Raise a glass to the quintessential effervescent elixir on October 28 at one (or both) of these events, and glean some tips for breaking open the bubbly at home.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
Ahh…Champagne. Just the mere mention gets me positively giddy with the anticipation of hearing the soft pop of the cork, watching the pretty trail of tiny bubbles dancing up from the bottle of my flute, and sipping a fizzy, fabulous, tongue-tingling beverage that certainly needs no special occasion to indulge.
But, in fact, we have one this Friday, as National Champagne Day 2011 is celebrated this year on Friday, October 28. Created by the Champagne Bureau, the United States arm of the trade association that represents all off the Champagne houses, it’s a day to introduce novices to Champagne, to allow connoisseurs to sip rare, sought-after vintages and offerings, and to allow everyone to wax poetically about a bottle whose mere uncorking turns it from a liquid in suspended animation to a wine that’s vibrant and alive—and elicits delight about the possibilities of what’s to come after it’s poured into a flute and enjoyed.
And though I have a proclivity for any wine with bubbles—including Spanish Cava, Franciacorta from Italy and California sparkling wine—nothing can out-sparkle the complex aromas and flavors (Lemon custard! Bread dough! Hazelnuts! Freshly baked brioche!) found in the real deal from France’s Champagne region. Here are two places in town to pop bottles this Friday in honor of France’s fizzy, fun sipper. As Mark Twain said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
Proof (775 G Street, NW, 202.737.7663) is commemorating National Champagne Day by offering an exclusive selection of Champagne by the glass for one day only on Friday, October 28, 2011. Wine Director Sebastian Zutant’s special picks include Jean Moutardier Rosé ($10/glass), the rare Jacques Selosse Initiale ($30/glass), 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal ($35 a glass), and the extraordinary 1997 Salon Le Mesnil ($60/glass).
At Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s flagship restaurant Marcel’s (2401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. 202.296.1166).on October 28, guests can partake in a $100 French Tasting, which features three specialty Champagnes paired with three extravagant hors d’oeuvres. Each bubbly for the tasting was handpicked by Wine Director and Sommelier Ramón Narváez: Jacquesson Cuvee 734, Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, and Michel-Arnould Brut Rosé Grand Cru NV. Appetizers will include Quail Egg on Toasted Brioche, a briny and succulent Kumamoto Oyster with Champagne Mignonette, and a Potato Blini with Smoked Scottish Salmon and Crème Fraîche. All of the dishes will also feature Osetra Caviar. For guests opting just to satisfy their liquid craving, the bar will feature a tasting of three high-end wines for $29. As these wines are all subject to availability, please call ahead to RSVP for either of these events.
If you are indulging in Champagne at home or with friends, remember these few simple tips to get the most enjoyment out of a bottle:
- Be sure the bubbly is well chilled. It it’s too warm not only will it not taste as fabulous as it should, but you will end up with an explosion of bubbles.
- To retain that precious fizz, turn the bottle and gently release the cork, opting for a soft “pop.” (never twist the cork!) Sure, uncorking it quickly and having a shower of bubbles looks cool, but you will end up losing all of that effervescence–and isn’t that why we drink it in the first place?
- Unless a Champagne is vintage, it’s ready to drink as soon as you buy it, and won’t improve with age. (No problem here–I’m into instant gratification.)
- For a simple Champagne cocktail, place a sugar cube in the bottle of a flute, and add a few drops of bitters (Angostura are traditional, but I like to use orange, lemon, grapefruit or lavender.) Top with Champagne, and garnish with a lemon twist.