Opening Sparkling Wine 101

As I watch friends, family, neighbors, and strangers open bottles of Sparkling wine, my frustration has finally reached an unbearable level. Hasn’t anyone showed you how to do this? It’s not rocket science. But unlike opening a 2 liter bottle of carbonated sugar water, opening sparkling wine requires some guidelines in order to avoid harming oneself and/or others. In want of not turning this site into the pompous wine snobs tip spot, I’ll keep it brief.

  1. Hold the bottle of Sparkling wine (Champagne, Cava, Sekt, Spumante, Cap Classique, what have you) pointed away from yourself and others at a 45 degree angle or so
  2. Remove the foil around the top of the bottle and pull down the wire loop
  3. Place one hand securely over the top of the bottle keeping some pressure on the cork while supporting the bottle
  4. With your free hand, twist the wire cage open, but do not remove it.
  5. With that same free hand, grasp the bottle at the base and rotate it clockwise (or counter clockwise) while holding the cork in place with your other hand.
  6. Allow the cork to release into your hand slowly. You’re done!

Note: You can drape a towel over the bottle after step 2 if you’d like.

Why am I writing this? On two occasions now, flying corks has nearly shot me. Neither were purposeful, and fortunately no one was hurt, but a little more caution is in order, as lawsuits sighting negligence hold up pretty well in court. I’ll relate one of the stories.

My wife and I were enjoying the summertime concert in the park series our city puts on annually. I brought some wine and fine stemware, and we where sipping away on that Friday evening. A family of four drops their blanket down next to us. The father begins to open a bottle of Sparkling wine when “POP”. I think nothing of it until the next thing I hear is my wife’s glass shattering. She had placed it in one of those glass holders next to her and after noticing the shocked look on her face, I knew she wasn’t injured. I look over at the guy, who looks at me and halfheartedly mumbles, “Did that just beak? Sorry.” That was it. No offer to pay for the glass, no further apology, just a quick glance at his wife who was smirking, and back to the business of getting sloshed while the kids chase each other with sticks. I collected what was left of the Riedel overture and disposed of it. I didn’t offer the crack shot any pointers on how to open a bottle safely, so I’m writing this now for him and others like him.

Regardless of where you are, you need to be careful opening a bottle of juice whose contents are under great pressure, especially when they’ve been bouncing around in your car or picnic basket. With the world record cork flight at over 177 feet, and average bottle pressure at around 115 pounds per square inch, (or nearly 3 times what’s in your car tire!), please be careful when handling this projectile around others.
For more information on Sparkling Wine and other fun facts, check out this Wikipedia entry.