5 Mistakes People Make When Drinking Champagne

Maximize your enjoyment of sparkling wine by avoiding these common pitfalls.

Old habits die hard — and some of them aren't doing us any favors when it comes to enjoying Champagne. The next time you buy that celebratory bottle, make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck by avoiding these common mistakes, as identified by wine experts.

Serving it too cold

"I don't like to put it right in the ice bucket," says Kathryn Coker. She's the wine director at Esters Wine Shop & Bar, once named Southern California's best wine bar by the Los Angeles Times. "My favorite thing is to open it when it's cold, and then let it sit on the table. I like to see what happens when it warms up naturally to cellar temperature, around 55 degrees," she says. "All the flaws come out, and all the nuances come out." She prefers to open Champagne when it's around 45 degrees, and then pop it back in the fridge when it starts to warm up beyond 55 degrees.

Matteo Lunelli, president and CEO of Ferrari Trento winery, recommends storing your bottle in a cool dark place and then refrigerating it the night before drinking. The final temperature should be between 42.8 and 44.6 degrees. His one caution: Storing sparkling wines in the fridge for too long can alter the taste. "The cork can dry out due to no humidity. As the cork dries out, the seal between the bottle and the cork loosens up and the wine oxidizes faster, changing its aromas. It can also absorb flavors and perfumes of other foods," he says.

Popping the cork

Yeah, it looks cool. But don't be a hero. "I never open Champagne like that, and no sommelier will," says Coker. "A sommelier will always put their thumb on the top and not remove it until the cork is off." She advises positioning the bottle at 45 degrees (taking care to not point directly at anyone, of course), and having a cloth napkin between your thumb and the cork. Then, gently twist the bottle, which gives you a lot more control.

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Tilting the glass

So, there are differing viewpoints here. While Ferrari Trento recommends tilting your Champagne glass, as you'll see most people do, Coker actually disagrees. "Any bartender will tilt the glass 45 degrees, just as you would when pouring a beer. The bubbles hit a larger surface area of the glass, which reduces the amount of foam, allowing you to pour it faster," she says. "I pour it into a glass that's set on the table, and that's the correct way to pour it." She notes that she tries to hit the sides of the glass if she's pouring into a flute, which does help more bubbles dissipate. You also don't want to repeatedly halt your pour. "Technically, you should pour it with only one stop in between, which means you're pouring it really slowly," Coker says.

Overfilling the glasses

Ferrari Trento suggests filling your glass to 10 centiliters, which translates to just less than half a cup. That's definitely not a full glass, and Coker agrees with the smaller pour. "I try to fill it only half full," she says. "That way it stays cold and I can refill it more often." The idea here is that, if you drink your Champagne rather slowly (as one does, because it's Champagne), the liquid at the bottom will be warmer than the just-cold liquid at the top, meaning you're not getting a consistent drinking experience. It's better to refill more frequently. (And really, we can't say no to that.)

Serving it in a Champagne flute

Perhaps the most surprising recommendation that most winemakers and experts agree on is that flutes actually restrict the flavor of Champagne. The narrower top of a flute represses the aroma, which thereby limits the taste experience. Matteo Lunelli feels so strongly about this matter that he actually tried to import customized sparkling wine glasses from Italy — similar to white wine glasses, with a narrower top — for the 2017 Emmys, which served Ferrari Trento. (The Television Academy disagreed.)

"I prefer to drink Ferrari and all high-end sparkling wines in large tulip flutes or even large wine glasses, especially when you taste a vintage or reserve Trentodoc, or when you pair it with food," Lunelli says. While he believes that flutes emphasize the perlage, or effervescence, of a sparkling wine, they also increase the perception of acidity. He asserts that using a larger glass "immediately improves the tasting experience, and you start thinking about the bubbly in front of you as a wine and not only as a toast."

Coker concurs. "You can really appreciate Champagne as a wine when it's served this way, and not just as a delightful beverage," she says. "Usually when I taste a wine, I smell, swirl, smell. When you have a flute, you can't do that. There's such a small amount of surface area exposed to oxygen in the flute. Fewer esters are able to be released." She points out that, in France, sparkling wine is typically served in a white wine glass. "The flute is more of an American thing."

Cristina Mariani-May, president and CEO of Banfi Vintners, reports that the same is true in Italy. "There, you'll almost always see Prosecco and sparkling wine enjoyed in a white wine glass," she says. "As with a still wine, the more a sparkler breathes, the more expressive it will become, both in the aromas and on the palate, because what you smell is what you taste."

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