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Pop, Pop, Fizz, Fizz...
How to Open a
Bottle of Champagne

Opening a Champagne Bottle - Wine Graphics by Diabella courtesy Jack Poust & Company, Inc.Champagne is not intended to be opened just for special toasts and important occasions. The bubbly refresher complements any meal from brunch to a midnight snack. It is a real treat just sipped by itself especially when relaxing with a few good friends. A good champagne can make any occasion memorable.

There's no special talent needed to open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine without injuring your guests. The secret is chilling the champagne and turning the bottle instead of pulling the cork. Here's a simple lesson...

Make sure the Champagne is cold

Start off by chilling the bottle. The best serving temperature is around 45° Fahrenheit, that would be about 7° Celsius. If you put your hand on the bottle it should feel very cold not just cool.

champagne bucketA good method for making sure you get the right temperature is to fill your ice bucket, or any deep container if you don't have a special one for wines, and let the bottle sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Adding just a bit of water to the ice in the bucket will actually help cool down your bubbly. There's an explanation based on physics and heat transference, but all you really need to know is that it works.

It's important to have a chilled liquid. Champagne that is too warm will foam and spill when you uncork the bottle. You'll lose some of the bubbly and make a mess. Of course, it also tastes much better at the right temperature! You don't want to make it too cold though, or you'll lose some of the flavor of the wine.

Loosening the wire on a champagne bottleLoosen the wire cage
Once you've gotten the bottle chilled to the right temperature, get a kitchen towel and dry off the bottle a bit so you can get a good grip. Hold on to the towel, you'll need it later!

Take the foil off the top of the bottle so that the wire cage is totally free of foil. There are two schools of thought on dealing with the wire cage. Some prefer to loosen it and others go all the way and remove it.

The only danger to removing the wire protector entirely is that some bottles have enough pressure built up to have the cork pop when the cage is taken off. This shouldn't happen, but you may have shaken the bottle a bit too much while handling it...or if it was not stored in optimal conditions it may have built up a bit too much pressure while waiting to be opened. Leaving the wire cage in place will keep the cork in place until you're ready to remove it.

A special word on safety:
Be especially careful about opening champagne with children close at hand, and always keep them at a safe distance as champagne is about to pop.

One thoughtful reader has also written in to suggest to mind any overhead obstructions - like chandeliers or light fixtures - which may be easily damaged by the force of a flying cork should things go awry!

Use the towel
Now that you've loosened the wire cage that surrounds the cork, it's time to use that towel you're holding. With the bottle upright, drape the towel over the top of the bottle. With the towel there, even if the cork does pop out, it will be caught in the towel... it also catches any champagne that spills -- if the uncorking ceremony is not perfect.

Turn the Champagne bottle
Lay the thin part of the towel draped bottle in your hand and get a good grip on the cork. You might want to support the neck of the bottle and grip the cork with your palm and fingers and rest your thumb on the cork... just as insurance. You'll hold on tight to the cork until it is completely removed from the bottle of champagne.

Now, with your free hand get a good grip on the fat part of the bottle. Slowly turn the bottle while you hold onto the cork... don't give in to temptation and yank the cork when you feel it loosen. Just... gently... turn the bottle of sparkling wine or champagne until you hear a little "pop" -- this method doesn't make that loud noise that people associate with champagne on New Year's Eve. The noise comes from the carbon dioxide escaping. That's the gas that makes the bubbles. A loud pop means that you've let out too much of the gas - usually with a good bit of the champagne!

The soft pop you'll hear means that you've preserved the bubbles in your champagne and you're ready to reveal your handiwork.

Like a magician, whisk the towel away, still holding the cork, and present your guests with the opened bottle. Be prepared for the accolades.

While this may be impressive, the next part is even better.

champagne glass with bottle corkPour the Champagne
This isn't beer and you don't want a good head on it. The secret is to pour just a bit, about an ounce or two fingers worth, of the sparkling wine into the glass. You'll want to use a tall champagne flute or tulip-shaped glass to get the best results.

Wait for the initial foaming bubbles to subside, then pour again until about two-thirds of the glass is full. This method will avoid the mess of the foam spilling over the sides of the glass. Keep the bottle in the ice bucket whenever you aren't pouring.

Drink the Champagne
This part you can probably manage without instructions. Just one tip that the cellar masters at Moët share with visitors touring the winery. Don't hold the glass by the bowl. Use the stem. It's natural to move your hand up and support the bottom of the bowl where it meets the stem. This warms the champagne quickly — not a good thing!

You can serve the champagne with oysters and crackers or fruit. Light cheeses are a perfect match. My grandfather's favorite was cutting up strawberries and adding them to the champagne in the glass. It gives the champagne a fruitier taste and eating the strawberry pieces is heavenly. Of course, if you intend to make a punch, mimosas or a fruit concoction, a less expensive brand of champagne is fine. You may even want to use a sweeter sparkling wine such as an Asti Spumanti. Check out the champagne cocktail and drink recipes our readers have submitted...

Sabering Champagne
Yes, sabering not savoring... Whether this method comes from the dueling clubs of royal Europe or thirsty cavaliers without corkscrews — it rears its messy head every New Year. Beheading a bottle of carbonated fluid is never a good idea. It's more than a bit dangerous and difficult to manage without breakage — and wasting lots of fine bubbly. If you really want to give it a try, You Tube has plenty of videos on the finer points of opening champagne with a saber (or using a butcher knife, in a pinch).

Wondering about the names of different sizes of champagne bottles?

  • Quarter bottle - Split or Piccolo (187.5 or 200 ml) - You may find these in nightclubs or on a flight. This is the preferred size for a single drink if your are a proper lady living in Europe!

  • Half bottle - Demi (375 ml) This size is generally reserved for use in restaurants for patrons who want a couple of glasses and hate to waste a drop.

  • Bottle - Imperial (750 ml) This is the usual champagne bottle you find in most shops.

  • Magnum (1.5 liter) This size is the equivalent of 2 bottles.

  • Jeroboam (3 liter) The equivalent of 4 bottles for an impressive hostess gift or a serious party.

  • Rehoboam (4.5 liter) Equal to 6 bottles, you'd better drink fast or the bubbles will be a fond memory by the time you get to the bottom.

  • Methuselah (6 liter) 8 bottles fit into this size.

  • Salmanazar (9 liter) You've entered the realm of the ostentatious here - 12 bottles.

  • Balthazar (12 liter) 16 bottles.

  • Nebuchadnezzar (15 liter) 20 bottles.

  • Melchior (18 liter) 24 bottles.

  • Solomon (25 liter) 33.3 bottles

  • Primat (27 liter) 36 bottles.

  • Melchizedek (30 liter) 40 bottles.

Champagne is made for you to enjoy. So invite some friends, open a bottle of any size and have some fun!

Other Web Sites of Interest:

Champagne Cocktails

Daily Celebrations - A Glass of Champagne

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