is, the better it has to be, right? That’s not always the case. To help you, we’ve put together the quintessential guide to understanding the world of champagne.

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Excusez Moi, What Does That Mean?

Picking the right bottle of champagne starts with understanding the label. From the label alone, you can find out the type of grapes used, how it will taste and the overall blend of the champagne. Here are a couple of pointers to help you out…

  • Vintage: Made from the grapes of a single year’s harvest. It typically offers a fuller and deeper taste.
  • Non-Vintage: Made from grapes of different years.
  • Extra Brut: Driest form with a dosage level of 0-6 g/L (grams of sugar per liter).
  • Brut: Most common and popular style with a dosage level of 6-12 g/L.
  • Extra Dry: Contains more sugar than Brut and a dosage level of 12-17 g/L.
  • Sec: Contains a dosage level of 17-32 g/L.
  • Demi-Sec: Contains a dosage level of 32-50 g/L.
  • Doux: Sweetest form with a dosage level of over 50 g/L.
  • Blanc de Blancs: Made from Chardonnay grapes.
  • Blanc de Noirs: Made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
  • Rosé: Made by macerating Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes.

What’s the difference in grapes, you ask?

  • Chardonnay grapes add a distinct freshness, elegance and finesse to the Champagne.
  • Pinot Noir grapes add body, structure, aroma and a blend of complex flavors.
  • Pinot Meunier grapes contribute to the fruitiness, floral aromas and a bright character.

Pairings With A Pop

Knowing what food to pair with each champagne type requires some experimenting, but, if done thoughtfully, it can elevate your dining experience to another level. When deciding on pairings, it’s important to keep your dishes balanced in weight and flavor intensity so that they don’t overpower the champagne.

Adding texture can also complement its effervescence. Before your meal, serve Extra Dry or Sec as an aperitif (an opening drink). Extra Dry and Sec are ideal starters because they’re just the right balance of dry and sweet. They’re light enough to stimulate your palette without overpowering it. If you’re serving a light entrée before the main course, Blanc de Blancs makes for an excellent pairing.

It goes well with lighter dishes such as vegetables and seafood. The main course should be served with Brut or Blanc de Blancs; these options are the most versatile with full-flavored meals, including meat and any pasta or risotto dish (especially with a cream or mushroom sauce).

For desserts that aren’t too sweet, Demi-Sec and Rosé are the most appropriate pairings. Demi-Sec complements light desserts such as angel food cake, pound cake and shortbread. Rosé works great with tart and acidic desserts with berries, dark chocolate or nuts.

Popping Bottles Like A Pro

Opening a champagne bottle is always a big celebration, but it can be tricky if you haven’t done it before. It can also be quite dangerous if it’s done incorrectly. Here are some tips on how to open your champagne properly and safely. Before you open the bottle, you should chill it for several hours in the refrigerator (ideally between 39 and 48 degrees).

This makes it less likely for the champagne to spurt out when it’s opened. After it’s chilled, take the bottle out of the fridge without shaking it. Next, remove the foil and metal cage on top of the cork. Once the bottle is prepared, place a towel over the top of the cork so you have a good grip. Hold it at a 45-degree angle, away from you and any other people to prevent possible injury. 

The tricky part is to hold the cork with your fingers and gently twist the bottle. As the bottle turns, the cork will pop out. Make sure to keep your grip on the cork to prevent it from flying off. At the end, the bottle should make a small “hiss” sound when it’s opened.

Share this helpful champagne guide, “Breaking Down the Bubbles,” with your friends because, as the saying goes, “If life brings you troubles, drink some Champagne, then your problems will just become bubbles…” Cheers!