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  • How to Open Champagne

    A quick tutorial from Bryan Maletis on opening a Champagne bottle the right way! Video by Geena Pietromonaco.

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    When to Drink Champagne? Everyday!

    Champagne Corks

    Don’t wait for a special occasion to open up a bottle of Champagne; open a bottle to make any occasion special! Follow these four simple steps to drink Champagne like a pro, Jedi, aficionado, or whatever title you choose!

    1) Chill Champagne

    Champagne should be stored in a cool dark place until it’s ready to enjoy. When you’re ready to chill a bottle to pop, place your Champagne in the refrigerator (at least 12 hours before popping the cork), or put your bottle in an ice bucket (or a sink!) filled with half ice and half water for 20 minutes. Watch Bryan’s complete tutorial on chilling Champagne here! 

    Pouring Champagne

    2) Open Champagne

    When you open Champagne, there shouldn’t be a loud pop or a lot of fizz. Instead, remove the foil, place your thumb over the top of the cork (on the metal cap), and while holding the cork firmly in place, slowly turn the bottle away from the cork. When you feel the cork start to give, apply a slight onward pressure and let the cork gently sigh as it comes out. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, saber your Champagne for a real show! 

    3) Drink Champagne

    Enjoy bubbles on their own, or pair your Champagne with a variety of easy foods. Get geeky as you taste, or simply sip and enjoy.

    When to Drink Champagne

    4) Most importantly: Celebrate!

    Toast with a glass of Champagne often! Raise a glass to your spouse, a birthday, a bad day, a Tuesday night. Bring a bottle to a friend’s house, on a picnic, or on a vacation. A bottle of Champagne turns any occasion into a grand celebration.

     

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    Champagne Gift Guide

     

    Champagne Gifts for Everyone

    Find Champagne for anyone on your list! Take the quiz above, then browse the results: Pascal Redon Brut Tradition, Jean Baillette-Prudhomme Rosé de Saignée, JM Goulard Paul Tradition Magnum, Gimonnet-Oger Blanc de Blancs Millésime 2002, and Alexandre Lenique Cuvée Excellence Brut. As always, contact us for customized gift ideas and pairing suggestions.

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    Should you Age Champagne?

    Champagne Bottles Aging in cellar

    To cellar, or to drink, a question many of us ask when purchasing a beautiful bottle of wine. Champagne is unique in that it’s aged to perfection in the caves of producers in France before release. Champagne benefits from long amounts of time on the lees (the dead yeast cells) leftover from secondary fermentation. When Champagne is aging in the caves, the lees have not yet been removed, so the Champagne is becoming more complex as it ages. Before corking, the lees are removed from bottles through a process called disgorgement. And, once the cork is in place, the Champagne is gradually exposed to a small amount of oxygen, let in by the porous surface of the cork over time.

    Below: Champagne aging on the lees. 

    Champagne under temporary bottle cap

    Producers taste their Champagnes at all stages of development, and will only disgorge and cork them when they’ve reached their prime. Therefore, in most cases, the Champagne will taste its best, as the producer intended it to taste, 6 months to about 3 years after corking.

    However, many people enjoy the flavors of a cork aged Champagne. The oxygen will open up flavors, often expanding the range of flavors present. But if you’re not starting with perfect, high-quality Champagne, aging it too long can make the Champagne taste funky. Below is our general guide for aging your Champagne, based on type.

    Rosé Champagne riddling racks

    ROSÉ – Drink within 1 year after purchasing

    Delicate and fruit-forward, most rosés are best enjoyed soon after they have been corked. The exceptions are vintage specific rosé Champagnes and rosé Champagnes made with the pinot noir grape. Both have the structure to generally age for 3-5 years under cork.

    NON VINTAGE BLANCS – Drink within 3-5 years after purchasing

    Non-vintage Champagnes are blended wines, made from a mix of recently harvested wine, and reserve wine. Most producers craft a non-vintage Champagne as their house style and most are aged to perfection in the cellars of their producer and don’t need to be kept under a cork for too long. The oxidation can eventually overwhelm the beautiful fruit flavors resulting in a mature effect.

    VINTAGES – Drink within 10-15 years after purchasing

    Vintage Champagne is always aged by the producer for a minimum of three years and often much longer. Vintages are only bottled in extraordinary years, when the grapes are perfect and weather conditions are ideal. Therefore, when buying a vintage Champagne, you can assume it’s high-quality, and age-worthy. Though still unpredictable, aging a vintage Champagne under cork will often open up the flavors and expand the range. Like wine, Champagne vintages are distinct and will taste different as they age. 1996, 2002, 2004 and 2008 are some of our favorite, most age-worthy Champagne vintages.

    Champagne pour

    CELEBRATE EVERYDAY!

    Our philosophy is to pop open Champagne as often as you can, to make any occasion special! Instead of keeping your “best bottles”, waiting for the perfect moment to pop the cork, open the bottle to celebrate any day! Toast to a home-cooked meal, your spouse, a bad day, a promotion, or anything. Opening that special bottle will create lasting memories and smiles for all.

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    Introducing Champagne Xavier Leconte!

    Fat Cork Champagne, exclusive importer of Xavier Leconte

    For an incredible six generations the Leconte Family has passed down a passion for crafting exceptional Champagne from their vineyards in the heart of Troissy-Bouquigny, a small town in the Vallée de la Marne region. The terroir benefits from a moderate oceanic climate and identifiable chalk, limestone and clay parcels where the different grapes are specifically planted where they are best situated to grow.

    Champagne Region Map

    Alexis, along with help from his parents, Xavier and Sylvie, has led his family operation since he took the helm in 2013. In addition to spending his entire life training with his family in Champagne, Alexis has experience in many different Champagne houses and wineries. After working in the Grandes Maisons de Champagne, Alexis earned his National Diploma of Oenology and spent 4 years working in Bordeaux and Alsace. These outside experiences have helped Alexis come back to lead his family Champange business into the next generation.

    “Even being an oenologist, we need an outside opinion. My group of friends, from wine school help me taste. They are each winemakers on different soils, with different stories, and it helps. We grow from sharing.” 

    -Alexis Leconte

    Grower Champagne exclusively imported by Fat Cork

    We’re honored to be the exclusive U.S. importer and retailer of yet another remarkable Champagne family, Xavier Leconte! Check out the Champagne Xavier Leconte collection of 10 distinct cuvées!

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    How To Taste Champagne

    Bryan shares his tips for tasting Champagne! Smelling, swirling, sipping, and enjoying, learn the best way to taste Champagne in this quick video.

    Wonderful video by Geena Pietromonaco!

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    How Champagne is Made

    How to Make Champagne

     

    Producing Champagne is a fascinating art, passed down from many generations. From vineyard to table, the process takes years! Learn the laborious and extraordinary steps of making Champagne below.


    CHAMPAGNE VINEYARDS

    All Champagne begins as grapes growing in vineyards located in the Champagne region of France. There are three main grapes permitted in Champagne: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. The cool climate and soil content (regions with limestone, marl, and chalk) in Champagne creates grapes that are deliciously tart, and high in acid. Once the grapes have reached their peak ripeness, growers harvest by hand-picking every grape and transporting them back to the presses. Although the process is extremely laborious, hand-picking ensures that only the highest quality grapes go into each pressing.

    How to Make Champagne

    Pascal Redon Champagne Harvest

    Grower Champagne Harvest

     


    THE PRESS & PRIMARY FERMENTATION

    Immediately after harvest, grapes are de-stemmed and delivered to cuveries for pressing. Many small growers still use traditional wooden presses (pictured below), that gently press grapes into juice that is channeled to tanks underneath. Between each pressing, the grapes are mixed with pitch forks to ensure maximum juice extraction.

    After pressing, the grape juice is stored in barrels, concrete tanks, or stainless steel vats for primary fermentation. The juice is tasted at various stages of fermentation to determine future blends and vintages.

    Wooden Champagne Press at Champagne Jean Baillette-Prudhomme

    Chardonnay juicing in traditional wooden Champagne press

     


    SECONDARY FERMENTATION

    After lots of tasting and blending, the recently fermented wine is often combined with older reserve wine to make a cuvée. Or in exceptional years, the wine will be bottled on its own as a vintage. Once the blend is determined, the wines are bottled with yeast and sugar to start secondary fermenation. The bottles are stopped under a temporary bottle cap that keeps the bubbles inside each bottle. The reaction of the yeast and sugar inside the bottle creates the Champagne bubbles!

     


    AGING

    The Champagne ages in the bottle under a temporary bottle cap for a minimum of 15 months to be called Champagne, and a minimum of 3 years to be Fat Cork Champagne. Many producers age their cuvées for several years, and some even decades to produce complex and unique wines. The process of aging Champagne on the lees (dead yeast cells) creates more complexity and depth.

    Champagne Cave in France

    Champagne Cave in France

     


    DISGORGEMENT

    After aging is complete, and the bottles are ready to enjoy, the process of riddling begins. Bottles are slowly turned onto their necks so that the lees from the bottom of each bottle settle into the neck. Once stable, the bottles are disgorged, meaning that the lees are removed; the necks of bottles are flash-frozen so that when the bottle cap is removed, only the frozen wine (that contains the lees) is lost. Once the lees have been removed, a small dose of still wine and sugar (the dosage) is added to balance the levels of high acidity. Or, in the case of Brut Nature Champagne, the dosage will be skipped, creating a dry and acidic wine.

     


    CORKS & LABELING

    Once the Champagne is complete, corks are inserted into the bottles then covered with wire cages and foil. Finally, the front labels and the Fat Cork back labels are applied by hand.

     


    VOILÁ! 

    The process of making Champagne is complete! Fat Cork Champagne is then loaded into cases and shipped to the United States in temperature controlled containers. Once the cases reach our Seattle warehouse, they are unloaded by hand, and stored in our cool, underground Champagne cave. There the bottles await to be sent to celebrations across the U.S.!

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    Champagne and Food Pairings

    How to Pair Champagne with Food

    Champagne is one of, if not the most versatile beverage to pair with a wide variety of foods. As long as you avoid sweet foods and overly strong flavors, it’s hard to go wrong when pairing Champagne with many of your favorite foods. Here’s our foolproof guide to pairing Champagne with easy, everyday foods. No caviar required!

    Champagne Pairing Basics

    Match weight and texture: light foods tend to taste best with lighter wines; heavier foods usually taste best with stronger wines.

    Match flavor intensity: Mild flavors usually pair better with delicate wine; more intense flavors typically taste better with richer wines.

    Skip the sweets: Because Champagne is typically dry (and Fat Cork Champagne is almost always on the dry side), pairing Champagne with a sweet dessert can make the Champagne taste bitter. Instead, try pairing Champagne with dark chocolate and berries, or finish your meal with a bright, refreshing brut nature!

     

    Pairing Champagne with chips

    Champagne and Salty Foods

    Champagne paired with salty foods makes one of the easiest and most delicious pairings! Salt balances acidic wine, so salty foods are especially great when paired with dry Champagnes (like brut natures). We love pairing dry Champagne with thick-cut potato chips, popcorn tossed with olive oil and parmesan, or homemade oven fries.

    Champagne and Seafood

    Classic and foolproof, almost all seafood pairs well with Champagne. A few of our favorites: oysters and blanc de blancs, grilled salmon and rosé, spicy fish tacos and pinot meunier.

    Pairing Champagne with take out food

    Champagne and Take Out

    Our favorite way to celebrate a weeknight: take out and Champagne. Pinot meunier Champagne compliments spicy food (try it with Vietnamese or Thai food), and brut nature shines with lighter foods (like sushi).

    Champagne and Cheese

    Stinky, creamy, hard, or soft, almost all cheeses pair well with Champagne! Add cured meats, olives, nuts, dried fruit, and bread to your cheese plate for even more delicious pairings.

    Pair breakfast with wine

    Champagne with Brunch

    Enjoy bubbly with brunch! Paired with rich eggs, salty bacon, tart berries, and buttery croissants, Champagne turns an always fun brunch into a super fun morning celebration.

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    2016 Champagne Harvest

    The Champagne harvest is complete for 2016! The grapes have all been picked by hand and are now bubbling away in their fermentation vessels! Learn about the laborious and extraordinary process of harvesting in Champagne below.

    (Below: The youngest member of Champagne Redon helping with harvest and the cutest harvest picture ever!)

    HAND-PICKED

    All of our growers hand-pick their grapes each harvest season. Bunches of grapes are snipped directly from the vine using secateurs (small pruning clippers), then placed in buckets and baskets that are transported to each family’s press.

    Although the process is extremely laborious and requires a lot of people, hand-picking ensures that only the highest quality grapes go into each pressing.

    PRESSING

    Once the grapes arrive at each family’s cuverie, they are weighed and measured into the press. Many of our growers still use traditional wooden presses (pictured below), that gently press grapes into juice that is channeled to tanks underneath. Between each press, the grapes are mixed with pitch forks to ensure maximum juice extraction. 

    PRIMARY FERMENTATION

    After pressing, the grape juice is stored in barrels, concrete tanks, or stainless steel vats for primary fermentation. The juice is tasted at various stages of fermentation to determine future blends and vintages.

    Bryan will be headed back to Champagne in January to taste the freshly fermented wines. We can’t wait to see what’s bubbling up!

     

     

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    What is “Special Club” Champagne?

    The Special Club, or Club Trésors de Champagne, was originally founded in 1971 by 12 of the oldest families of the Champagne region. Since then, the club has grown to include 29 producers committed to excellence in all aspects of production. This exclusive membership is only open to Recoltant Manipulants (a French designation for a producer of grower Champagne). Champagnes must be produced, bottled and aged at the member’s estate. The Special Club Champagnes represent the tête de cuvée (a premier bottling often carrying a vintage date) selection for each member.

    Special Club Champagnes are only made in outstanding vintages from grapes harvested from member’s own vineyards. Each producer must submit his wine to two blind tastings panels of esteemed oenologists and wine professionals. The still wines (vins clairs) are tasted first and if approved may be bottled in the uniquely-shaped Special Club bottle before undergoing secondary fermentation. After a minimum of three years aging on lees, the wines are tasted again for final approval.

    In essence, the purpose of the club is to showcase the terroirs of Champagne. Every bottle is assured to be excellent, but they will vary in flavor as a result of the specific place and time the Champagne was produced.

    Fat Cork is proud to be the exclusive importer and retailer of Special Club Champagnes from two different producers Hervieux-Dumez & Grongnet.

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