Over the years I developed several rules about drinking Champagne and wine respectively all of which I often broke several time only to come to the conclusion that they evolved for a reason. This is not a self-reproach but indiscriminate critisism of my own opinions and choices. After all these years and with a beyond proven record and acknowledgements from highly respected houses I accepted that perhaps it is time to trust my own opinion. That is not to say I don't doubt myself but an encouragement to the reader that the psychology of drinker is constantly changing, evolving and in the long run always a self-designed method of achieving the best experience; in which, one always experiences profound disappointments and joys.
1. NEVER SHARE - never a share a bottle because a single bottle of Champagne is designed for 1 drinker in both volume of the drink and volume of alcohol.
2. ALWAYS DRINK ALONE - Alone but never lonely! Best still if you are completely alone and in a familiar environment so that the Champagne experience dominates not anything or anyone else. And I love drinking after dark so that I limit my the distortion of olfactory senses by light polution. Of course I don't drink in complete darkness as one needs to see the colour.
3. GOOD GLASSWARE - this was a mission for years to find the perfect glass. Flute is dead! Riedel's Managing Director, a total Champagne nut (afterall he was at the inception of the Bollinger Glass, the Dom Perignon glass which started the movement of Champagne specific glass)*, has decided that he would make Champagne flute totally extinct. For years I was using Riedel's 'Chianti/Riesling' glass, which is the one I settled for until, a year ago, I laid my hands on Riedel's Veritas range and in the range the very-much-look-alike-to-the-Chianti/Riesling-glass was sent to me as a sample. I had no idea what it was so I had to ask the rep. He explained and I never turned back.
4. TEMPERATURE - if you keep a bottle of Champagne in your fridge overnight the wine will be too cold; it will feel very acidic and not too enjoyable. If you like it that way then don't read any further because you won't like my words. I put a bottle in a deep freezer for up to 35 min take it out start drinking and by the time I finish it the wine will have bloomed into it's full glory. When it comes to certain blends opening the wine and leaving it open over night benefits the wine more than it is conventionally believed. The point is for the wine to warm slowly and open up with air thus experience the various layers of Champagne. About air I will right in a separate rule.
5. HOW MUCH TO POUR - standard measure for a glass of Champagne is 175ml per glass. For me that is way too much to swirl in a glass and anywhere between 50 to 100 ml (closer to 50 than 100 as you can always top up) is ideal.
6. NEVER TASTE ALWAYS DRINK - this a bit of a controversial topic. I don't spit Champagne and I always drink it. A lot of thought and effort goes into making the bottle and wasting by spitting I regard as utterly disrespectful for the art form of Champagne which I refer to as 'Haute Viticulture'. When I open a fresh bottle I always have the first glass straight down my gob (my volume 50 - 100 ml) and on an empty stomach so that the small amount of alcohol gets into my head and relaxes my attitude towards the wine and optimises the approach to it which in turn enables me to maximise my experience of the wine and dissolves my stresses of the upcoming experience.
7. AIR - in some respects air could be the enemy of Champagne. But with the recent development of Champagne air is actually beneficial in drinking it. So it is no surprise that there was the change of the glassware and now it is quite normal to decant it (or leave it open over night in the fridge). Just as with temperature, air plays an important part in appreciating Champagne.
8. RULE OF 3 - in order for me to form an opinion of a new house style or Champagne I need to drink 3 bottles of it. When it comes to vintages I usually still to just one or two but that depends on the level of wine. The most revolting wines I usually give a second or a third chance but in the end if it is revolting after the second it is unlikely I will drink it again.
9. NEVER LISTEN - this is a tricky one. Don't listen to anyone who is trying to lecture you on what you should be tasting but listen to those who encourage you to form your own opinion. I listen to everyone in Champagne but no one outside of it, outside of Champagne I trust myself.
These rules are there for me to maximise my enjoyment of the tipple. I have broken them, and I will break them especially point 1. because to share the experience I need to share the wine and it enabled me to see on others' faces when they fell in love with the tipple just as I did experience my love at first sip.
*the history and the evolution of Champagne glassware is quite interesting, but about that in another article.