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How to Rock a Champagne Tasting

February 18, 2017 by Ginger Hultin MS RDN

Champagne…what’s not to love? I found out about a champagne tasting night at our local wine store, Esquin, in Seattle. I knew I had to be there. First of all, if you’re in Seattle, you really need to stop by this store because it’s really amazing and the staff there know SO MUCH about wine (and champagne). Second, they have wonderful events like the one I attended where you can learn more about alcohol like champagne. If you are coming to Seattle, check out my guide right here and if you’re headed to a tasting, whether it’s at a store, a vineyard, an event, or a restaurant, you’re going to need this post on how to rock a champagne tasting before you go.

I know a little about champagne, and I enjoy it quite often but it always seems like others are the true connoisseurs. If you feel the same, please drop me a comment below to let me know I’m not alone! Though I’ve taken many a class and try to immerse myself in champagne culture as much as possible, I still felt a bit intimidated when I showed up to the event.

There was a line to get champagne tasting glasses initially then there were stations placed around the store where a wine rep was giving tastes of 3-4 champagnes. Everyone got a form to take notes on and the stations featured similar sparkling wines – Champagne from France, Cava, Prosecco, Crémant and others. Of course, it’s only champagne if it’s from Champagne, France – and I have a whole post here on why champagne is so special if you need a little brush-up.

One of the best things about the event was that they were food pairing the sparkling wine and champagne with salty foods like chips and popcorn. It really gave a deep perspective of why the acid and bubbles work so well with salt and fat. One of my favorite wine teachers swore that the reason so many people don’t like champagne is because it’s often served at weddings with sweet vanilla cake which is perhaps the worst possible pairing.

Here are my tips for how to rock a champagne tasting, even if you don’t really know what you’re doing! Remember that whenever you’re trying anything new or you’re feeling out of your element, confidence – even if it’s a little fake – can go a long way. Stay humble and curious, engage, listen and ask questions. Of course, buying a bottle (or more) isn’t required but if you spend a lot of time at a table you really enjoy, the wine rep is very helpful and you really enjoy the product, it could be a fun splurge to get a bottle to take home as a memory of your fun time at the tasting.

These tips really go for any tasting so next time you find yourself at a vineyard or on a tasting day with friends, you can keep these tips in mind, too. Make SURE to stay hydrated and fed – this is not a day to skip meals and it’s a very good idea to keep snacks with you and/or eat before you go. Know your limits, make sure you have a safe transportation plan, and lean in to see what you can learn from the experience.

 How to Rock a Champagne Tasting

These are my top tips on how to really enjoy yourself at a champagne or wine tasting. If you have success or this is helpful to you, make sure to leave me a message!

  1. Arrive early to avoid some of the crowd. Don’t be in a rush; just enjoy the experience even it if is a bit chaotic.
  2. Be friendly and chatty with other guests. You never know who you’re going to meet! I like to keep some business cards in my wallet in case I want to make a connection.
  3. Ask each Wine Rep about their product to learn more. What is the champagne house like? Where in the region is it? What’s the history? What are the vineyards like?
  4. Don’t worry so much about the vintage. If you see “NV” it means “no vintage”. Many champagne houses will only produce a vintage bottle in superior years so it could indicate a special bottle . Because of this, vintage champagne only makes up about 5% of total champagne production.  It is common to have a non-vintage bottle and these bottles can of course be excellent, too!
  5. Only certain grapes can be used to produce actual champagne so the Wine Rep will generally tell you which grapes were used: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. If it’s a sparkling wine from other regions, you may encounter different grapes.
  6. Enjoy some snacks. Did you know that potato chips pair well with champagne? Champagne loves both fat and salt so chips are the perfect pairing and you’ll find they go together nicely. Even at the fanciest champagne table you may find chips or pretzels to snack on between sips. Here’s an awesome article in Food&Wine about how to pair champagne with potato chips!
  7. Know your “dosage” (pronounced like corsage). This term indicates sweetness. It is the amount of champagne, spirits or sweet juice  added back in after the champagne is corked when it is done fermenting. Dosage is presented in grams per liter; the lower the number, the dryer the wine. For reference:Brut Nature: no added sugar or <3 g/L residual sugar

    Extra-Brut: 0-6 g/L residual sugars
    Brut: <12 g/L residual sugars
    Extra Sec (extra dry): 12-17 g/L residual sugars
    Sec (dry): 17-32 g/L residual sugars
    Demi-Sec: 32-50 g/L residual sugars
    Doux: >50 g/L residual sugars​

Once you get that sparkling wine home, if you want to, you can create some fun recipes out of it. Of course, if you have a very nice bottle you’ve splurged on, it’s best tasted on it’s own. The way that champagne is made creates subtle flavors that you can really only pick up on when you enjoy it plain and simple. However, if you’ve got a sparkling wine that you enjoy or you’re not a fan of champagne on it’s own, then here are some ideas for you:

Creme Champagne Cocktail
Champagne Jello Shots
Citrus Champagne Fizz
Hazelnut Coffee Champagne Cocktail 
Smashed Cranberry Champagne Cocktail

Coconut Champagne Bread
Champagne Cupcakes

Let me know if you try these!

1 Comment

  1. Kelly Jones on February 20, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    Love this! If I am ever in Seattle I’ll have to do a champs tasting with you. Was lucky enough to go into a champagne cave in Epernay, but with my poor French, didn’t pick up on the facts you listed about No Vintage varieties and dosage!

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Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO

An award-winning, nationally recognized nutrition expert and media spokesperson.

Thanks for visiting! If you’re like me: obsessed with eating, wine, going out and traveling, you’re in the right place. Champagne Nutrition® LLC is a Registered Dietitian-run concierge virtual practice helping clients look and feel better. On this blog, you’ll find cocktails, mocktails, and plant-based recipes that are easy to make quickly at home and pack for leftovers on your adventures.

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