CLEVELAND - When do you drink champagne? Weddings? Anniversaries? New Year's Eve? There's no doubt that champagne adds sparkle to special occasions, and it can do the same for everyday moments that deserve celebration.
Expensive? It can be. Dom Perignon, Krug, Riunart can all run into the hundreds of dollars for a bottle. But there are many fine sparkling wines available at a fraction of that cost.
At the Hammer Company in Streetsboro, the Hammer family has been distributing fine wines for generations. Dan Hammer says the champagne designation is only for those wines coming from the Champagne region in France. Moet and Chandon is one of the world's leading producers of fine champagnes, but they also make excellent sparkling wines at Domaine Chandon in California that sell for under $20.
There are a few myths and misperceptions that can be dispelled. Dan says "you don't need a champagne flute. You can drink champagne out of any wine glass." And while champagne etiquette has long suggested removing the champagne cork with "a small sigh of satisfaction" instead of a "pop," Dan says to go for the pop!
However, if you want to keep your champagne inside the bottle, make sure it's well chilled. There's a lot of pressure in the bottle, and chilling it will help reduce the chance of overflow when the cork is removed. The pressure comes from all those bubbles, the "magic" in the bottle. Champagne is actually fermented inside the bottle. The carbon dioxide gas produced in that process is captured, and you get bubbles. A fine, steady stream of rising bubbles - "tiny bubbles" - indicates a fine champagne or sparkling wine.
Taste varies from label to label. On one end, you'll find crisp, light and more fruity champagnes. At the other end, a taste that's rich, toasty, yeasty. The "Brut" designation is typically a dryer style of champagne. An Italian Asti Spumante is a sweeter sparkler, made from the muscat grape.
This time of year you can also find special gift packaging. The Andy Warhol series for Dom Perignon, Love Story gift boxes, reusable wine chillers and more - often for no upcharge.
Enjoy and Cheers!
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