Champagne (or sparkling wine, if it's made anywhere outside the region) is synonymous with celebrating. I always have at least one bottle chilling in my fridge for special occasions or terrible days that need improving. Over the years I've not only honed my taste for the bubble beverage, but also picked up a few pointers and products that have made me love it even more. Here are some basics about champagne:
Sparkling wines and Champagne often conjure up the notion that you have to pay a lot for a quality bottle, but I've found some amazing options under $20. These are also great if you prefer to mix them into a cocktail.
Two: J. Laurens Brut Cremant de Limoux ($13.99). Pleasant citrus notes, nice alcohol balance.
Three: Jean-Louis Cremant de Limoux ($14.99). Balanced fruity flavor, smooth finish. Great bargain.
Four: Graham Beck Brut Rosé ($14.99). Pale pink, with a nice floral taste. Very crisp, with a deeper, fruity finish.
Five: Antech Cremant de Limoux $13.99). My go-to brunch bubbly. Fresh, light taste with a clean finish.
Six: Deligeroy Cremant de Loir Brut($11.99). Easy drinker, with slightly spicy finish. Nice to serve at a larger party.
If you're not going to finish a bottle in one sitting, this stopper helps keep it fresh for at least a week and typically much longer. I love great stemware, but rather than investing in expensive and fragile Champagne flutes, I stock up on these classic-shaped glasses from Cost Plus. Since they're under $2, they're easy to replace and I don't have to be too careful with them.
How to chill a bottle quickly
1) Wrap a wet paper towel around a bottle and place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Set a timer so you don't forget to remove the bottle.
How to keep it cold
2) Place bottle in metal or insulated ice bucket. Fill with large ice cubes (they melt more slowly), add some water, until the level reaches the lowest part of the bottle's neck and a tablespoon of salt. The salt will lower the freezing point of the water and will chill the bottle in 5-7 minutes. This will also keep the bottle cold while serving.
My favorite pairings
Cheese: Camembert, the soft creaminess pairs nicely with a sharp, dry brut.
Fruit: Strawberries are a classic but I also love dried apricots or figs.
Chocolate: Dark goes best with bubbly - try some different combinations (i.e. sea salt, smoked almonds).
Three champagne cocktails