"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right."
In a little over a month, people will be in a celebratory state of being as the month of December ushers in Christmas and the holiday period in general. It's also the time when friends and family members gather together for a memorable festive meal. When it comes to the "how-to's" of conducting oneself in public and social deportment in general, Debrett's is the guide to consult with when it comes to acting correctly in public. It's a good source for ensuring that one does the socially correct thing as to not embarrass oneself. For example, there is more to merely sipping champagne and wine.
A bottle of chilled champagne is always a good start to a holiday meal and accordingly, there are rules and regulations as to how it should be served. Maybe not rules and regulations as such but suggestions to get the most out of champagne. Have to confess or at least own up to the fact that perhaps I've imbibed in high end champagne less than a half-dozen times in my entire life. You know - special occasions - and found the taste somewhat dry and lip-pucker-inducing. Then again, I'm not big on caviar, either. A little bit too fishy and slimy going down for my taste. But I digress. So now about champagne.
Rule number 1: do not shake the bottle of champagne prior to opening it. Don't quite know why somebody would do that other than for personal amusement to see the end result but obviously if this is a precaution, than obviously one should keep it away from potential champagne shakers. You know who you are! Unlike in the movies, it's wasteful, not to mention messy, to have a large stream of champagne dripping down from the ceiling. Then there's the ensuing issue of who should clean up the mess including what to do with inebriated pets. Moving on...
Rule number 2: the champagne bottle should be opened by peeling off the foil over the cork. My solution for difficult tasks such as tricky foil removal especially if there's a threat of broken finger nails that have been newly manicured, or the retrieval of broken corks stuck inside bottles, is made easier with the help of fork tines or the tip of steak knives. I mean, these things happen even with champagne bottles.
Rule number 3: Most important in order to avoid an incident as in the case of rule number one, bottle should be pointed away from the person opening the bottle. It should also not be pointed in the direction of family members and/or friends sitting around the table. In my mind, the bottle should be pointed at a 45 degree angle....
Rule number 4: Remove metal cage over the cork. Just wondering the rationale behind placing a "metal cage" over the bottle head and cork. According to Wikipedia - Wiki is as knowledgeable as Debretts in many subjects and areas:
"A muselet is a ware cage that fits over the cork of a bottle of champagne, sparkling wine or beer to prevent the cork from emerging under the pressure of the carbonated contents. It derives its name from the French, museler, to muzzle. The muselet often has a metal cap incorporated in the design which may show the drink maker's emblem. They are normally covered by a metal foil envelope. Muselets are also known as wire hoods or Champagne wires."
Somehow, the term "wire hoods" reminds one (me) of a gang of champagne thieves, as in: "Today, le gang de muselet conducted a daring robbery and emptied out the Café des Artistes Qui Boivent du Champagne Directement de la Bouteille (English translation: the café of artists who drink champagne directly from the bottle) located in downtown Montmartre." But I digress - again.
Rule number 5 and 6: Hold the cork in one hand and the bottle in the other. This is what could be classified as the "duh" moment. Cork one hand...bottle in other. I mean, how else would one open a bottle? At this point, the open-ee should prepare for the next step being the removal of the cork. This is the point where it all comes together and the big reveal.
Rule number 7: Gently and slowly and ever-so-carefully, twist (not wrench) the bottle - not the cork.
Rule number 8: Debretts advises when removing the cork to "aim for a sigh - not a pop." So I'm thinking here, I mean, what's the difference if a person sighs or yells or even swears out loud when opening the bottle? Is there some type of unwritten rule somewhere where champagne has to be opened with a sigh? Anybody know? But I digress. Once more.
Anyway...moving right along...champagne should be served in tulip shaped fluted glasses, since the shape of the glass preserves the bubbles. The glasses must be absolutely clean and even remnants of dishwashing liquid can cause the champagne to lose its fizz. We all know that nothing tastes as bad as champagne that has lost its fizzle like many other things in life. Right?
Moving on and related to the issue of spirits, ordering wine in a restaurant can be challenging for many people who are not knowledgeable about vintage, or a growing region, the grape question or aging. For many of us, wine is relegated to red or white, period. This could present a problem when dining in a good restaurant especially when one is required to taste said wine.
1. According to Debretts, "the waiter will show you the bottle and the cork so that you can verify your wine's identity." Really - as a person who drinks wine on an occasional basis, identification of the wine really doesn't have an impact on whether or not I like it. I taste it - if it pleases my taste buds - it's okay.
2. One should never smell the cork. Again, it never occurred to me to smell the cork. I mean, why would I want to? Seems that the cork is to be used a means in which to strictly provide information. When was the last time you read a cork? Can't say that I ever have.
3. One should swirl a small amount of wine in the glass when it is served by a waiter, followed by a sniff. People unsure of the scent may take a small sip to ascertain it's taste and quality. My philosophy as far as this is concerned is if a sniff doesn't mean anything, chances are neither would a sip. In any case, once this is all completed, the wine is ready to drink. At last.
Now that the delicate issue of opening champagne and the selection of wine has been completed. it's time to actually sit back and enjoy the fruits of one's labors, in the true sense of the word. Only one thing to add to that: Cheers.
Next time we'll examine the various foods and their serving for the holiday period and their consumption.