The French probably understand champagne better than any other nation. It is one of their great wines and, just as importantly, the French care about food and drink in a way that no other people on earth do. So it is worth listening to the opinions from across the water

What the Experts Say

Although champagne is put on sale after ageing for three years it is not necessarily best to drink straight away. French experts recommend allowing the wine to improve in the cellar for five to ten years. In this way a twenty dollar bottle of champagne that has too many bubbles and too much acidity can settle into a less aggressive and richly flavored wine. If you want champagne to drink immediately, a safe option is to buy a vintage produced between 1997 and 2000.

Allow to Air before Drinking.

The showy way to enjoy champagne is to open a bottle with a loud pop, a cork hitting the ceiling and a hurried pouring and drinking. This certainly is fun, but if you are more interested in the flavor of the wine, a more measured approach will pay dividends,

If a bottle of champagne is opened about 10 minutes before drinking there will be no serious loss of bubbles as the wine acclimatizes and the flavors improve with airing.

Do Not Serve too Cold

The optimum temperature is between 8 and 10 ° C for basic champagne and 12 to 14 ° C for older vintages. A very good champagne can be enjoyed at room temperature according to some purists.

Champagne is best chilled in an ice bucket with two thirds water and one third ice. Roughly two thirds of the bottle should be submerged. This will take a bottle to the ideal temperature in about ten to twenty minutes, depending on the bottles starting temperature. If the champagne is too cool many of the flavors will be lost altogether.

Opening the Champagne

Again you need to decide what it is that you want from your champagne. There are times when a great rushing geyser of champagne foam provides a symbolic moment of excitement at a party or after a triumph at a sporting event.

On the other hand, if you are mainly interested in the experience of enjoying champagne as a fine wine, then gentleness is recommended. Once the metal has been removed from the cork, the wire retainer should be undone carefully. If there is any suspicion that the bottle has been shaken, a towel should be draped over the end of it to deal with both the flying cork and the overflow.

If the bottle has been treated with respect the cork will stay in place. To remove it, hold the cork firmly and twist the bottle (never twist or pull the cork). The bottle should open with a grateful sigh and the champagne can be poured without mess or injury. For a connoisseur, it is a moment of great anticipation.

Avoid Straight Flutes

French champagne lovers are very particular about the glasses that they use. Wide flutes will allow the bubbles to escape too quickly so that the drink may be flat before it can be fully enjoyed. On the other hand very straight flutes constrain the bubbles too much, preventing a proper reaction with the air, so that the flavors of the wine do not develop fully. Slightly flared glasses are perfect.

Care of wine glasses is also important. Dishwashers should be avoided and the traditional method of drying with a towel is essential. It is the dust and cellulose fibers from a towel that cause the bubbles to form. A sterile surface offers no nuclei for bubble formation.

Certainly if your champagne appears to be flat straight from the bottle, the problem is most likely the glass,

Keeping Once Opened

An air tight cork is enough to preserve an opened bottle for a few days.