How to open Champagne


Photograph: Jason Lowe

Photograph: Jason Lowe

With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, this extract from our introductory wine book tells you how to pop corks like a pro (and without losing half the bottle)

Standing on the Winner’s Podium, the triumphant athlete shakes the Champagne bottle and releases a fountain of fizz…

This image of celebration (or shocking waste, if you are a winemaker or Champagne lover) is nevertheless one worth keeping in mind when any bottle of sparkling wine needs opening: it demonstrates the power of the gas behind the cork.

This is one instance where the packaging has a point. The instantly-recognisable mushroom cork with its wire cage and the thick glass bottle are not there for effect. Be aware that a badly-handled bottle can send its cork flying for 50 metres – and at up to 30mph. Broken windows, shattered mirrors – worse, broken noses, can ensue…

So, when you pick up that bottle it will, ideally, have been resting gently in fridge or ice-bucket: take extra care if it has been at all shaken – and warmth, too, makes the gas dissolved in the wine more volatile and your fizz less pleasant to drink.

Then three more things are needed:

  • your aim: point it away from your face, your friends and your furnishings
  • a glass: to catch the first of it should it turn out to be a gassy bottle after all
  • your thumb

Follow the steps below and, with care, the cork should release with a gentle pop and a wisp of gas: be ready to pour. And having undertaken such a dangerous operation, you now deserve to enjoy the results…

How to open a bottle of sparkling wine
  1. Remove any foil covering to reveal the cork with its wire ‘cage’. Keeping your thumb over the top, untwist the wire loop.
  2. Point bottle away from you. Remove cage. Replace thumb.
  3. The trick is to twist the bottle – not the cork: more leverage, less chance of breaking the cork. Keep thumb there. Gently ease the cork from the neck: the gas will help.

Top tip: Hold the glass at an angle and gently slide the fizz in to avoid too much frothing.

Mix and match six bottles of fizz for £200 on, just order by noon on 28th December for delivery in time for New Year’s Eve.