When it comes to champagne, Moët & Chandon's Chef de Cave Benoît Gouez has spent the best part of 20 years fussing over the elegant drop in the Champagne region of north-eastern France. He's still pleasantly surprised how little consumers know about the celebratory drink that's poured with flute upright, never on a tilt.
"Scientists will always say you should serve champagne like beer," begins Benoît Gouez.
"They tell you to pour with the glass tilted on the side to minimise the foam. I actually prefer to keep the flute upright and see the delicate white foam of the champagne form rather than minimise it. I also serve it two times – let the foam come to the top, then let it come down and refill a second time – stopping at two thirds of the way," he says.
The 48-year-old who joined Moët & Chandon in 1998 as a winemaker, also admits champagne cocktails don't whet his appetite (he'll only add a slice of ginger or mint leaf if he was forced to garnish) and that vintage bottles should be served at 12 degrees and non-vintage at eight degrees Celsius.
"I used to look at champagne as a standardised product before I started with Moët & Chandon, but the reality is there is great diversity and the process of making champagne is quite sophisticated," he explains.
So, is it true that the more you fork out for a bottle of champagne, the better the taste? The answer is yes and no.
"That all comes down to personal preference, but generally the answer is yes."
Advice from the expert
When he's not in Paris moonlighting with the brand's global ambassador tennis champion Roger Federer toasting the limited-edition magnum, titled 'Greatness Since 1998', he's happy to hand out tips on how to succeed at dinner table conversations when it comes to champagne.
The cellar master recommends drinking a young champagne at a colder temperature and serving it in a flute, while a more mature and complex champagne needs more air to breathe and best served in a white wine glass.
Some of the greatest myths surrounding champagne is that it should only be served with desserts," says Gouez.
"That is simply not true. Champagne shouldn't be reserved for special occasions – but turns occasions into special ones," he chimes.
What's more, he wants to see more people start their dinner parties with champagne – it's the ideal aperitif.
A gentleman's choice
When it comes to French bubbles and clicking flutes, Gouez says Aussie men need to catch up to their European counterparts and not be afraid to embrace it.
"Last week in New Zealand, someone asked me about whether champagne is more feminine than masculine and if it is having an identity crisis. I seriously don't look at it like this. We drink it all year round, at any opportunity and to suit our mood and taste. It's not about whether you're male or female," says Gouez.
"In Europe men and women drink champagne equally. It's not perceived as a woman's drink. It seems it is an issue here, but I have been drinking champagne every day for the past 20 years and my girlfriend doesn't complain," says Gouez in his defiant French accent.
Know your vintage
He says the next time you dine at a restaurant, don't just accept the offer for a glass of champagne by the waiter – find out what they're pouring.
"The most popular choice is imperial, it's all fresh flavours of apple, pear, lemon and white flowers," says Gouez.
"But most people don't know champagne has diverse taste profiles and your waiters can better explain this if you simply ask them. There's brut, extra brut and roses too."
And if you prefer to take home a bottle – Gouez says you can't go past a 2009 bottle – a superior year that's earned a great rating.
"At Moët & Chandon, we release a bottle of champagne when we know it's ready for drinking and the grapes are mature enough, but the 2009 year is one that's considered one of the best."