Tips for your New Year fizz – ask Decanter

Do smaller bubbles mean better Champagne? My Champagne never seems to have much fizz, why? How to chill my Champagne as soon as possible?

Brian Fletcher, Warminster, asks:

I have always understood that the smaller the bubbles, the better the fizz. But I was recently told that the size of the bubble is determined by the glass, not the quality of the Champagne or sparkling wine. Which is correct?

Tyson Stelzer, Decanter expert and author of The Champagne Guide 2016, replies:

Yes, smaller bubbles are an indicator of quality. The méthode traditionnelle process through which all Champagne and the finest sparkling wines are produced creates the bubbles during the second fermentation in the bottle.

The fewer impurities in the still wine and the cooler the cellar in which this fermentation occurs, the smaller the bubbles.

Tiny bubbles are easy to discern in the mouth as they produce a finer bead than the larger bubbles created by coarse juice, fast fermentation or carbonation.

While it is possible to appreciate smaller bubbles in the glass, I never judge the bead in this manner since the rate at which it is released is highly dependent upon the temperature and the inside surface of the glass.

My Champagne never seems to have much fizz...

J Powell, Cardiff, asks:

I have a problem with my Champagne glasses, I think – the wine never seems to have much fizz. Even washing them by hand doesn’t seem to help.

Champagne expert, Michael Edwards, replies:

To solve the problem of fading fizz, start with the right type of glass.

The false wisdom is to recommend the flute. This cylindershaped glass is supposed to guard the fizz with less surface area to air, but in practice you get a whoosh of dissipating mousse and sharp acidity that masks the flavour.

Much better is a tulip glass that tapers at the top to preserve aroma and flavour – always used by the Champenois.

Looking after your wine glasses

Hand washing/rinsing the glass in hot water (no detergent), then drying/ polishing with a clean towel is ideal. A dishwasher on a good rinse cycle will also pose few problems.

How long should you chill Champagne for

It’s easy to leave chilling the Champagne as an afterthought, but it’s worth getting right at Christmas.

‘The best way to chill Champagne is in a bucket full of ice which takes about 10-15 minutes,’ said Clement Robert, sommelier at 28-50 Maddox Street. ‘For magnums, it’s about 25 minutes.’

If you need to hurry things along, Robert recommends using a lot of ice, plenty of rock salt and a little water.

‘The salt will melt the ice very quickly, the melted water being very cold and the Champagne will get chilled in less than 10 minutes.’

If you’ll be using your fridge to chill it, things will take longer – depending on the temperature of your fridge and how full it is – so plan ahead.

Translated by Leo / 孔祥鑫

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