Champagne and Sparkling Wine for the Holidays
By Debbie Hall of Celebrity Chef Connection

Champagne Tips from Morton's The Steakhouse and Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Sparkling Wine.

Champagne is a light, sparkling wine first produced by accident in the Champagne region of France about 400 years ago.  The single French district, which is barely equivalent to the City of Las Vegas, supplies the whole world with choice of celebratory drink, with well known labels such as Cristal, Taittinger, Dom Perignon.  
Fourteen centuries later, the English did some early bottling of the French drink and inadvertently created sparkles.  French cellar masters perfected the process with more sugar and yeast, signature blending, bubble-sparing sediment removal, and burst-proof bottles.  Monk Dom Perignon, upon tasting the results reportedly cried out, "Come quickly, I'm drinking stars."

The bubbly continues to be the wine of choice to celebrate so many of life's special occasions.  Morton's The Steakhouse has a few helpful hints when it comes to champagne.

Our guests visit Morton's to celebrate many special occasions throughout the year, said Mark Amir, Assistant Manager of Morton's The Steakhouse in Las Vegas.  ?When it comes to celebrating, many guests toast with one of our numerous choice champagnes.  Ordering champagne shouldn't be intimidating, and that's why we wanted to provide hints on what to order and clear up some misconceptions about champagne.  Amir, who has completed the Court of the Master Sommeliers Level One Certification, is studying to become a Master Sommelier.

There's a misconception that good champagne must be expensive and from France.  That's not the case  while the regional term Champagne describes a certain area in France, in no way does it define the quality of the wine.  All sparkling wines use the same grape varieties and identical fermentation methods.

All producers who start with good grapes and are committed to making great wine are on the same playing field.  Sparkling wines, including the more expensive, well-known French producers, as well as the lesser expensive sparklers from the rest of the world, are of good to great quality.  Most sparkling wines are surprisingly affordable to their counterparts in France.


  • Brut (Driest)
  • Extra Dry (Medium Dry)
  • Sec (Slightly Sweet)
  • Dem Sec (Sweet)

Brut represents about 80-percent of all good quality sparkling wine.  It's the truest expression of the wine because it contains the least 'dosage' (a small amount of sugar juice that's added to champagne to balance acidity after fermentation).  The sweeter the style, the more 'dosage.'


In general, a bottle of Champagne that lists a vintage will be more expensive than one that does not.  Every year, winemakers decide if their newest wine is worthy of vintage dating.  Only the best years of production receive this distinction and the vintage is declared.  This is the winery's way of promoting its very best product and usually has only one brand as its vintage Champagne.  For example, Moet Chandon makes Dom Perignon, which is its vintage offering, and 'White Star,' which is its non-vintage offering.

There are years when no vintage sparkling wine is produced.  While 80-percent of all wine purchased is non-vintage, these wines are made using the same method and styles and are also very good.

Champagne and sparkling wines are subject to distinctly different flavor profiles depending on the house style, dosage, grape quality and vinification (production) methods. 

What should you expect to pay when you're looking for a sparkling wine to complement your meal or celebrate a special occasion?  Most bottles of vintage Champagne are priced at $100 or more in wine shops.  However, there are a few truly great domestic vintage sparkling wines that can be found for half that price.

Best bet:  Ask your local wine merchant for recommendations based on your expectations and budget.

An essential component to complete the Champagne/sparkling wine experience is the expectation that you're about to enjoy one of life's great pleasures.  When you break out a bottle, it tells your guests you consider them to be special.  When the bottle is opened, the soft 'pop' enhances the anticipation.  As you and your guests enjoy the wine, the effervescence and flavors are delightful reminders that life's special moments are meant to be savored.


When you pour Champagne, the bottle should have been chilled to about 45 to 49 degrees Fahrenheit.  Serving the wine in this temperature range enhances both taste and fragrance.

Chill your wine by filling a Champagne bucket half-way with water and ice cubes and immersing the bottle for about 30 minutes.  If you don't have a Champagne bucket handy, place a room-temperature bottle in the coldest part of your refrigerator for an hour or two, but don't leave Champagne in a refrigerator for an extended period.

NEVER chill a bottle in the freezer.  If you forget it's there, you'll have a nasty surprise when you find it's exploded.  And, a messy clean-up job is nothing to celebrate.

While other wines may improve with age, Champagne is actually ready for drinking when you purchase it and will not be improved by aging.  However, you can safely store bottles for long periods under proper conditions in a cool place, shielded from natural light.  Avoid extreme changes in temperature.


Champagne is best served in long-stemmed flutes or tulip-shaped glasses.  These narrow glasses are ideally suited to concentrate the wine's aroma and enable you to better observe and admire Champagne's distinctive bubbles and sparkle.  Unlike the bottle, the glasses shouldn't be chilled.


Since there may be 70 pounds of pressure behind the Champagne cork ready to turn it into a missile, the bottle should be opened with both care and style.  Hold the bottle with the cork in the palm of your hand, at a 45-degree angle, away from you and anyone in your vicinity.  Loosen the wire around the cork carefully, and gently ease the cork out, holding your fingers over it.  Be sure to have a glass ready.  A loud 'pop!' may be traditional, but popping wastes bubbles, so gentle removal, accompanied by a 'whoosh' not 'pop' is best.


Fill half the glass.  Take a moment to admire the color and the bubbles.  Inhale the bouquet, now taste the wine.  Keep it in your mouth for several seconds so you can discern its qualities.  Enjoy!

There's no need to consume the entire bottle after it's been opened.  Capping the bottle with a pressure-withstanding stopper will enable you to enjoy the rest of the wine two or even three days later.  One bottle serves ten toasting guests, three to four reception guests, and two to three dinner guests.  

Thank you to Morton's the Steakhouse for all of the tips and information.  To try variety of Champagnes and great cocktails, visit Morton's the Steakhouse.  Morton's is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. 

Morton's the Steakhouse
400 East Flamingo Road

Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 893-0703


Another idea is Spanish sparkling wine, also known as cava.  Produced in the same high-quality production method used for French sparkling wine, Segura Viudas (pronounced "seh-GOO-rah vee-YOO-dahs?) Reserva Heredad is a premium bubbly that is as affordable as it is luxurious.  With its stately packaging, it is priced around $20 for a 750 ml bottle and $40 for the 1.5 liter magnum.

Considered one of the world's premier cavas and made from estate-grown Macabeo and Parellada grapes, Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad has an indulgent effervescence and comes in a unique hand-blown bottle emblazoned with a pewter Segura Viudas family crest.  The finishing touch to this statuesque green glass beauty is the engraved grape-motif pewter pedestal upon which the bottle rests -- a noble presentation for a legendary wine.  

The crown jewel of the Segura Viudas winery, located southeast of
Barcelona, the Reserva Heredad wine is available in finer wine stores with its signature silver and green box. To find a retailer, call 1-888-706-2229. 

Here's a toast to you from Debbie Hall and Celebrity Chef Connection.


Print This Article