Everything You Wanted to Know About Champagne But Were Afraid to Ask

Champagne: It’s a symbol of sophistication and celebration, and revelers will be popping mountains of bottles of it on New Year’s Eve. Chances are, if you’ve spent time hanging out on the Las Vegas Strip, you’ve sipped your share of it. But how much do you really know about the bubbly stuff? We caught up with Mark Becker, Western Region Manager for the Armand de Brignac (also known as Ace of Spades) and Belaire brands, to find out the difference between Brut and rosé, the proper way to open a bottle, how to cure the next-day headache and more. Check out his tips before you offer a glass to that hottie at your table.

So, we’ve been seeing Champagne everywhere in recent years. What’s up with that?

The Champagne market is just growing so fast. It’s reaching people’s palates that are new to the category or who always thought, “I don’t like Champagne” or, “Champagne gives me a headache.” It’s now more approachable and better quality at lots of different price points and people are loving it. Bigger accounts saw the profitability in this—a bottle of champagne is gone in 20 minutes while vodka lasts 45 minutes to an hour. It became really trendy, too. The girls wanted it and the guys wanted the girls to have it. Getting the girls at the clubs behind it was so important. It’s gone viral!

What are the biggest sellers?

Brut and rosé.

Can you describe the difference between the different types?

Brut is more Chardonnay based while rosé is made from red wine, but the grape isn’t pressed as hard, which gives it that light pink color. Brut has a lemon flavor and is zesty and tropical with notes of fruit. It’s elegant. With rosé, I taste salmon and strawberries on the palate. Then there is Blanc de Blancs which is 100 percent Chardonnay. Another brand in the Sovereign portfolio is Belaire, and it’s blowing up. It’s a French sparkling from Burgundy, and at a $25 price point, it’s really accessible.  And of course Armand (Ace of Spades) is absolutely amazing—everything is happening in your mouth at once!

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Be honest—does price really matter?

Price doesn’t always matter, no. All that matters is the palate and what tastes good to each individual. Having said that, Armand is at a higher price point because everything is meticulous and done by hand. Belaire is produced quicker and comes in at a lower price. An uneducated or mature palate could like both, but in reality, when you’re spending more money, you should be able to taste more of the nuances. Sometimes you just need to know what you’re looking for.

What’s the right way to serve and pour champagne?

You should hold the bottle with your thumb in the base and pour slowly and elegantly. Good champagne will have small, light bubbles and you want to be careful not to over-pour or pour too quickly because the glass could fill up with bubbles. You never want to fill the glass, either. As for temperature, 45-50 degrees is optimal.

 

How about the proper way to open a bottle?

First thing: Never pop the bottle and let the cork shoot out.  All bottles have a tear piece around the cork, which you will remove first. Then, hold the cork and spin the bottle, not the cork. Turn the bottle slowly and gently. You don’t want to waste any champagne!

Straight or mixed in cocktails?

Of course, I love the taste and drinking it solo, but the category is evolving so much and people are making great drinks with it, especially the Belaire rosé, because it has such a great structure as a base. A lot of mixologists in Vegas are making Champagne and sparkling cocktails to help expose people who don’t necessarily like Champagne. I love the ones at Hyde and Blue Ribbon, especially.

Best hangover recovery?

Water, and lots of it!

 

Follow Mark Becker on Instagram @champagneace.