As much fun as it might be to send a cork shooting over people's heads and showering your guests with fizzy booze, there is another way to open Champagne and sparkling wines. A better way. And if you're trying to impress a date or convince your in-laws that you're a civilized human, the better way is definitely what you want.
The only tools you need for this are two thumbs and a kitchen towel. I promise you won't accidentally poke your eye out or end up with Champagne everywhere except the glass. We'll show you how easy it is, one step at a time.
The Goal of Opening Champagne
What's the goal here? (Besides drinking a delicious glass of bubbly, of course.) There's a lot of pressure pent up inside that bottle of Champagne! The problem isn't really getting the cork out, it's keeping control of the cork so it doesn't go flying the second it's free.
The basic idea to opening Champagne, or any sparkling wine, without drama is easing out the cork as slowly and gently as possible, and then making sure you catch the cork before it puts a hole in the wall. "Catching the cork" is not as tricky as it sounds — for this step, a towel is your best buddy.
Why You Need a Towel
This towel is not for wiping up the spills, but rather for controlling and containing the cork as you ease it out. Drape the towel over the bottle and hold it securely against the neck, but leave a bit of an air pocket so the cork has room to move. The towel helps you keep a firm grip on the cork and also catches it once it's released from the bottle.
Pro tip: In a real pinch, the hem of your shirt is a fine stand-in for a kitchen towel.
Aim for a Whisper, Not a Pop
In culinary school, whenever a bottle of Champagne needed to be opened, my instructor would always admonish, "A whisper! The Champagne should whisper when it opens!" He meant that when a bottle of sparkling wine is opened properly, you should just hear the barest puff of effervescence, a mere whisper, when the cork is pulled. Loud pops were always met with a grimace and a shake of the head. Apparently, the loud pop is fun, but classy people whisper.
You might think this is impossible, but give it a try! Using a towel and going slowly make all the difference.
Ready to give it a try? The steps below will show you exactly what to do, frame by frame.
And if it wasn't clear already, this is how you open any bottle of sparkling wine, be it actual Champagne, Prosecco, cava, Crémant, or any other. If you're nervous, I recommend a trial run with another bottle of sparkling wine before the main event — after all, an extra bottle of bubbly is never a bad idea.
More on Sparkling Wines
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Remove the foil: Look for a little pull-tab imbedded in the foil cover near the top of the bottle. Pull on this to cut through the foil. If you don't see a pull-tab, you can use the knife on a wine-key or the tip of a corkscrew to cut through the foil.
How To Open a Bottle of Champagne
What You Need
1 750-ml bottle Champagne, prosecco, cava, crémant, or other sparkling wine
Kitchen towel or cloth
- Remove the foil: Look for a little pull-tab imbedded in the foil cover near the top of the bottle. Pull on this to cut through the foil. If you don't see a pull-tab, you can use the knife on a wine-key or the tip of a corkscrew to cut through the foil. Lift the foil away and discard.
- Remove the cage: The wire cage fits over the cork, holding it firmly in place. On one side, you'll see a few twisted wires where the wires of cage meet. Untwist these to loosen the cage, then lift it off and discard.
- Cover the bottle with a towel: The towel helps you keep control of the cork as you wiggle it out of the bottle and also prevents the cork from flying off across the room. Cover the cork completely and hold the towel against the neck of the bottle with one hand — leave a little pocket of air around the cork so it has some room to move and come out of the bottle.
- Start wiggling and twisting the cork: Hold the bottle firmly with one hand and use the other to start wiggling and twisting the towel-covered cork out of the bottle. Go slowly — no need to literally "pop the cork!"
- Remove the cork: As you twist the cork out of the bottle, the moment will come when the internal pressure in the bottle takes over and starts to push the cork out on its own. Let this happen, keeping a grip on the towel — the cork will pop out into the towel.
- Pour and enjoy! All that's left is to pour the Champagne and enjoy the glass. Cheers!
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(Image credits: Kimberley Hasselbrink)