Random Appetites: Leftovers

And not just any leftovers, but Champagne leftovers! (or, more often than not, sparkling wine leftovers)

I realize some may never have this “problem,” but often a bit of the bubbly goes a long way for me and, in striving for moderation in all things, I’m usually left with at least half the bottle once the celebration has passed. What’s a girl to do?

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s start with some basics.

  1. Champagne (with a capital ‘c’) technically only comes from the Champagne region of France. Other sparkling wines from France and other countries can be called champagne (little ‘c’) and anything from American wineries that uses the capital-c version is just putting on airs. Still, there’s nothing wrong with sparkling wines by any name, but you should know the difference.
  2. Champagne can be dry or sweet. Brut is the driest of the dry, followed by Extra Dry and then Dry (or Sec) which is what most people are used to drinking and what I usually consider “sweet” by comparison. Everything is relative. Demi-Sec and Doux are the sweeter and sweetest sparklers and generally not found in the States but apparently Latin America really likes the sugar so that’s where most of them go.
  3. Bottle sizes vary. The usual 750 ml bottle that you find in most shops is also known as a Bouteille. A “split”, which you might see on some restaurant lists or hear bandied about from time to time, is a little Quart or quarter-bottle at 187 ml and will give you 2 small glasses and are a bit smaller than those old glass soda bottles. Great for trying out new champagnes or putting into gift bags or baskets. FInally, a Magnum is essentially a double-bottle yeilding 12 servings (the single bottle should serve 6) and looks kind of impressive. Bottles larger than the Magnum are named after Biblical figures: Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Methuselah, etc. all the way up to the Nebuchadnezzar which is a whopping 20-bottle/15 liter behemoth!
  4. If your champagne overflows its bottle when you open it: you did it wrong. Do not shake the bottle or treat it badly, you’ll waste all the bubbles that way. Instead, remove the outer wrapping (there should be a little tab on the foil) and gently loosen the wire cage that keeps the cork in place. Holding a small towel over the top of the bottle, gently work the cork out and you should hear the faintest “pop” when the cork comes loose. Pour and serve immediately.

That being said, let’s get back to the leftovers and what to do with them.

First things first, try a champagne cocktail! Add orange juice to champagne for a mimosa (great with brunch!) or peach nectar for a bellini which is good any time. Pretty much any fruit juice can top off your champagne flute and be very tasty. You can also add other liqueurs to champagne for a variety of different tastes. I found an interesting list of champagne cocktails here that you might like to try. My personal favorites include “Nelson’s Blood” (port and champagne) and the “Flirtini” (champagne, vodka and pineapple juice) but I think I’ll stay away from the “Blue Velvet” or any of the drinks that look like drain cleaner. (Anyone else remember that scene from Heathers? Exactly.)

The other way to use leftover sparkling wine is to cook with it! Over time the bubbly will lose it’s fizz, but that’s about all. So pop it into the fridge (use one of those wine stoppers that seals the bottle, like the Vacu Vin Wine Saver Extra Stoppers, Set of 4, instead of trying to fit the cork back into the bottle) and it’ll keep for a while, at least for cooking purposes. Leftover champagne works great in salad dressings in place of all or part of the vinegar and in any recipes that call for white wine (since most champagnes are white). In fact, I made my favorite risotto the other night and all I had in the house was a sweet white wine instead of the usual dry but it substituted with absolutely no problem so you can even use sweet sparklers in savory recipes without fear. After all, you should only cook with the wines you’re willing to drink, so this fits nicely.

One last thing. Did you accidentally leave the champagne out instead of putting it back into the fridge? Well, one night (especially if it’s a cooler one) probably won’t kill it, but if you detect a change in flavor, why not try making your own wine vinegars? Here’s an interesting article from holybasil.wordpress.com.