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‘Tis the season to break out the bubbly — well, it’s pretty much that season from now till the Oscars, isn’t it? So we here at Pret-a-Reporter thought we’d consult a champagne expert — in this case, Carl Heline, director of education for Moet Hennessy USA, to tell us six things that we could bring up New Year’s Eve at parties as we sip (OK, gulp) our favorite drink. We might be experts at drinking it, but we wanted to be a bit more educated on the subject in general. There’s nothing like a champagne smart-ass to steal a room of bubble-lovers!
Here are the mind-boggling things we learned from Mr. Heline.
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1. Champagne is far superior to the Italian equivalent, Proseco, or Cava, or sparking wine — because of the yeast true French champagne is made with.
“It gives it the aroma of brioche, bread, croissants,” Heline tells Pret-a-Reporter. “Proseco is like a can of coke. The gas is added later. Champagne is the best chardonnay and pinot grapes in the world, with yeast incorporated. I mean, do you want Zara — or an Hermes bag?”
2. The older the champagne — the not much better it gets.
“You lose the acidity as a champagne gets older,” explains Heline. “You also lose the bubbles after a certain point. At 30 or 40 years old, you will have aromas of truffle, mocha and coffee in the wine. But at age 100, you will not gain that much.”
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3. Champagne is a great wine to consume with food.
“People in the U.S. think of champagne as just an aperitif,” Heline explains. “Half the champagne consumption in the world is done in France,” he says. (The French drink six bottles per head per year, whereas Americans only consume 0.2 glasses per head per year.) “The French know that champagne is a great food wine. It’s versatile. It’s great with shellfish, oysters, sea urchin, salad with lemon and avocado — but it’s also great with meat, pork chops. Even bread and butter. I love the Moet Chandon 2006 with fried chicken!” It’s also, he adds, “just one of the great wines in the world! Collectors will tell you that.”
4. Ruinart is the most popular brand of champagne in France
Also a Moet Hennessy varietal, it’s widely available in the U.S. — but most Americans have never heard of it.
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5. Toss your champagne flutes out the window for 2015.
“Don’t drink champagne in a flute!” demands Heline. “That juice has been in the bottle for years — think of the pressure per square inch in that bottle. When you release that wine into a tiny flute, there is no connection with oxygen. The wine needs room to expand! Flutes were created for great visuals, but from a pure wine point of view — champagne in flutes sucks! Try it in white wine glasses and I promise you, it will be like drinking champagne for the first time!”
6. The best temperature to drink champagne at is probably warmer than you’re used to.
“In the U.S., most people drink champagne at 32 degrees,” says Heline. “In Europe, it’s 36 Fahrenheit. But the ideal temp to me is 45 degrees Fahrenheit for champagne tasting. Warm it up, people! Don’t leave it in the fridge too long. And if you have — do not put it on ice. The flavor will improve.”
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