How NOT to Open a Bottle of Champagne

how-not-to-open-a-bottle-of-champagneChampagne is the only alcoholic beverage that can have catastrophic consequences when incorrectly opened. 24 people die every year due to flying champagne corks, but if you’re a bubbly connoisseur, you’re probably more worried about losing precious drops of your beverage to too much effervescence. Opening your bottle isn’t as complicated as you might think. As long as it’s fridge-cold, unshaken, and uncorked with a towel or thumb held over the tip, you should do just fine. Twist the bottle after the metal has been removed and you’ll ease the cork off without creating a fuss.

Don’t Open it Warm

Keep a cola can in the sun long enough and it will reduce itself to useless fizz the second you open it. Champagne does the same, so don’t pop the cork until the bottle is chilled to fridge temperature or you’ll lose half of that expensive bottle. If you’ve been driving or walking with bottle in hand, don’t open it until it’s had time to settle itself.

Don’t Ice it

Chilling champagne below 49 degrees Fahrenheit will mask many of its complex flavors and aromas. Before it’s opened, store it horizontally because a wet cork prevents air from getting into the bottle. Refrigerate it for several hours and then keep it away from sunlight afterward. Ice and bubbly should never be mixed.

Don’t Be Melodramatic

It might seem festive to let the cork choose its own trajectory, but letting it fly freely can achieve two things: You’ll probably break a window and lose quantity to that vicious effervescence. Instead, ease the cork out slowly, catching it with a towel. The bottle shouldn’t pop. There should be only the barest whisper of effervescence. Jovial as that popping sound is, it’s simply not elegant. Even worse, the dramatic release of pressure will bruise the bubbles, making your champagne less sparkling than it should be.

Don’t Forget the Foil

Amateurs rip the foil open, but pros use wine opener blade to score it neatly.

Don’t Tilt the Bottle Towards the Crowd

The bottle should be tilted away from all guests, including you. Hold it at 45 degrees and keep the cage in place while you twist it loose. Six turns will be enough to loosen it and let you control the cork better while you remove it. It can hit your eye in only 0.05 seconds, so this is a critical step. The pressure is so potent that it can break bones and cause glaucoma.

Don’t Forget the Decanter

Vintages older than the Eighties should never be poured directly from the bottle. Using a well-iced decanter will give the bubbly’s aroma time to blossom. It’ll be slightly less effervescent, but far more delicious.

Don’t Twist the Cork

It might seem tricky to twist the bottle instead of the cork, but it’s much less clumsy than trying to catch an escaped cork while turning it. This takes some practice but considering that there are 90 pounds of pressure per square inch inside the bottle, it’s important to master. Your cork can travel as much as 50 kilometers an hour so you shouldn’t pull it out in one movement. Instead, give the gas a few seconds to escape before removing it entirely.

The glass you pour your champagne in is as important as the technique you use to open it. The goal is to reduce the amount of air your bubbly is exposed to, so always use a flute glass. There are far more wrong ways to open your champagne than there are correct ways, but get it right and your tastebuds will thank you.

Dry or Wet Weather: Which is Best for Champagne?

dry-or-wet-weather-which-is-best-for-champagneWhen you want to choose an exceptional champagne or sparkling wine, look for a vintage from a dry summer. Although there are exceptions, the best weather for producing champagne is a mix of wet weather starting in winter and early spring and tapering off as summer creeps closer.

Most of the grapes used for sparkling wines come from regions that have wet winters and dry summers. The vines have acclimatized themselves to these rainfall patterns, and a too much rain cuts the intensity of the grapes’ flavor.

Where Real Champagne Comes From

There’s no dispute that the Champagne region of France produces some of the finest grapes in the world, so much so that only sparkling wines produced there can be called champagne. Its climate is somewhat cooler than the sparkling wine regions in the U.S. and it receives more rainfall during the summer. Viticulturalists attribute the mineral-rich soil and the growers’ expertise with cultivation and champagne production with the high quality of their wines.

Dominant Regions in the U.S.

Although wine grapes are also grown in cold-winter climates, most champagne grape production occurs in Mediterranean climates where temperatures in the winter seldom dip below 50 degrees F and rarely near freezing. California, Washington, New Mexico and a small region of Colorado dominate sparkling wine production in the U.S.

These states have dry summers and wet winters and skies are consistently sunny most of the year. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports that they have the highest amount of annual solar radiation in the U.S., which is essential to grape production.

Rainfall Patterns

During the winter, storms roll in from the Alaska and provide the rainfall the vines need for early spring growth. As spring matures, the Pacific Northwest storms stop, the skies clear and the air begins to dry. In fact, humidity often falls below 10 percent by May and low levels continue through June.

This weather cycle is critical to grape production. Over the winter, the vines drop their leaves and enter a seemingly dormant stage. In reality, the vines are rejuvenating themselves. As the soil warms, the vines send out their leaves and rely on water, either in the form of rain or irrigation, to enter their blooming phase.

Their flowers are small and pollinated by bees, gravity and the wind. As the grapes form, they pull water from the soil through the roots and stems to increase the size of the fruit. Once they reach their mature size, the berries stop growing and start to ripen,

Too much rainfall during the summer can:

  • Swell the grapes to the point where they burst and rot or ferment on the vine.
  • Promote fungal growth on the grapes.
  • Reduce the flavor of the grapes by diluting the amount of sugar in the fruit. In fact, vines produce some of the best flavored grapes and wine during drought years.
  • Increase the humidity, which promotes the risk of disease, mold and insects.

Vintners in these regions use sophisticated tools to calculate the irrigation needs of their vines, especially in arid regions like California and New Mexico. In addition to the grapes they produce themselves, sparkling wine producers often import grapes from other regions, focusing on wine production rather than vineyard cultivation and operation.

Much goes into the production of champagne and sparkling wines that cover the gamut from grape variety to the soil conditions and moisture management. Vintners use science as well as art to produce one of the most delightful beverages enjoyed by millions.

5 Myths About Champagne

5-myths-about-champagneWho doesn’t love a little bubbly with dessert or brunch? Once reserved for weddings and New Year’s Eve, Champagne is becoming increasingly popular for everyday drinking and smaller occasions. However, there are still a lot of myths floating around about this fizzy, bubble wine beverage. Here’s a closer look at those myths and the real truth that they’re masking.

Myth 1: Champagne gets you drunk faster than other wines.

Many people have come to believe that they’ll get sloppy a lot faster drinking Champagne than if they were to drink red or white wine. This is a myth, as champagne is 12% alcohol by volume on average. By comparison, red wine is usually about 13% alcohol and white wine is usually around 11.5%. If you drink 8 ounces of Champagne, you should not be any more or less drunk than if you were to drink an equal quantity of red or white wine. The thing is, most people drink Champagne faster than they drink wine, since the bubbles help it go down so easily. Moderate your drinking, and you should be just fine.

Myth 2: All carbonated wine is Champagne.

This may be true colloquially, but technically, there are many types of bubbly or sparkling wine and Champagne is just one of them. Champagne is made in the Champagne region of France from specific types of grapes. Other sparking wines include Cava, which is a Spanish specialty, and Prosecco, which is made in Italy. Carbonated wines made in Australia or the US are sold as “sparkling wine.”

Myth 3: Champagne must be served in a champagne flute.

Though you often see Champagne served in flute for special occasions, this is more for show than anything. To fully enjoy the nuanced flavors of the bubbly, it’s actually better to serve it in a wider white wine glass. This allows the drink to have more contact with your tongue as you sip it. There’s also more space for you to enjoy the aroma of the Champagne, which really enhances the experience.

Myth 4: There are two types of Champagne: sweet and dry.

There’s actually a whole spectrum of sweetness, so you can find a Champagne that’s a great match for your tastes. Usually, Champagnes are divided into five categories based on sweetness.

  • Demi-Sec: This is the sweetest Champagne and is usually served with dessert.
  • Sec: These Champagnes are slightly less sweet and may be a nice choice for breakfast.
  • Brute: A good middle-of-the-road Champagne with sweetness comparable to Riesling.
  • Extra Brute: These Champagnes are dry without too much bite.
  • Brute Nature: The driest Champagnes fall into this category. Usually, these are paired with cheeses and meats or served with dinner.

Myth 5: Champagne should be served ice cold.

This myth probably comes from the images of Champagne bottles sitting in ice buckets at cafes along the French sidewalk. While you want your Champagne a bit chilled, serving it ice cold will just mask the more nuanced flavors. The drier the Champagne, the warmer you want to serve it. Brute Nature and Extra Brute Champagnes can be put in the fridge for about 20 minutes before serving. Sec, Brute, and Demi-Sec will be perfect if refrigerated for about an hour. There’s no reason to keep the bottle on ice unless the you’re outside where the temperature is soaring (as in those French photographs.)

The world of Champagne is a fun one to explore! Now that you know the truth behind these myths, feel free to sample different varieties in the glasses of your choice without that ice bucket by your side. Happy sipping!


The Proper Pour


Champagne is a drink that works in multiple scenarios. Whether celebrating with a group of friends or having an intimate evening with a special someone, champagne is a fine choice. Pouring champagne is something of an art, but it is one that can be easily mastered with the right information. Here is a quick guide to how to properly pour a glass of champagne.

Chill the Bottle.  Pouring champagne begins long before you are ready to open the bottle. To start off on the right foot, make sure that you chill your champagne. Place the bottle in ice in a wine bucket for roughly an hour or two. If you don’t have a wine bucket, you can achieve the same effect by allowing the bottle to chill in the fridge for a few hours.

Wrap the Bottle.  There is more to wrapping the bottle of champagne in a napkin than just style. The practical reasoning behind this is that it will absorb condensation, allowing for an easier grip on the bottle, and soak up any loose drops of bubbly that slip past the glass. A tea towel is your best bet, as it will absorb the most loose liquid, but you can still substitute a linen napkin in a pinch.

Pop It Open.  Perhaps the most exciting part of the process is opening the bottle. There is a sense of electric anticipation as you unwrap the foil and prepare to push the cork from its tight hold in the mouth of the bottle. During this, be sure to hold your hand over the cork. Some bottles can be tricky, and the cork can pop all on its own. To avoid injury or accident, keep one hand over the cork, pointed away from anyone’s face or any nearby glass.

The Pour.  The real artistry of serving champagne exists in the moment of the pour. Do not pour champagne with one hand and hold a glass in another, as it can easily slip without proper support from both hands. Instead, pour into glasses on a stable surface, or in the hands of those you are serving. When you pour, you want to hold the bottle in two spots: one hand should go on the bottom of the bottle, where the indented area known as the punt resides, and the other should hold the bottle from the side as you tilt.

There are many opinions out there on how to properly pour a glass of champagne. The more widespread opinion is that you should keep the glass flat and pour the bottle from an angle, aiming directly for the base of the glass. This is the way that the French have been pouring champagne for years. Since it is the country where the drink originates, no one thought twice about questioning the method. Still, questioning the status quo can be beneficial, as some French researchers discovered.

While the traditional method might be the popularized approach, the researchers discovered that there is a much more scientific way to go about pouring a glass of champagne. When pouring, champagne is handled in the same manner as pouring a glass of beer, with the glass itself on an angle as it is being filled, more CO2 is preserved. Carbonation is quite important in maximizing the pleasure of champagne, so you want to have high levels of CO2 in each glass. The “beer pour” tactic might not be as widespread as the traditional methods, but it is a way that will allow you a much more satisfying amount of champagne that you can raise a glass to.

The Most Expensive Champagnes in the World


Champagne has become something that is enjoyed by pretty much everyone at least sometimes, but there are still types out there that evoke the incredible expense that it used to signify. We may not all be able to taste these vintages ourselves, but we can live vicariously through those who are lucky enough to have a glass or bottle of these following champagnes:

Dom Pérignon ($1,950) is a well known name throughout the world, and the remaining bottles of this vintage sell for an ever-increased sum as their numbers decrease. Moët et Chandon has in fact made a name for itself as a premier champagne house largely on the strength of this vintage.

Krug Clos d’Ambonnay ($3,500) manufactured with red wine grapes, Krug’s foremost product is a sublime and masterful example of champagne which demonstrates ably why Krug is such a respected name in the champagne world.

Perrier Jouët Champagne ($6,485) is a sparkling wine made with the very best grapes the Perrier Jouët house can grow, and it is clear when tasting this why such a degree of discernment is warranted. These bottles are sold in groups of twelve, so you won’t run out too quickly.

The Champagne Cristal Brut 1990 ($17,625) was only ever produced in limited quantities, and when you combine rarity with quality you get a price tag like this one. This is an elegant and memorable vintage well worth the wait and the cost.

Krug 1928 ($21,000) is Krug’s second entry on this list, and a bottle sold for $21,000 at auction in 2008. The grapes used were grown in 1926, and the first bottle was manufactured in 1938, making this a very old sparkling wine that has justified its cost with a tremendous and widely-lauded pedigree.

Dom Pérignon White Gold Jeroboam ($40,000) marks the other champagne house with two entries on this list. At over twenty times the cost of ‘ordinary’ Dom Pérignon, White Gold Jeroboam is a masterwork of delicate sparkling wine and wholly deserves its royal appellation.

Pernod Ricard Perrier Jouët ($50,000) comes in a set of twelve bottles, and a variety of liquors have been used, allowing you to choose one that most suits your taste. These liquors are both exotic and of the highest quality, combining with some of the finest grapes France has ever grown for a truly spectacular champagne.

Fifty thousand US dollars is a huge sum, even for twelve bottles of champagne. So would you believe that the most expensive item on this list does not come in a set of twelve, but that the price represents one single bottle? Here is the most expensive champagne in the world and, as far as we can tell, in all of history.

Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck ($275,000) is by far the most expensive champagne in the world. In 1916 a considerable shipment of this champagne was sent via sea from France to Russia, intended for the Imperial Court. The ship carrying this shipment was sunk by a German U-boat, however, and it lay at the bottom of the icy Baltic for over eighty years, until being discovered in 1998. Astonishingly, many of the bottles survived intact, and unsurprisingly this extraordinarily rare vintage commands a tremendous price tag, but all accounts suggest the quality of the wine justifies it.

The champagne world is always evolving however, and who knows what will be released, or even discovered, in the future? We’re always keeping an eye out for new rare and expensive champagnes.

What to Know When Buying a Champagne Refrigerator


Champagne, the “sparkling wine,” was meant to be served chilled. Proper etiquette calls for keeping it, and serving it, at just the right temperature. This is key to ensuring each glass of champagne served may be an experience of bubbly vivacity.

Champagne Etiquette

When toasting a special occasion or event, champagne is the correct choice. Choose the right glass, as well–champagne should be served in a fluted glass, to concentrate the flavors and encourage a healthy flow of bubbles. Before serving, champagne should be chilled: traditional or vintage champagnes, like the original French, should be chilled to a temperature between 39 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, while non-vintage, and sweeter interpretations should be chilled to around 46 or 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t forget to pour correctly. Champagne tends to be fizzy, and even foamy if you’re not careful. Start by pouring just a little bit in your guest’s glass, let the bubbles settle, then fill the glass about two thirds full.

Keep the bubbly cold. A bottle chilled in a bucket filled halfway with ice, and half way with icy water for about twenty minutes prior to serving is the traditional way to chill most wines. The desired temperature can also be attained by placing the bottle in the freezer for about fifteen minutes, or for a couple hours in the refrigerator. But to achieve the best results, using an actual wine refrigerator is the perfect choice in techniques.

Choosing the Best Refrigerator

This will be the end result of a combination of your needs and tastes.

  • Determine what your bottle count is going to be. Do you serve champagne, or other wines frequently? If not, a smaller size will be preferable.
  • Is your wine cooler meant to make a statement? There are some very sexy wine refrigerators on the market today–some even feature ambient lighting, while others are very elegant, and mimic wood furniture.
  • Some refrigerators come with dual temperature zones, giving you options for different genres and flavors.
  • If you are remodeling, choosing your champagne refrigerator early will allow you to incorporate it into the new design, especially if you want the “built-in” look.
  • Know whether you are buying a thermoelectric or a compressor-based wine cooler. Most smaller coolers employ a thermoelectric system; these create less vibrations, resulting in fewer disturbances to your stock. Compressor-based coolers are more like a normal refrigerator, and are more ideal for larger coolers.
  • Choose a wine cooler that’s easy to clean.

Having the best champagne refrigerator will allow you to enjoy a bottle of bubbly anytime it suits you. Consider your needs and preferences before you buy, and remember you always get what you pay for–don’t go cheap, buy the best you can afford, and familiarize yourself with whatever model you have chosen. Champagne was meant to make spirits bright, and keeping it perfectly chilled  is the secret its success.

Romance and Champagne

When the Romans were attempting to establish viable vineyards in the Champenois region of northern France around the fifth century, things didn’t look good for the now highly-prized wines from that region.  Pale and pink in color, the wines from that region were not very full-bodied, and often very acidic.  Also, the temperate north rather than the warmer south meant that the grapes failed to ripen fully, and cold winters often stopped the fermentation process altogether in the chilly months, only for it to start again as the temperature rose in the Spring – at worst, casks and bottles would burst under gas pressure, and at best, the wine would be full of bubbles, much to the horror of the French makers, who considered this a terrible fault.

However, the British, not generally renowned for their culinary good taste during the 18th century, developed something of a taste for sparkling wine, especially amongst the upper classes and aristocracy.  Not to be outdone, the French claimed back their previously considered “spoiled” wine as their own, and champagne as a drink associated with wealth and celebration was born.

What’s in a Name?

Champagne obviously takes its name from the region in which the famous pinot noir grapes are grown, but did you know that one of the most famous brand names in the champagne industry – Dom Perignon – was actually that of a 17th century monk?  A perfectionist, Dom Perignon insisted on the vines now growing above a certain height, and limiting contact between pressing and grape skin, thus standardizing the pale perfection of today’s champagnes rather than the more pinkish hue generally expected from a white wine made from red grapes.

Sweet as Sugar

The British didn’t let their early fascination with sparkling wine wane, and much debate and experimentation went on with regard to making it bubble.  Christopher Merret, a scientist, opined that pretty much any wine could be made to sparkle by adding sugar.  Poems and plays of the period mention the beauty of a glass of sparkling champagne with increasing regularity, with an early link between champagne and romance made in the 1693 play “Love and a Bottle”.

Vive la Revolution

Champagne even managed to show some love back during the end of the eighteenth century – champagne merchants happily changed the titles of noblemen and women to the revolution approved “Citizen” on their invoices, thus saving many lives.  As the aristocracy fled across Europe to safety, many of the brand names we recognize today fled with them.

You might think that EU rules and regulations about what can and cannot call itself champagne might have taken some of the modern day romance out of this most luxurious of sparkling wines, but whether it’s engagement or wedding, special occasion or just because we can, champagne is still our first choice of wine to add a special glamor and polish to any occasion.  From a humble and disappointingly flat product that was a laughing stock amongst its more established wine-growing neighbors, this acidic formerly pink drink has pulled off the most romantic transformation of all, truly going from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.

How to Select Good Champagne


Choosing the perfect bottle of champagne shouldn’t be difficult if you understand the basics. Before you make your selection there are several important things to consider when deciding between the wide variety of champagnes available. Make sure to:

1. Understand the origins.  Champagne, with a capital c, refers to varieties made exclusively in the Champagne of France. Other champagnes, known also as sparkling wines, are made in various areas across the globe including California, Australia, and Italy. The varieties produced in France are held to a highly specific production standard called appellation. This process is an ancestral method and requires strict adherence to each individual step.

2. Decide on a price range.  There is a wide range of prices available for different varieties. Champagne from France ranges anywhere from $40 to $100 and is determined by whether the bottle is of a mass produced variety or a vintage selection. Laurent Perrier and Moët & Chandon are the more affordable varieties and vintage Champagnes include Dom Pérignons and Krugs.

If you’re opting for a sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne of France you can expect to pay anywhere from $8 to $30 a bottle. The price difference depends on the vineyard, the bottling process, and taste. ?

There are also exclusive champagnes that are available for purchase that range from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. Vintage bottles of Pol Roger Winston Churchill can sell for $300 to $600 dollars and rare finds, including bottles salvaged from the bottom of the Baltic Ocean on a crashed 1907 ocean liner, may sell for upwards of $10,000.

3. Choose the bottle size.  Champagnes come in a wide variety of bottle sizes. Pay attention to the size of the bottle when making your selection. If you are choosing a bottle that is above 3 liters be prepared for a higher price tag because the glass bottles are far more difficult to make. You may also want to consider choosing smaller bottles in order to enjoy several different champagnes.

4. Select a variety based on sparkle, taste, and color.  There are three main differences in champagnes; sparkle, taste, and color. These differences make up the unique flavor of each champagne and are important to your selection process.

  • Sparkle The champagne’s sparkle is determined both by its nature and its temperature. If you choose a bottle that barely sparkles in your mouth it is a sign that it isn’t cold enough or it is of poor quality. A good rule of thumb is that the smaller the size of the bubbles the higher the quality. The amount of sparkle, also known as sparkling intensity, is really up to the individual and depends primarily on personal preference.
  • Taste The tastes of champagnes are incredibly varied and offer something for every individual preference. Brut is a popular flavor of champagne and boasts a dry and oaky taste. You may be interested in a sweeter variety that features hints of citrus or vanilla. It is important to pay attention to both the dryness and the flavor of the specific variety when choosing a bottle.
  • Color There are many different colors available ranging from amber to silver to pink. The most common color of champagne is a faint yellow color created by the skins of the grapes used.

Pairing Foods With Champagne


True champagnes have a richly deserved reputation as some of the finest, most sublime liquors in the entire world. Their sparkling texture and broad range of sweetness, however, sometimes make them difficult to properly pair with the right foods.

Here are just some of our favorites:

Chevre and Peaches.  Do yourself a favor and wait for peaches to be at the height of the summer season before creating this simple dish. A good chevre – that’s goat cheese to you non-cognoscenti – can be found throughout the year. Assembling the dish is a simple as slicing the cheese and fruit, sprinkling with one of the following herbs – we prefer basil, mint or thyme and even lavender – and then complementing with a delicate champagne like Taittinger’s la Francaise.

Apulia Bread w/Olive Oil.  This “crusty on the outside, doughy on the inside” bread is the perfect vector for transporting a load of the Egyptian condiment, dukka, drenched in a grassy olive oil into your mouth. Then add a mouthful of a demi-sec like Heidsieck & Co’s Monopole Red Top and you will be floating on a cushion of pure gastronomic joy.

Oysters Rockefeller.  Created over a century ago in the renowned restaurant, Antoine’s, in New Orleans, the rich buttery sauce of this dish beautifully complements the broiled, breaded oysters underneath. Still, some gourmands find it overly rich unless paired with a little champagne on the fruity side like Moët & Chandon’s Impérial.

Fried Mushrooms.  While many will denigrate the drinking of champagne with any fried food, a blanc de noir – made from darker grapes like pinot noir – actually makes quite a nice complement to the earthiness of the mushrooms. For a truly memorable experience, consider trying Bollinger’s Vieilles Vignes Francaises for a new look at the taste of mushrooms, chanterelles and even truffles.

Poached Eggs with Parmesan.  For a slightly different approach – one without the hollandaise – consider simple poached eggs laced with fresh basil and parmesan. Then, add a glass of a dry brut sparkling wine like Krug’s and you will have a sure-fire winner of a meal for breakfast lunch or dinner. By the way, for a little extra oomph, serve with a side of smoked salmon toast.

Steamed Lobster.  As simple as it gets, preparing lobster in this way with just onion, garlic, red pepper in the bottom of the pot makes a fantastic main course. For a little extra flair or, if it is January 1st, add some leftover champagne as the steaming liquid. Afterwards, a little more of the same – obviously a little fresher – like a dry Napoleon Tradition Brut. It is a great way to end the start of the New Year.

Chocolate Glazed Pound Cake.  This dessert has it all – the firmness and moisture of the cake and the crunchiness that turns to syrup of the bittersweet chocolate are highlighted by the sweetness of a doux champagne like those made by Fleury Pere et Fils Millesime Doux. Fathers and sons have never before made something so decadent.

Foie Gras.  This pairing goes quite far out on the limb but we think you will appreciate it. Most connoisseurs prefer fois gras with a sauterne like Chateau d’Yquem but for something completely different, try Veuvre Cliquot champagne with foie gras, a biscuit – yes, a simple buttermilk biscuit – and, dare I say it? – sausage gravy. Crazy talk. I hear ya‘ but this pairing is simply superb and quite unique.

How to Choose a Champagne

how-to-choose-a-champagneA good champagne can help make or break your next big party, dinner, or celebration. Champagne is a great choice for these kind of events, but choosing the right champagne can often be intimidating, especially to a beginner. With so many different types, brands and prices, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with how to choose a champagne. Thankfully choosing the right champagne is much easier than it looks. The following are just a few tips to help you find the right champagne for your next big event.

Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine

Before purchasing your Champagne, its important to note the difference (and similarities) between it and sparkling wine. Champagne with a capital “C” is produced only in the French Champagne region. These are typically more expensive than most, and are typically of a high quality. Sparkling wines produced elsewhere are also commonly referred to as champagne, but with a lowercase “c”.  However, this does not mean these are necessarily worse than those with a capital “C”.  It is simply a matter of geography, rather than quality. Many of these sparkling wines are labeled as “Methode Traditionelle“, meaning they are produced in the same manner as other Champagnes.

Try not to Focus on the Price

A common mistake that many wine enthusiasts and newcomers alike make is judging a bottle’s merit solely on its price tag. While it’s true that many higher priced Champagnes are great choices, you can also find a gem at a bargain. Just as sparkling wines are often just as good as French Champagne, don’t dismiss that $15 bottle of Champagne so readily, many of these cheaper wines are as good or better than their $40 or $50 counterparts.

Dry or Sweet?

When most people think of Champagne, they tend to imagine a dry, bubbly white wine. However, Champagne actually comes in a wide range of sweetness levels. The driest of which is known as Brut or Extra Brut.  Sweeter wines are known as Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux. Deciding between a dry or sweet Champagne comes down to a couple of factors, the most important of which is simply personal preference. Many people dislike the dry taste of Brut, and opt for a Sec Champagne or sweeter, which is great if you have a sweet tooth.  You should also consider how you are serving your Champagne when choosing its sweetness. Dry Champagnes are great on their own and pair well with food, while sweeter Champagnes go great with dessert or for serving after a meal.