Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to Open a Bottle of Bubbly

I love bubbly. I adore it. It's so festive, it's usually quite tasty, and it comes in pink! Plus it goes by awesome names such as cremant (cwe-mah (all French-like)), lambrusco (lammmm-brUUUsco!), prosecco (prooo-SECCO!), cava and obviously champagne (cham-PA-gna!).  It's our year-round drink of choice at home (okay mine, I'm the one that gets home in time to visit the wine shop).  

Plus, bubbly doesn't have to be expensive--you can find yummy bottles of bubbly for under $20, and a decent number under $15.  For example, Kevin and I really like Gruet, which is made in, of all places, New Mexico. It's about $13 at our local wine shop (and they tend to overcharge, so we could probably find it cheaper elsewhere).

I've been at a gathering or two where I ended up with the happy responsibility of opening a bottle of bubbly, because others weren't sure how to do it.  I admit, the first few times can be kind of intimidating.  What if you blow a hole in the ceiling, or worse yet your FACE?  

Many of you know how to open a bottle of bubbly, and quite well.  This post is not for you.  It's for any of you out there that would like a few tips to become more comfortable opening one of these glass containers of effervescent joy. 

What you do is take your bottle of bubbly:

Take your sabre:

And lop that sucker off!

Then cheer like the champion that you are:

Okay I'm kidding, don't do that.  

If that simple missive didn't work, let me mention apparently you can kill someone if you don't do this correctly.  So just DON'T, okay?? Put the credit card back in your wallet and back away from sabrestokillyou.com.

Okay, I'll tell you what I actuallyl do.  It's a combination of tips/technique that I learned from some dude giving a tour at Schramsberg winery years ago, as well as reading a few pages of Great Wine Made Simple by Andrea Immer.  

Just to warn you, this isn't going to be the raucous, foamy (and wasteful) method employed by male professional athletes in a barely disguised attempt to imitate what they think is their "manlihood". Okay enough, get the image out of your head.  

This is going to be a bit more calm, and maybe boring, but really, when you're like me and just opening a bottle of bubbly when you get home, there's no reason to impress my pugs with my "manliness" and showmanship.

Ahem. Let's begin.  First take off the foil.  I'm assuming this will be intuitive for everyone but in case not (you don't have to raise your hand), here are some pics:

Earth-shattering, isn't it? Anybody catch Rikki in the background?

Now, face your mortal enemy.

Untwist the metal hoop of the wire cage surrounding the cork.  Andrew Immer even suggests the extra step of having a kitchen towel draped over the top of the bottle this whole time in case the cork tries to fly off the second the wire cage is loosened.  Don't believe me? Kevin took off the wire cage one time, looked down at the cork, and it flew up in his face. Thank God he was wearing glasses.  That being said, I forego the towel at this stage (but use it later).

So now that you're scared, keep untwisting, flex the sides of the cage a bit to loosen, and slowly remove (again, you can drape the kitchen towel if you want).

Now for twisting off the cork. This is the part for which I do bring in a kitchen towel if there's one around.  I use it to help my grip and for safety reasons.  

To remove the cork, the key word is "twist".  Do NOT try to just pull or push that sucker off. That will hurt somebody.  As I'm twisting the cork with one hand, I grab the base of the bottleneck with my second hand and twist in the opposite direction and to stabilize.  Twist as many times as you want, no one's counting.  The first few might be tough because the bubbly may have dried and gotten sticky. I usually use small, short twists.

At a certain point you will get past the initial loosening of the cork so that it twists relatively easily, and now comes the dialectic part.  While you twist, you want to pull up a bit, but at the same time you want to leave enough pressure so that the cork doesn't come flying off.  It's a push-pull situation.  Think of it as guiding the cork off--all the built up pressure in the bottle is the main force behind the cork coming off, you're there just to give a hand (pun).

This was the most interesting thing I learned at the winery--while the sound of a cork popping is fun, it actually is not the safest, and you lose more carbonation that way. Not sure if that's true, but whatever.

Anyway, so the idea is, as you're twisting, to help *ease* the cork out, with one side coming out first.  You don't have to twist it out all at one time. It's almost like prying the cork out, with a pphhzz sound (like a small, wheezing fart).

hello, i am here!

The sight of this makes me want to weep with joy.

Wait, no, this makes me sob with gratitude.

Oh wait, no, this makes me bawl with utter happiness.

Dagnabbit, now I'm catatonic.

If you're not going to be drinking your bubbly all in one go, and you drink bubbly often, it's worth getting one of these stoppers specifically made for bubblies.  I'd explain how to use it but I think I've insulted your intelligence enough today. Just pictures.

And that's how it's done.


  1. So I was doing it right! I didn't know that there was a proper technique. Where did you get the specialized bubbly stopper. Do I need to get you some champagne flutes? ;)

  2. Woohoo now I know how to open champagne!! I also need one of those stoppers because trying to consume the whole bottle of champagne so it doesn't go bad is not a good idea.

  3. Cool tips. Maybe knowing this will reduce the wide-eyed stares I get when I tell people I'm allergic to alcohol :)

  4. I don't know why I never thought of putting a towel over it! Great tips. I love my bubbly.

  5. nothing like a 'small, wheezing fart' to herald the arrival of a glorious glass of bubbly.

    I second Try Anything Once Terri's offer for champagne flutes.

  6. tee hee. after Kevin's Flying Cork episode, whenever I open a bottle of bubbly, I ALWAYS look at the ceiling first, just to make sure that I'm not aiming at something dangerous.

  7. Aha! I've been doing it right all along. ;) I always get nervous after those first few little pulls, when you can start to feel the cork moving out of the bottle all on its own...its like "NO! You are coming out of that bottle on MY terms you sneaky little cork..."