Make a guest list and send invites out two and one half weeks in advance so your guests can savour the idea of the party ahead of time. Cocktail parties are two hours duration, whether late afternoon or early evening. This is also an ideal time to invite some charming person you have recently met, because conversation comes easily at his Champagne party. As the old Russian proverb goes, “He who never takes risks, never gets to drink Champagne.”
It also pays to do some research on the type of Champagne you want to buy as the costs vary. A visit to your local LCBO will be an eye-opener. Count on having two 750 ml bottles for every five people.
Several hours ahead of time, fill the kitchen sink with 50% ice, 40% water, and chill the bottles. Now, who is going to open them? A person with strong thumbs is perfect for the job. Here’s the drill: remove the bottle from the ice and wipe it with a napkin. Tear off the foil and twist the wire muzzle off. Firmly grasp of cork with one hand and hold the bottle with the other while pointing the bottle away from you (and others) at a 45° angle. Next twist the bottle off the cork, keeping your thumb firmly over the cork and ease it out gently. Aim for a gentle sigh rather than a boisterous pop. There is a truly festive atmosphere created however, by the sound of a popping cork. Wipe the neck of the bottle with the cleaning cloth, pour, taste a small amount and smile. Then pour the glasses two thirds full to allow the bubbles and the aroma to defuse.
The Mystique of Champagne:
Champagne comes from only one place, the Champagne and Ardennes District of France. It’s cool climate and thin chalky soil create the perfect conditions for the cultivation of Champagne grapes: typically Pino Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chadonnay. One of history’s great party givers, Madam de Pompadour, the favorite mistress of Louis IV, a reigning monarch of France in the 18th Century, always served champagne at her celebrated salons. “Champagne adds sparkle to the eyes without adding fire to the face” she said, “and it is the only wine that leaves women beautiful after drinking.” Her supplier was Claude Moet, the 1743 founder of Moet Champagne. In fact Moet Champagne was the favorite drink of several brilliant women. Mme. de Stael the writer and fame hostess of literary salons in 18th century France and Empress Josephine the wife of Napoleon, were both supplied by Jean-Remy Moet, Claude’s grandson. When Jean-Remy’s son in law Gabriel Chandon joined the house in 1832 it became known as Moet and Chandon. And Sarah Bernhardt, 19th century French actress, was said to consume half a bottle of Moet and Chandon with every meal.
Not only have creative women been inspired by drinking Champagne, but Champagne has also in turn been influenced by them. Marie Antoinette wife of Louis XV, the one who lost her head during the French Revolution, wore outrageous breast revealing clothes. It is alleged that her A-Cup breast was the model for the saucer shape champagne coop. Today we believe that the best glass is a flute or a tulip shaped glass. The shape allows minimal fizz from escaping and let’s us see each tiny bubbles’ pilgrimage to the top of the glass.
While the late Robin Leach of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous always extended “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams” to his fans, accompaniments are not limited to expensive sturgeon roe. In fact heavy flavours such as caviar can overwhelm the subtle taste of Champagne. Instead, try Brie, liver pate, and lightly smoked salmon, since their rich fatty tastes complement the freshness of Champagne. Other good choices include sweet grapes, strawberries and breads. Sugar mixes with the carbon dioxide in the Champagne and produces a stronger sensation of sparkle on the tongue.
Make your toast:
“Here’s to Champagne! it makes strong men weak and weak men strong.” Sip and enjoy.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Publisher/Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.