Sparkling Wine: Tips & Etiquette for Gatherings Big & Small

  • Wine
  • by WINECOUNTRY COLLECTIVE
  • on MARCH 6, 2024
  • 6491
  • 0
Wine

Sparkling Wine: Tips & Etiquette for Gatherings Big & Small

By WineCountry Collective March 6, 2024

Pop, Fizz, Clink! That tantalizing sound of sparkling wine has us ready to celebrate, pretty much any time of day. For that reason, we’ve partnered with our good friends at Domaine Carneros, makers of fantastic méthode traditionnelle bubbly from Carneros, to help turn any moment into an unforgettable experience.

But before you pop that cork, let us just say that there’s an art to sipping bubbly. To fully savor the wines of Domaine Carneros (and any other sparkling wine or Champagne, for that matter), it’s important to adhere to proper sparkling wine etiquette, aka the “dos and don’t” of all things sparkling. Our comprehensive guide will help you navigate the world of sparkling wine with grace and sophistication, whether popping bubbly on a Tuesday or for that very special event.

Domaine Carneros | Megan Steffan, Untapped Media
Domaine Carneros, Photo courtesy of Megan Steffan, Untapped Media

Selecting How Many Bottles to Serve

Ah, the golden question: how much is enough? We recognize that’s the number one question every host asks him or herself before a party, and the answer lies in your gathering’s nature. If you’re having an intimate soiree (4-6 people), consider starting with two bottles, ensuring everyone gets a generous pour or two. Hosting a grander fête? A safe estimate is half a bottle per person, so 10 bottles if you’re having 20 people. Or, if you want to live large, think bigger (as in bigger bottle size) with a Magnum or Jeroboam for your party. To those of us visual learners, this handy serving chart will help you plan ahead:

Domaine Carneros
Photo courtesy of Domaine Carneros

Shop Domaine Carneros’ Magnums & More and cheers to your upcoming celebrations!

The Best Serving Temperature

Bubbles are fussy about temperature, so you’ll want to treat them right. Chill the bottle to “The Goldilocks Zone” (typically between 45-50°F for most sparkling wines) before drinking. Too cold, and you risk muting the wine’s aromas; too warm, and the effervescence may smack you in the face, and that’s just not fun.

Note: if you need to chill your sparkling wine quickly, you can wrap it with a damp paper towel and place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. It’ll be perfectly chilled and ready to pop. But remember, leaving it in too long, especially for an extended period, will cause it to explode, so please don’t forget about it! Alternatively, before filling your ice bucket, add two cups of kosher salt, cold water, and lots of ice to speed chilling time. It’ll work like a charm.

On that note, we may as well share the best temperature for storing wine, too. If you’re thinking long-term, store your sparkling treasures horizontally in a cool, dark place, preferably around 55°F. Just make sure the bottles are able to stay at a consistent temperature, away from light and vibration, which can alter the wine.

Domaine Carneros | Sarah Anne Risk
Domaine Carneros, Photo courtesy of Sarah Anne Risk

How to Open a Bottle of Bubbly

We have to admit, there’s something magical about the sound of that pop, but it does take a bit of finesse to ensure it’s done right. To open your sparkling wine, whether it’s sparkling wine, Prosecco, or Champagne, hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle, then remove the foil and wire cage gently while holding your thumb or hand over the cork, taking care not to shake the bottle. Here’s a fun fact: All sparkling wine cages can be unscrewed in 6 turns.

Now, holding a cloth or napkin over the cork to prevent it from popping prematurely, twist the bottle (not the cork) while maintaining a firm grip on the cork. The cork should emerge with a gentle sigh, not a loud pop. Now, let the festivities commence! If you’re ready to impress, consider kicking off your soirée with Domaine Carneros’ Sparkling Celebration gift set.

Fun fact: a muselet is a wire cage that fits over the cork of a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine to prevent the cork from emerging under the pressure of the carbonated contents.

Photos courtesy of The Social Sipper; Aperture media; John Bedell

How to Choose the Right Glassware

When it’s time to raise your glass, let’s first make sure you’re holding the right one. We’d suggest selecting a wine glass specifically designed for sparkling wine, such as a flute or tulip-shaped glass, as these glasses help preserve the wine’s effervescence and aromas. We love making a statement with Domaine Carneros Etched Flutes. Not only are they glamorous, but the pronounced curve helps capture the complexity and depth of any Domaine Carneros sparkling wine.

Of course, you can definitely drink sparkling wine out of any glassware you prefer. Just keep in mind that, depending on the wine glass, the bubbles may dissipate more quickly, such as in the case of a wide bowled Chardonnay glass or a Champagne coupe. If Champagne coupes are your go-to, don’t fret. They’re super fun and festive, but just be aware the effervescence may not last as long (also, be careful clinking glasses in a celebratory toast so you don’t spill).

Pouring Domaine Carneros sparkling wine
Domaine Carneros, Photo courtesy of Megan Steffen, Untapped Media

Tips for Pouring Sparkling Wine

Pouring is an act of grace, but there’s also some science to it. Tilt the glass at a 45-degree angle while pouring, which helps to maintain those beloved bubbles but minimizes the chance for an overflow.

Initially, you’ll want to fill the glass only halfway to allow room for the wine to breathe and for the bubbly foam to settle down. After that initial pour, though, you can top up the glass if desired.

Domaine Carneros | Megan Steffen, Untapped Media
Domaine Carneros, Photo courtesy of Megan Steffen, Untapped Media

Tasting Sparkling Wine

We know you can’t wait for that first taste, but here are some tips for getting the most out of your sensory journey. Always hold the glass by the stem or base to avoid warming the wine with your hand, because sparkling wine is best enjoyed when it stays cool. Then, oh so very gently, swirl the wine in the glass to release its aromas, taking a moment to inhale the bouquet of the bubbly.

Now for the good part: the first sip. All sparkling wine started as still wine, so the flavors you experience will be familiar, just enhanced by the bubbles. Take a moment to notice the fruity, floral, and yeasty notes (like in the 2019 Brut Rosé). Small sips will allow you to appreciate the flavor and effervescence, letting the wine coat your palate so you can savor its complexity.

Fun fact: All Domaine Carneros sparkling wines are made in the traditional Champagne method, known as Méthode Traditionnelle. The grapes for Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling wines are picked at a higher level of acid to allow for the extended aging and lees contact that the wine undergoes, with a second fermentation taking place inside the bottle. This process adds a certain complexity to the wine that’s hard to replicate in other sparkling methods.

Domaine Carneros | Mario Piombo, Aperture Media
Domaine Carneros, Photo courtesy of Mario Piombo, Aperture Media

Pairing Sparkling Wine With Food

Sparkling wine’s versatility is its superpower. From seafood to poultry, light appetizers to desserts, sparkling wine pairs well with a variety of dishes. Opt for Brut or Ultra Brut with savory dishes and sweeter styles like a Demi-Sec with desserts.

Wine Tip: Dosage is the step in winemaking when a mixture of wine and sugar is added to the newly disgorged bottles. For instance, Domaine Carneros’ crisp Ultra Brut has the least amount of sugar added (0.5%) while the luscious Verméil Demi-Sec has the most (2.5%).

Domaine Carneros | Megan Steffan, Untapped Media
Domaine Carneros, Photo courtesy of Megan Steffan, Untapped Media

Enjoy Responsibly

While sparkling wine is a celebratory drink, always drink responsibly and be mindful of your alcohol intake. If you’re venturing out, designate a driver or arrange for alternate transportation if necessary. And if you’re visiting Domaine Carneros Winery in Napa Valley’s Carneros AVA, the same rule applies: be sure to arrange a designated driver ahead of time to get the most out of your experience.

Conclusion:

By following these sparkling wine etiquette guidelines, you’re set to imbue your festive moments with a dash of sophisticated bubbly brilliance, any time of year. Ready to host your own sparkling soirée? Visit Domaine Carneros’ Wine Shop to bring a taste of Napa’s best bubbly to your own home for celebratory occasions both big and small (or even just to make a weeknight feel a little more special).