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Apr 10, 2010

How to pop a cork & other sparkling tales

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I’ve been doing some interesting writer-for-hire work that necessitates researching Napa and Sonoma wineries (yeah, that's right: somebody's got to do it!). So I’m spending a bit of time these days browsing winery websites and can't help but be impressed with the generous amount of information--wine education, recipes, wine lore, entertainment tips,etc.--offered by many sites.

For example, all the Napa/Sonoma sparkling wine producers offer tips to increase your appreciation of the wine that caused its reputed inventor, Dom Perignon, to exclaim: "Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!"

In no particular order, enjoy these tidbits from five first-rate sparkling wine houses:

Domaine Carneros: How to Pop a Cork
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Films abound with images of champagne corks popping. But flying corks are dangerous, and that foam pouring out of the bottle is precious wine being lost. Real pros ease the cork from the bottle with a controlled “sigh.”

Point the bottle away from you (and anyone else you care about!) and hold the cork and the neck of the bottle in one hand. Keep your thumb on top of the cork. With the other hand, unwind and loosen the wire cage. Continue to hold the cork firmly while you twist the bottle (not the cork). The cork will ease itself out almost effortlessly.

Mumm Napa: A Slightly Different Cork-Popping Take
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Opening a bottle of sparkling wine is an enjoyable experience in itself.
  • After your wine is chilled, be sure to wipe it clean of any moisture so it doesn't drip on your table or, moreover, your guests. (Don’t try to open a bottle that is not properly chilled.)
  • Place your thumb over the cork and leave it there through the opening. Slant bottle at a 45 degree angle and point it away from yourself and others before loosening the wire hood. Keep your thumb pressure on the cork as it may start to move as soon as the wire is loosened.
  • With one hand, hold the cork firmly between the palm and forefinger. We recommend covering the cork with your thumb or a towel. With the other hand, twist the bottle slowly in one direction until pressure pushes the cork out. This should process a slight ‘hiss’ rather than a loud ‘pop’. (Never use a corkscrew to open sparkling wine.)
  • After the cork is removed, let the bottle remain at 45 degree angle for a few seconds, to prevent overflow.
  • It is correct to pour sparkling wine in either one or two pours. If you choose two pours, pour one glass at a time, allowing the mousse to subside. In flute glasses, leave at least an inch from the top. 
Schramsberg: Pairing American Caviar and Bubbles

Confused about whether to pair your Truffled Tiger-Eye Whitefish caviar with Brut Rosé or Blanc de Noir? Download this attractive PDF from Schramsberg and you’ll never be in doubt again.

Gloria Ferrer: Explaining Methodé Champenoise

To understand exactly how wine grapes become champagne—oops! I mean sparkling wine—check out this clear and simple line drawing on the Gloria Ferrer website.


Domain Chandon: Sparkling Wine at the Table
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How many times have you served sparkling wine as an apéritif...then put the bottle in the refrigerator when you sat down for dinner? We believe that bubbly has a rightful place at the table, and we're not just talking about brunch. At Chandon, we believe that sparkling wine can go with anything — it's all a matter of taste. But here are a few ideas of our favorites foods to eat with sparkling wine:
  • Salty foods: Caesar salad, tapenade, smoked salmon and hard salty cheeses.
  • Creamy foods: Fondue, raclette, foie gras, souflées, quiches, egg dishes, pastas with cream sauces, au gratin dishes.
  • Acidic foods: Ceviche and salads with vinegar-based dressings.
  • Rich foods: Burgers, fried chicken, French fries, fried calamari and tempura dishes.
  • Seafood and sushi: Lobster, shrimp, crab, scallops, oysters, mussels.
  • Spicy Asian foods: Pad Thai, curries and satays.
  • Roasted or Grilled foods: Roasted chicken or grilled salmon.
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