Around this time of year, we simply can’t get enough bubbles. The celebratory fizzy elixir is exceptional morning, noon, and night, and we’ve never turned down a glass of sparkling wine be it a traditional Champagne, lush Prosecco, or crisp Cava. Since New Year’s Eve is less than 48 hours away, we decided to check in on the current state of sparkling wine in Northern California. We reached out to Pauline Lhote, the lovely and lively lead winemaker at Domaine Chandon, to find out the latest on all things bubbles. Here is what Lhote has to say about aging sparkling wines, the sabering trend, and her technique for chilling a bottle as fast as possible.
What’s the quickest way to chill a bottle of bubbles?
The quickest way is to put the bottle in an ice bucket with ice. The key to chilling quicker is to add a good amount of water that will help drop the temperature much faster.
What are the best sparkling wines for aging?
With sparkling, the wines are aged at the winery and released ready to consume—because who can wait?!?! That said. . . . The ones that age longer during the aging “sur lees” at the winery. This aging takes place between the secondary fermentation happening in the bottle and the disgorging (when lees are removed from the bottles). Typically those wines are reserve, prestige or Tete de Cuvee wines, like Chandon Etoile which is aged for a minimum of five years before release. Those wines can age for many years and usually retail for over $30. If you want to know how long you can keep a sparkling wine or Champagne, it is handy to know how long they aged sur lees then you can multiply by 2 – 2.5 to know how long you can keep them. But I always say—If you want to drink it now, just drink it.
Why has sabering champagne/bubbly become so popular as of late?
Sabering is a great way to kick off a party and impress your guests. Definitely fashionable and guaranteed to be the highlight of the event! The U.S. is just catching on to the tradition we have in Champagne that started after the revolution with Napoleon Bonaparte who, back then, wanted to impress French Aristocrats. Nowadays, there are a lot of videos on line to show you how to safely do it which can encourage people to try it at home. Personally I love showing my friends or guests at the winery, it is a great and quick way to put people in a festive mood.
Besides Chandon, what are some other brands of champagne/bubbly that you like?
I am a big Dom Perignon fan. I also love Veuve Clicquot Rose or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. Those three bottles are always in my cellar when I want to celebrate a special occasion.
What do you think is the next big thing in the world of bubbly?
Sweeter sparkling wine and drinking them over ice. At Chandon we have Sweet Star, you can drink it as is if you like to sip a little sweeter bubbly or make creative cocktails with it. I think it is the next big thing as it is fun and can please everyone.