It’s the perfect beverage to celebrate a big event, a marriage, a graduation or even making it through a tough week. Sparkling wine or champagne (read my prior article on this) pairs great with food and has that something extra in the bubbles that let you know it’s a party. But how to open a bottle of sparkling wine properly and elegantly?
It’s tempting to slide a thumb under the cork and with a triumphant POP, let the cork fly into space. We’ve all done it, seen it at the end of our favorite NASCAR race or Superbowl and it seems the right thing for a celebration. But a little caution is appropriate. The cork in that champagne bottle is under a lot of pressure, three times that of the average car tire or around 100 pounds per square inch! The exit velocity has been measured at right around 25 miles per hour!
If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer not to get hit in the eye by any projectile moving that fast even if it’s a cork. To quote Ralphie’s mother in that classic story about a boy that wanted a BB gun, “A Christmas Story”, “You’ll put your eye out!” At a minimum, you’ll ding or damage the ceiling of your host.
So how do you open that bottle?
First, you use the knife of your waiter corkscrew to cut the foil covering and remove it entirely. I have found that the tabs they put into the foil cover are a pretty poor way of removing it – but in a pinch they will do too.
Second, you remove the cage which has been placed there for safety. At this point, you are dealing with a loaded weapon – so don’t point the cork at anyone as it might pop without notice. One fun fact: The tabs on all sparkling wines have 6 turns. Count as you turn – you can impress your friends and win bets with this one.
Third, I like to place a towel or a napkin over the bottle and grip the cork so it can’t accidentally open without the cork being under control.
Fourth, with the cork grasped firmly, I slowly turn and rock the bottle to ease the cork out of the bottle. When you get close to pulling the cork, press back into bottle so the excess CO2 is release gently. The standard in the wine serving industry is that it should make the same sound as a nun fart. In other words, almost no sound at all. If it sounds like a cowboy at a bean supper, you need to move slower when releasing the gas. Trust me, it will impress your friends when you open the bottle without a sound.
Fifth, you place the cork on the table or toss it. Corks for sparkling wine are flared at the bottom and can’t be placed back into the bottle if you don’t finish it so they aren’t particularly useful after the bottle is open. I usually have a simple solution here – just make sure you drink the bottle!
Sixth, you want to take a small pour and make sure the bottle is good before serving to your guests. You can refer to my article on what to taste for some advice here.
Seventh, pour and enjoy. You shouldn’t pour to more than ¾ of the height of the glass and I prefer a bit less as a little head space above the wine helps the experience. It means you are pouring a little more frequently, but it’s better than overfilling. Ideally, you should have an ice bucket with a mixture of ice and water available to keep the sparkling wine at the perfect temperature and an arm’s length away to refill the glasses of thirsty guests. If you don’t have an ice bucket, toss it in the fridge until you need to repour.
Now, I have to admit that I like to pop a cork once in a while like everyone for an auspicious occasion, but the best place to do that is outside and a bit away from a crowd. With a little practice, you will be able to use this more elegant approach for your indoor celebrations involving sparkling wine.