Do you know how much Champagne to buy for 50 people? Do you know how to store, pour and preserve the bubbles?
Sally McFadden of Domaine Chandon in Yountville, Calif., is on a tour answering just such questions.
McFadden says you'll get 70 glasses of wine in a case of Champagne (that's 12 bottles). Allowing for an accident or two, that should give you six glasses to the bottle. Now you can calculate how many bottles you'll need.
If you are having a dinner party of eight to 12 guests or large crowds, magnum-size bottles will probably serve the table more comfortably than fifths.
"That way you open only one bottle without stopping service, and also you'll have to open fewer bottles, especially if you are serving a large crowd," McFadden said.
Chill the wine in a cooler or, if you are using many bottles, use a bathtub or container (or garbage can lined with plastic. Simply place the wine bottles in the container, cover with ice and add enough water to fill the container one-third full with water.
"This adds cooling space between bottles for faster chilling," McFadden said. Adding salt to water also helps reduce temperature for even more rapid chilling.
The best way to open a bottle is to first remove the foil covering from the cork. Loosen the wire hood but do not remove it or the cork may accidentally pop. Place a towel over the cork, using it to get a firm grip on the bottle. And with four fingers balancing the bottle, hold at a 45-degree angle and turn the bottle, holding the cork as the bottle turns. Do not turn the cork. The cork will pop easily.
Wipe off the mouth of the bottle, then fill the glass to one inch of the rim, never to the rim. That's "two-fingers down" in bartending jargon. Never hold the glass at an angle. With the thumb on the punt (the indentation under the bottle), pour the Champagne directly into the standing glass, generally in two pourings as bubbles subside. "You want to see the bubbles as you pour," McFadden said.
Once open, replace the cork with a stopper and keep the bottle cold. A bottle of Champagne will still be drinkable for as long as two days, or you can use it in sauces, marinades or mimosas for an afternoon refreshment. The larger the bottle, however, the shorter the shelf life.
The six-ounce, narrow, tapered flute glass is considered the ideal serving Champagne. It has been used for Champagne since Roman times.
"Any residual detergent can kill bubbles in the wine," she said. Any kind of cloth without sizing or starch can be used for drying the glass. Cloth that is 100% cotton is, however, considered best. For a free copy of a Champagne-user's guide to sparkling wine, write to Domaine Chandon, P.O. Box 2470, Yountville, Calif. 94599.