5 Common Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes When Serving Champagne

Learn how to open Champagne, the best Champagne serving temperature, and more sommelier pro tips to make the most of your sparkling wine investment.

Drinking Champagne seems pretty straightforward, right? Pop the cork, pour the bubbly in flutes, clink glasses, and drink up. But follow that normal protocol and you've already made several Champagne mistakes.

Instead, follow these Champagne serving and selecting strategies for the best bubbly experience.

sparkling wine woman adding fresh sprig
Jason Donnelly

1. Pouring sparkling wine in Champagne flutes.

There's a distinct reason why white wine and red wine are served in different-shaped glasses: We experience wine aromas and flavors in very different ways in varying vessels. Just like standard wine, sparkling wine is impacted by the size and shape of the glass you serve it in. Tall, skinny Champagne flutes and wide, bowl-like coupes are the most common options for serving Champagne, but not the best according to most sommeliers (certified wine professionals). Opt for white wine glasses and you'll allow the wine to breathe and release its aromas better than in a flute (the bubbles carry aromas to the top of the glass as they rise to the surface), all while preserving the bubbles better than a coupe.

White wine glasses can play double duty and be used for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and other popular white vinos as well. It's a win-win: Less kitchen clutter; more Champagne enjoyment.

2. Thinking that Champagne is always superior to other sparkling wines.

Sparkling wine is the general term for any bubbly fortified grape beverage. To be labeled as Champagne with a capital "C," a sparkling wine must come from the Champagne region of France and be made in the traditional method (AKA "Methode Traditionelle") that involves a second fermentation in the bottle. Champagne must be created with a mix of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meinuer grapes.

Many other sparkling wines, sometimes labeled as champagne with a lowercase "c," are made in the exact same style and with the same grapes—just grown in a different area. Consider these average per-acre wine grape-growing region costs:

  • About $500,000 per acre in Champagne
  • About $60,000 per acre in other French wine regions

...and you'll understand why you can score some amazing deals on sparkling wines from other parts of the country and world. Try Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, and champagne from the United States. Sparkling wines produced outside of France may be fermented in steel tanks or other vessels, but you can often find quaffs of similar quality as Champagne.

3. Popping the cork loudly to get the party started.

There's 70-90 pounds per square inch of pressure inside a sparkling wine bottle (that's about three times as much pressure as your car tire!), so the most important thing to remember when learning how to open Champagne: handle with care. Next, follow these action steps to open the wine bottle quietly and efficiently. Doing so will preserve the most effervescence in your glass—and avoid wasting precious suds by pouring them on the floor.

  1. Remove the foil cover over the cork.
  2. With a thumb over the top of the cork and metal cage, twist the wire around the cage to loosen it. It should take about six half-turns. Don't remove the cage. If desired, place a towel over the cork.
  3. Hold the bottle at about a 45° angle with one hand at the base of the bottle and one hand over the cork. Check to ensure you're not pointing the cork at anyone else or anything fragile.
  4. Slowly turn the base of the bottle toward you—again, this should take about six half-turns. As the cork is about to push out completely, apply more pressure with the hand on top. The goal: A quiet "psshh" noise as the cork releases from the bottle.

4. Serving sparkling wine at the wrong temperature.

You probably know that sparkling wine shouldn't be served at room temperature, but did you know that the ideal Champagne serving temperature is lower than both red and white wines? Follow these climate control tips.

  • Sparkling: 40-50° F
  • Lighter whites: 45-50° F
  • Fuller whites and rosés: 50-55° F
  • Lighter reds: 55-60° F
  • Fuller reds: 60-65° F

Quickly cool off a bottle in a bucket of salty ice water or store sparkling wine in a refrigerated cellar.

Buy It: Ivation 18-Bottle Countertop Wine Cellar, $160

5. Forgetting your other colorful bubbly options.

Not all sparkling wines come in white or rosé. Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine produced in Italy, is having a renaissance. It's no longer simply the overly sweet, fizzy, serve-with-ice-cubes option your aunt adored. In fact, lambrusco is now available in crisp, slightly savory, and quite complex formats that are perfect for drinking before—or pairing with—dinner. (Psst: Try it paired with your next holiday feast!)

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