It was with great excitement that we launched our 750ml Champagne-style bottle in May. We had been working on this for over a year: perfecting the liquid, selecting and testing bottle, cork and cage to ensure we got that satisfying POP as it opens; and spending a lot of time worrying over the perfect way to serve it.
During this time, we learnt an enormous amount about Champagne, Prosecco and English Sparkling wines: how they are made and bottled, how they are served, and, of course, doing a lot of tasting. One thing we found really satisfying, and this was backed up by many real industry experts, was that our Royal Flush is almost certainly the closest thing to a “proper” sparkling wine that currently exists as a non-alcoholic alternative.
But as with Champagne, the way REAL is served is critical to the enjoyment of the drink. We work really hard to deliver to you the perfect liquid: the different flavour notes, just the right astringency, depth of colour and flavour, its clarity, and the level of carbonation. If this is up-ended into a tumbler with ice, a lot of this delicacy is lost.
So how to do this properly? Just like a sparkling wine, it is mainly about the temperature of serve, the glass it is served in, and maintaining the right level of fizz. Let’s talk about each of these in turn.
Let’s talk temperature
First things first: a little word on storage. On receipt of your drinks, store them in a cool place (ideally 20ºc or lower). Transfer them to refrigeration a day or so before consuming, so that you can enjoy them at the ideal temperatures mentioned below.
Our taste buds are complex things. They read flavour in very different ways depending upon the time of day, what you have eaten the night before, and also temperature. If you eat or drink something very cold, it attenuates the flavour. That’s probably why ice cream doesn’t taste so sweet even though there can be over 20% sugar in that little tub.
The same goes for drinks. Champagne and white wine experts suggest the ideal temperature to drink a sparkling wine is 8C or a little above. Considering that most fridges are set at 3-5C, if you pull the bottle straight out of the fridge and serve it straight away you are going to lose a lot of the delicate notes the winemaker has spent a lot of time developing. And the same goes for a bottle of REAL.
We would always suggest taking the bottle out of the fridge maybe 5-10 minutes before serving, depending upon the outside temperature. This just lets the bottle warm a touch before it is poured. And if you are very sophisticated, you might have a wine fridge that keeps that temperature just pucker.
But of course, when the mercury hits 30c this week and you are just desperate for that ice cold drink, who are we to complain?
Not all glasses are created equal
I have always considered the main debate to be between the flute and the coupe. The coupe had rather gone out of fashion, but I have seen a retro-reemergence recently.
It turns out we have all been wrong. Detailed research by sparkling wine experts has shown that Champagnes and their brethren are far better served in a glass of similar shape to a white wine glass. Serving in a coupe allows the liquid to lose carbonation too fast, and to warm up quickly. The flute is preferred as it showcases the bubbles as they rise through the glass. But serving in a flute means that you get none of the delicate aromas that are present in the wine.
In order to get the best out of a sparkling wine, you need to allow oxygen to absorb into the liquid to open up both flavour and aroma. You also need a glass that narrows at the top to hold in these soft aromas which contribute so much to our taste. So most purveyors of fine glassware now push you towards a tulip rather than a flute for the best appreciation of sparkling wines. Apparently Maximillian Riedel, the CEO of Riedel, one of the greatest producers of wine glasses, has set a personal mission to make the Champagne flute obsolete despite selling a very large quantity of them.
You can use a normal white wine glass, but you then run the risk of serving too much, and losing both fizz and chill too quickly. The Champagne tulip is generally smaller, encouraging a serve of around 150ml at a time.
It’s all about the fizz…
And this brings us to the bubbles. Let’s face it. When we pour a glass of bubbly, whether it is your favourite Prosecco or a cold glass of REAL, you want to get that perfect tingle of bubbles on your tongue and floating down your throat. If it is too flat, or the bubbles are too big, the enjoyment is just not the same.
At REAL we have worked really hard to perfect our carbonation process. The fizz in our bottles is around the same level as a Prosecco, but less than a Champagne. Our bubbles are small and tight, delicately rising through the glass just like the best alcoholic bubbles rather than big gassy bubbles like a soft drink.
But there is an art to maintaining the perfect fizz.
Firstly, get the temperature right. At really low temperatures, bubbles stay in the liquid and don’t rise. Too high and the carbonation will fizz off as you pour and little will get to your mouth. So the 8C helps to get the right level of bubbles.
But cap your bottle immediately after you have poured the first glass. If, like me, that 750ml bottle only tends to last one round of serves, that may not be possible. But if you are going to put it back in the fridge, put in a Champagne stopper, just like the ones we have available on our site. Any carbonation that comes off the liquid is trapped and holds the rest in, ready for the next serve.
And although that bottle will always be best drunk on the first day, if capped straight after drinking they last perfectly well for 4-5 days. We have been drinking our large bottles at home now for several weeks and are never disappointed.
So, store cool, chill well, pour gently. Savour and enjoy.