The ideal drinking temperature for champagne
The slightest change in temperature can affect how you experience the flavour of a champagne, even more than with still wines. So, what is the ideal serving temperature for champagne?
Did you know that even the slightest change in temperature can affect how you experience the flavour of a champagne? Such fluctuations seem to change the flavour of sparkling wine even more than with still wine and in fact, whole tasting menus have been created on the back of this concept; different dishes have been matched to the same champagne at different temperatures. What then, are there rules for champagne serving temperatures and does it depend on style?
A brief history of temperature
Champagne has always been served fairly cool from when it first appeared in the early 18th Century. 6 to 8 ºC was the fashionable drinking temperature in the beginning and the bottles were kept in coolers filled with ice water. Wine at this time had a lot of sugar added to it, so to combat this, it then became fashionable to drink it ‘frappé’ at around a very chilly 3ºC . As the sugar levels started to drop, the temperatures began to rise again and we now drink our champagne closer to temperatures that the early enthusiasts did.
What a difference a degree makes
It is generally acknowledged that the more complex the champagne, the more difference you might see as the mercury in the thermometer rises. This is because there is so much to be drawn from the glass in the first place. Dom Pérignon, with its exquisite, elegant champagnes, is one of the Champagne houses to have experimented a few times with temperature and food matching, to staggering effect. The complexity and richness of Krug make it another interesting contender for temperature experiments too.
There are many different styles of champagne from rich and biscuity, to crisp and clean, to red-fruited rosés and everything in between. Whatever the style however, know that the cooler you go, the more mineral, sappy and fresh the wine will appear. Cool temperatures also mask sweetness and bitterness. By contrast, all flavours become richer and more exuberant as the wine gradually warms up in the glass and becomes more exposed to oxygen.
The sweet spot
Most fridges run at around 7ºC (45ºF) but a champagne served straight away at that temperature will not be showing many of its most subtle aromas and flavours. The ideal tasting temperature for most non-vintage brands such as Moët & Chandon Brut Non Vintage or the Mercier Brut Non Vintage, is between 8 and 10ºC. More complex champagne such as Dom Pérignon or vintage Moët & Chandon however, show best a little warmer between 10 and 12ºC as the extra couple of degrees showcase their extra aroma and flavour nuances. With a particularly rich style of champagne such as Krug, you could start a little cooler and drink between 9 and 12ºC.
For rosé champagne, you can use the same guidelines for white champagne, serving at 8 and 10ºC for non-vintage, or a touch warmer at 10 and 12ºC for vintage versions, so their complexity of flavour really shines.
An extra point of richness (13-15ºC)
Beyond 12ºC, a champagne will be showing the maximum amount of fruit and body so if you wanted to try pairing it with a dessert that’s not too sweet, serving it between 13 and 15ºC would be your best bet. It’s all horses for courses though, so experiment for yourself and find your own champagne temperature sweet spot.