Serving sparkling wines
This festive season, make sure your sparkling wine is served at the right temperature. It makes a big difference to the pleasure it gives.
I recently had a stark example of the difference temperature makes. I took a bottle of Champagne from the cellar at 15 degrees and poured two glasses (I plead guilty to impatience) before putting a Rapid Ice sleeve on the bottle to chill it.
The wine frothed quite a lot when poured, and tasted slightly flat from then on. It was a warm evening and the temperature of the wine in the glass had climbed to 17 degrees by the time I finished the glass.
After the bottle had spent 20 minutes in the chilling sleeve (in the fridge), I poured another glass and the temperature was 12 degrees. It tasted so much better, appearing finer and more delicate, and there was more effervescence – the bubbles were finer and more profuse. That’s because carbon dioxide has a higher solubility at lower temperature.
That means that the colder the wine, the longer the CO2 remains dissolved in the wine. It won’t froth and lose so much gas when poured, leaving more gas in the wine to entertain your palate. And the flavour also seems improved because chilling makes any wine taste more delicate.
Later, after more fridge time, the wine tasted even better at 10 degrees.
In a warm Australian summer, even a well-chilled glass of fizz warms up alarmingly quickly in a glass. The best solution is to pour small amounts more often. And use a bucket of ice, chilling sleeve, or fridge to keep the bottle cool. Remember that chilled bottles also warm up surprisingly quickly in the open air.
The quickest, most efficient way to chill a bottle of bubbly is to make a 50/50 slurry of ice and cold water in an ice-bucket or other container. The ice chills the water and the water makes much closer contact with the bottle than ice-blocks. The cold water conducts the cold to the glass very efficiently.
Even if you’re starting with a room-temperature bottle, it can be ready to drink in 20-30 minutes. And it’s convenient to slip the bottle back in the slurry between pours, so it never warms up.
Rules of thumb: cheap fizz is OK at fridge temperature (4-6 degrees C), but this can be too cold for high-quality sparkling. 8-10 degrees is better. Even 12. Aged Champagne can be treated more like an aged white table wine, so 10-12 degrees is acceptable.