As the minutes tick down to midnight, the anticipation rises.
The coming of the New Year brings with it promises of fresh starts and new beginnings — a clean slate as the calendar turns over. Around the world, people will be popping the bubbly in celebration of the year gone by. Breaking out the sparkling wine is ingrained in the New Year’s celebration, so you may as well do it the right way.
“Sparkling wine is not quite like other wines,” says Gillian Minaker, Estate Sommelier at Lakeview Wine Co.“From the way it is handled to how it is served, it requires some unique special attention and care.”
The first step is understanding that sparkling wine is so much more than a celebratory drink. Gillian offers the following tips for ensuring you and your guests get the most out of your bubbles:
• Storage— Stored properly, a sparkling wine can keep and age nicely for 15 years or more. Chances are, your storage of the wine will be more short term, but it is still important to store it properly. You want to keep sparkling wine in a cool, dark place where the temperature will be consistent. If you are just holding on to it for a couple of days, it is OK to leave the bottle standing up, but longer term is should be laid down on its side.
• Temperature— Sparkling wine is at its best when served cold. Properly chilled for approximately four hours, the ideal service temperature should be between six and 10 degrees Celsius. In a pinch, you can keep it in the freezer for an hour or so before serving or pop it outside for a quick chill, but be warned, if you open your bubbly before it has chilled enough the “pop” will be quite loud! Our advice is to keep your sparkling in an ice bucket and once the cork is popped to ensure the most enjoyment.
• Opening— It may be fun to literally “pop” the cork and let it fly, but it is also quite dangerous. It could put a hole in your ceiling, break a light or, at worst, seriously injure yourself or one of your guests. The best way to open a bottle of bubbly is to remove the foil and wire cage and drape a clean towel over the top of the bottle. Grasp the cork in one hand and the bottom of the bottle in the other, and slowly twist the bottle with your lower hand. You should feel the cork start to give, and you can slowly twist them apart. A distinctive “pop” will let you know the cork is free.
• Glassware— The vessel you use to enjoy your wine will greatly influence the experience. Sparkling wine is no different. Quite often, you will see sparkling wine served in a skinny flute, — great for preserving the bubbles — or a wide, shallow coupe releasing the aromas. However, neither is ideal to fully enjoy both the bubbles and the aromas of the wine. A classic tulip glass has a narrow base for funneling the bubbles, a wide bowl for collecting the aromas and a mouth just big enough to allow you to enjoy both.
• Pouring— There is an art to pouring the perfect glass of sparkling wine. It is actually a two-step process. Start by pouring about an inch of wine into the glass, and wait for the bubbles to subside before topping it up. The glassware should remain upright and the wine should be poured in a steady, even flow so it does not bubble over the sides.
• Pairings— Sparkling wine is not just for celebratory toasts. It is also an exceptional wine for food pairings, so plan your menu accordingly. A sparkling white wineis quite nice with buttery and salty flavours. Think classic popcorn as a snack, or cream cheese on crackers topped with a mango chutney. Think also salami, stuffed mushrooms, smoked salmon, caviar or shrimp. On the sweet side, try it with shortbread. A sparkling rose is fantastic with a brie and prosciutto combo, salmon or fresh berries. It is also a great pair with potato chips and, for dessert, chocolate or strawberry cheesecake.
However you may enjoy your sparkling wine on New Year’s, perhaps the most important thing to remember is to not drink and drive. Please make accommodations or arrangements for your guests, or if you are the one out visiting make you sure plan ahead accordingly to ensure all can have a safe and Happy New Year.