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A bride-to-be’s guide to selecting champagne for the wedding reception

On a recent trip to Capetown, we found ourselves propped up at the so-stylish Gorgeous by Graham Beck bar, nestled inside the Steenberg Hotel

Sampling from a delicious looking line-up of Methode Cap Classique (that’s champagne by any other name) we wondered how on earth a b2b would know which one to choose. Restaurant Manager Juergen Welp was happy to help…..

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What is it about a glass of bubbly that feels so special at a wedding?

Champagne and sparkling wine has an association with the good life: decadence and indulgence. Weddings are a celebration of success, a joyful occasion which lends itself to indulgence of the fizzy kind.

What’s the best way to taste-test bubbles?

I believe that experiencing bubbles is best done by enjoying the whole bottle! The ultimate test is whether you can enjoy them to the last drop! But seriously, a taste test will determine what you do and don’t like. Pour a little into a tulip-shaped glass. Do you like the colour? Once the initial burst of effervescence has calmed down, take a sniff. Do you like the smell? Next, swirl the liquid around the glass and take a sip. Wait a second before you swallow. Do you like it? Does it have a pleasant after-taste?

Is there anything on the label that indicates a quality fizz – or one to dodge?

Labels give you information about the origins, alcohol content and possibly a little background history but the only real test is in the bottle.  

In South Africa, ‘champagne’ is referred to as Methode Cap Classique. Why is that? Is there a difference?

MCC and Champagne are produced in the same way. The difference is that only wine produced in Champagne in France can be called Champagne.

And what about Brut vs Demi sec? What’s the difference in taste and do you think one is more suited to a formal occasion than the other?

Brut and Demi Sec or Dry and Semi Sweet refer to the sugarcontent of the wine. Whether one or the other suits your wedding reception is up to you! As a quick guide, Brut Natural is very dry with less than 3g sugar per litre. Brut is dry with less than 12g; Sec means medium sweet and Demi-Sec contains up to 50g sugar.

What’s the difference between vintage and non-vintage? Is one more ‘wow’ than the other if you’re looking to really impress your guests? 

If you’re looking to impress, a special vintage certainly does the trick. Vintage wines offer a more intense experience. They’re not produced every year – only when there’s been one outstanding harvest. This special selection of the finest grapes ensures a unique taste and better quality throughout. Non-vintage champagnes on the other hand, are created from grapes harvested in a single year blended with reserved wine from previous years. This ensures that the taste always remains the same.

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How should you serve it? Straight from the fridge? 

Champagnes and MCC should be served at between 7 and 9 degrees. Use an ice bucket filled with ice and water and chill for around twenty minutes to get the optimum temperature. Be careful not to over-chill champagne, though, as this will effect the taste.

How should you open it? Pop the cork or twist it gently?

Aside from giving someone an unexpected fright, the sound of a bubbly cork has an immediate celebratory effect. Slant the bottle slightly, twist the cork to let out some of the pressure then go for it!

And the best way to serve?

Gently pour a little into a long-stemmed tilted cold flute to prevent any spills over the top. You certainly don’t want to waste any! Allow it to settle then add a little more until the glass is about two-thirds full. The indentation at the base of your bottle is called the punt and is there to prevent pressure from building up at the bottom. Put your thumb in the punt when pouring.

Many people save a bottle of their wedding bubbles to have on a special anniversary. Is that a good idea?

Champagnes and sparkling wines tend not to age very well – they’ll lose flavour and bubbles over time. I would find a reason to pop it open within a year or two.

Finally, your suggestions please!

  • For a sunny summer wedding in an English country garden?

A non-vintage brut rosé will suit a warm outdoorsy wedding perfectly

  • For a snowy winter wedding in a castle?

Locked inside away from the cold, I’d go for a rich vintage brut 

  • And while the bride is getting ready?

A bride should definitely be getting into the spirit of things enjoying a sophisticated vintage rosé  

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