Opening wine bottles is difficult for many people, but opening bottles of champagne or sparkling wine creates more difficulties because of the pressure created by the carbonation of the wine — and the pressure of looking good without braking anything. Removing corks from champagne bottles is a little more dangerous because the pressure of the carbonated wine can force the cork out at high velocity, breaking glass or damaging an eye. Opening champagne and sparkling wine isn't difficult, but must be done with care.
Chill Your Champagne or Sparkling Wine
Although few people probably open warm bottles of champagne or sparkling wine, they may not realize that properly chilling the wine is actually an important step in safely opening the bottle. Champagne and sparkling wine should served around 45°F or 7°C. You can chill the wine to these temperatures by putting the bottle in a bucket of ice water for around 30 minutes or a cold refrigerator for around three hours.
It's important for champagne and sparkling wine to be properly chilled before opening the bottle because warm carbonated liquids foam up and spill out much more readily than when cold. So, opening warm champagne or sparkling wine means risking losing a lot of it and making a big mess. Besides, the wine will taste much better when chilled than when warm.
Remove the Wire Cage from the Champagne Bottle
All but the very cheapest sparkling wines will have a wire cage over the cork. This wire cage is designed to keep the cork firmly in the bottle — because the contents of the bottle are under pressure, it would be easy for a loosened cork to simply explode out, causing damage and mess. The wire cage does not prevent the cork from loosening at all, just from popping out on its own. Since the cork may have loosened, it's important that you keep it secure at all times.
Do not proceed until you are ready to remove the cork from the bottle and pour the champagne or sparkling wine.
- If there is any foil or cellophane covering the top of the bottle, remove it.
- Grasp the bottle of champagne or sparkling wine firmly around the neck with one hand and place that thumb over top of the wire cage.
- Aim the top of the bottle in a safe direction at about a 45° angle, away from people and glass. Brace the bottom of the bottle against your waist if you want, but keep the bottle aimed this way.
- With you other hand, twist off the wire holding the cage to the neck of the bottle.
- Always keep your thumb firmly over the cork to prevent it from popping out.
Remove the Cork from the Champagne Bottle
Never use a corkscrew on bottles of champagne or sparkling wine. Even if the corkscrew doesn't pierce the cork through the bottom, the rough treatment is likely to cause the cork to explode out from the pressure of the gas inside.
Now it's time to remove the cork from your bottle of champagne or sparkling wine:
- Drape a clean towel over the top of the champagne bottle.
- Hold the bottle low on the neck.
- Firmly grasp the cork with the hand not holding the bottle.
- If it helps, rest the bottom of the bottle against your waist.
- Remember to keep the bottle aimed away from you and in a safe direction.
- Twist the bottle — the bottle, not the cork — while holding the cork steady.
- You will feel the cork begin to loose and rise out of the bottle, but resist the temptation to force it the rest of the way.
When the cork finally exits the bottle, you should hear a soft "pop" or loud "sigh" — this is a sign that you removed the cork properly. The softness of the noise means that there wasn't much gas or pressure built up inside the bottle, so you won't lose much carbonation or champagne — no muss, no fuss.
The loud pop people often associate with opening champagne may sound good in the movies, but it's a sign that too much gas built up inside the bottle, leading to a loss of the liquid you were going after. In the case of expensive champagne, you'll end up paying an awful lot for a brief, pretty noise.
Serving & Pouring Champagne & Sparkling Wine
Once you've opened your bottle of champagne or sparkling wine, you should serve it as quickly as possible. If you used a towel when removing the cork, you can just slide it down the bottle and hold on to the bottle through the towel. This insulates the bottle a little, keeping it cold, and also catches any champagne that spills or drips down the side.
Pouring without the towel can look more elegant, though, which matters when you're serving a drink as elegant as champagne or sparkling wine. You should therefore practice giving the bottle a quick twist just at the end of each pour — this should catch drops of liquid that would otherwise be left on the lip to drip down the side of the bottle.
Champagne and sparkling wine must be poured gently to prevent it from foaming up and over the rim of the champagne flute. Pour just a little bit at first, wait for the bubbles to subside, then finish pouring by filling the glass about two-thirds full. When drinking champagne, be sure to hold the glass by the stem instead of the bowl, just as with regular wine. Holding the glass by the stem will warm the champagne too quickly.