Between now and New Years, it’s all going to be all about the bubbly.
Champagne, Sparkling Wine or Prosecco … the silly season gives us all plenty of opportunities to crack open a bottle of the really good (or perhaps this year, the moderately priced) stuff.
Whether you are indulging in a Kir Royale, a French 75, a Grand Royal or a Mimosa, the experience of opening the Champagne bottle should be as just as magical as the cocktails you are creating with it.
Often though, opening a Champagne bottle ends up being a game of duck and cover. So as to ensure that the bottle is opened quietly and cleanly, we thought we’d provide a few tips to help the process along …. and ensure no-one losses an eye.
If you want to pop and pour like a pro, there are a few things that you need to remember. And the main one is that the removal of the cork should be done with a whisper-quiet efficiency, or as we were taught, it should resemble a satisfied sigh.
So, no, this is not about sabring a bottle of Champagne. Sure, there are times when that can look impressive, but seriously, we all know it’s kind of a jackass move, that goes horribly wrong more often than it goes right … But you still want to sabre it, don’t you? Fine … here’s a video on it …
For the rest of us, there are five main points to keep in mind as you elegantly open your bubbly.
Make sure the bottle is chilled
The bottle of champagne or sparkling wine should be properly chilled. The ideal serving temperature is around 8-10 °C. You should place the bottle in an ice bucket for half an hour, but under no circumstances chill a bottle of Champagne in the freezer.
If it isn’t cold enough, the pressure inside the bottle will cause the cork to release very quickly. That’s when you get a geyser and a dangerous projectile.
Pro Tip: For a quick way to cool down your bottle (and to keep cold bottles very cold), use a mixture of 50 per cent ice and 50 per cent water. That liquid mixture means more of the surface area of the bottle is being cooled.
Use a Waiter’s Friend to cut the foil below the large lip of the bottle
Although most bottles have that handy little tab to help open the foil, more times than not, the tab fails to make it all the way around the bottle. Rather than be left with an ugly mess of excess foil, it’s worth cutting the foil to create an even, clean line around the bottle. Once that is done and the upper area of the foil is removed, the cork and cage are adequately exposed.
Pro Tip: If the wine was in an ice bath, ensure the bottle is properly dry before attempting this, so it doesn’t slip out of your hands.
Use a napkin or towel
Fold a napkin or kitchen towel lengthwise and put it over the cage and the cork. The napkin creates another measure of safety that can help prevent the cork from flying off like a bullet.
Untwist the cage counterclockwise
It’s best to hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle. Untwist the “O” six times and then loosen the cage all the way around the bottle while putting pressure on the cork to keep it from popping out prematurely.
Pro tip: Safety is paramount when opening sparkling wine since the pressure behind the cork is around 90 psi. To put this into perspective, that’s three times the pressure of most car tires.
Twist the bottle – not the cork
Once the cage is loosened, begin to extract the cork by keeping the pressure around the cork while you are twisting the bottle. If you twist the cork, it can break inside the bottle. Once this is done, slowly pull the cork away from the bottle. The pressure in the bottle begins to push the cork out naturally. Once you feel the cork begin to move on its own, push against the cork gently to keep it from releasing too quickly.
Once the Cork is removed, give the lip of the bottle a quick wipe and then serve.
Pro Tip: To avoid foamy overflow, pour only about an inch of wine into each glass at first, wait a few seconds for bubbles to subside, and then continue filling to just below the rim.