Ubiquitous at New Year’s Eve, wedding and anniversary celebrations, Champagne is a bubbly guest of honor at the top of the invite list.
While the sparkler is most popular in winter months when parties decorate social calendars like twinkle lights, summer is the second most popular sipping time for Champagne, said Elise Losfelt, a young and remarkably relatable sixth-generation winemaker from Moet & Chandon in Epernay, France. In San Francisco to introduce the brand’s new Grand Vintage Rose 2006, Losfelt and I met last month at the Clift Hotel.
We talked about what it’s like to work in France’s famous Champagne region in one of the most esteemed Champagne houses in the world. Losfelt also enlightened me with a few dos and don’ts for serving and drinking Champagne, as well as debunked a few myths, and encouraged making every day a Champagne celebration.
“Ideally you’d store Champagne in a wine cellar at a temperature of 13 to 15 degrees Celsius (55 to 59 Fahrenheit), with constant humidity of about 85 percent,” said Losfelt.
I informed Losfelt that we live in San Francisco and any wine cellars that exist have probably been converted into overpriced apartments. So I asked her for a Plan B.
“In a closet perhaps, not near a window or a place that gets a lot of light or heat,” she recommended.
As for the refrigerator? Never! (Oops!)
“A refrigerator takes out moisture and the cork needs humidity so it doesn’t dry out.”
It’s OK to chill the Champagne in the fridge for an hour before serving, Losfelt said, but a better method is mixing a bucket with one-third water and two-thirds ice and letting the bottle chill for about 15 minutes to its ideal serving temperature of 46 to 48 degrees.
As beautiful as flutes are, Champagne should be served in a white wine glass, according to Losfelt.
“The flute shows off the bubbles and it looks really nice in pictures, but a white wine glass opens up the aromas and texture of the Champagne,” she said.
Champagne should be sniffed and swirled in the glass, the same as with any wine.
“Champagne is a wine before it is a sparkling wine, after all,” said Losfelt. “And it should be instantaneous pleasure when you take it in your mouth.”
Losfelt, a passionate home cook, said Champagne — especially the Moët Impérial, the house’s most iconic Champagne produced since 1869 — is more than just a brunch partner or a drink served only with truffles, caviar or oysters.
“The boldness and structure of Champagne make it one of the easiest wines to pair with everyday food,” said Losfelt.
“Our 2006 rose would pair well with green curry or white pizza with blue cheese,” Losfelt said.
She even suggests Champagne with fried chicken, truffle French fries, a hamburger, or other savory and salty foods.
“But beware of the ketchup or anything sweet,” Losfelt said. “These Champagnes should not be paired with dessert. For that you’d want a demi sec [sweet] Champagne.”
ON WHEN TO DRINK
“When we release a Champagne, we think you should drink it right away, every day,” Losfelt said, laughing.
I’ll raise a glass to that.
WHERE TO BUY
Moet & Chandon’s new 2006 Vintage Rose is available at:
638 Fourth St., S.F.; (415) 896-1734, www.klwines.com
Blackwell’s Wines & Spirits
5620 Geary Blvd.., S.F.; (415) 386-9463, www.blackwellswines.com
Kimberley Lovato has been writing about travel, food and drink for the last 20 years and has never met a happy hour she didn’t like. She writes at www.kimberleylovato.com.