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Guide to Champagne

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Do you only drink champagne on New Year's and special occasions? Do you only toast with it at weddings? Maybe it's time to break with tradition and make the bubbly a part of your weekly routine. Here are some fun facts about champagne to get you started.

A Little History
You probably already know that champagne is a term reserved for sparkling wine from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. Did you know that these grapes would otherwise be used to make chardonnay? While blending red and white wines would usually get you kicked out of any wine snob's home, and it is illegal in France, the only exception is for rosé champagnes, which add pinot noir to the sparkling champagne.

Which One to Pick
Everyone seems to have a favorite. There are so many kinds of champagne to choose from but the biggest (and well known) company is Moët-Hennessy. That brand carries Dom Perignon, Krug, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon. And it's pronounced mo-ette, not mo-way. Another well know and popular champagne is Krug, which took the name of German founder Joseph Krug. Since summer 2011, the company has included a number on each bottle so drinkers can look up more information about their particular variety. The factory keeps batches of champagnes separate (each grower and year has their own vat) and the experts may mix wines up to 20 years old for each batch of "Grande Cuvée."

Year
Moët's Belinda Chang said 2004 was the best year for champagnes. Weather conditions were ideal for most growers in the region and it's agreed to have produced the best offerings in years.

Proper Temperature
The ideal temperature to serve champagne is 50 degrees. Most refrigerators run at about 45 degrees, so once you open a bottle, let it sit out in the open. Temps too cold will lock-up the flavors.

Opening the Bottle
Remove the foil, keep the wire cage on the cork–even after you untwist the wire. Once you loosen the cage, keep one hand over the cork so it won’t accidentally pop off. Don’t twist the cork. Instead take a tight grip of the cork, with the cage still on, and twist the base of the bottle.

How to Drink It
You're not alone if you grab a flute to pour the champagne in. Everyone does it. But champagne is not best served out of a flute. The correct way to serve fine champagne is with a large wine glass, so the aromas collect in the bowl as you drink. Once you have it in the glass, don't swish it around like you do wine. Moët-Hennessy Champagne Education Manager* Belina Chang said that the bubbles do the tasting for you. "Just let it sit in your mouth, and enjoy."

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