When it comes to opening a bottle of champagne, you’re probably more worried about your toast falling flat than one of your guests.
Think again. Ricocheting and rocketing champagne corks are responsible for a surprising number of emergency room visits each year, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. And there’s no quicker way to dampen a party mood than by giving your best friend a black eye or worse, permanent eye damage.
There is an art to opening a bottle of sparkling wine smoothly and safely. The primary focus is cork control, because at 72 pounds per square inch, there is double the pressure in a bottle of sparkling wine than in a car tire. So for starters, never point the bottle at anyone or anything and don’t shake the bottle.
Warm champagne in a bottle that has been shaken is as dangerous as a loaded gun. If the bottle has been moved around a lot (and time is limited) place the bottle in the freezer for about 30 minutes to stabilize the pressure. Champagne or sparkling wine needs to be slightly cold when opened; for a short period it reduces the pressure and makes it marginally safer to open.
To open, hold down the cork with the palm of your hand and untwist the wire located on the neck of the bottle and remove it along with the foil covering the cork. Whenever possible hold your thumb over the top of the cork in case it pops unexpectedly. Tip the bottle away from your face at a 45-degree angle. Grasp the cork between your thumb and index finger, with your other hand gripping the base of the bottle; then gently twist the bottle, not the cork. When you twist the bottle you have more control.
At this point as the cork is released it should make a “hissing sigh” rather than a “pop.” The only thing left is to celebrate!
- NV Torresella Prosecco, Italy (about $18 retail)
- NV Francis Ford Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blanc, California (about $21 retail)
- NV Clos de Nouys Vouvray Sec, France (about $25 retail)
- 2007 Domaine Carneros Brut, California (about $35 retail)
- NV Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label, France (about $70 retail)