I don’t believe that you need an excuse to open champagne, but when you have a bottle of really good bubbly, you might want to save it for a special occasion. Say, an anniversary, date night, or New Year’s Eve, or a Thursday. But opening a bottle can be intimidating. There’s no electric corkscrew or fancy wine preservation system to help you out. It’s just you, the cork, the wire cage, and a kitchen towel. Whether you have a pricy vintage champagne or an inexpensive bottle of sparkling wine, the last thing you want is a cork flying across the kitchen and bubbles bursting out of the bottle and onto your kitchen countertops. And cabinets. And the floor. And that new velvet dress that you bought just for tonight.
How to Open Champagne
When learning how to open a bottle of champagne, who else would I turn to than Veuve Clicquot for instructions? My fiancé and I enjoy a bottle of the iconic yellow label champagne for every special occasion in our lives—birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs, new apartments, and holidays. No one does champagne like the French.
Didier Mariotti, cellar master for Veuve Clicquot, walked me through how to open a bottle of champagne:
First, remove the foil carefully. There should be a small lip on the neck of the bottle that allows you to remove the foil easily. “If there isn’t a tab, use the knife on a wine key to help get you started, and remove the foil so that the cage is exposed,” adds Elise Cordell, National Ambassador for Perrier-Jouët Champagne (another equally worthy French champagne house, IMO).
Loosen the wire cage and untwist, but be absolutely sure to leave the cage on the bottle. “Many people make the mistake of removing the cage, but leaving it on will ensure the pressure stays within the bottle,” says Mariotti.
Place your thumb tightly on top of the cage and twist the bottle with one hand. “It is a common belief that you should be twisting the cork, but it is actually the opposite,” he says.
From there, the cork should naturally pop! Remove the cork with your dominant hand and tilt the bottle to a 45-degree angle.
Tips for Opening Champagne
Now that we’ve covered the basics, there are a few things you can do to advance your bottle opening technique. First make sure your bottle of champagne is well-chilled. “I recommend letting it spend at least two hours in the refrigerator, but if you’re short on time, you can submerge the bottle in a 50/50 mix of ice and water and it will chill down in around 15-20 minutes,” says Cordell.
While popping a bottle of champagne is always cause for celebration, keep the noise to a minimum—at least when it comes to the bubbly. “We all love that ‘champagne pop,’ but the truth is, the more quietly you’re able to open the bottle, the more bubbles you’ll enjoy in your glass and reduce the risk of the bottle bubbling over,” says Cordell.
How to Saber Champagne
We’ve all seen the viral videos of a well-dressed lad or lady (or maybe just some tipsy college students on the porch of their frat house) attempting to saber a bottle of champagne. But it can be dangerous, to say the least. Fail to saber correctly and you’ll find that your porch will be covered in a million tiny shards of glass. “While visually exciting, sabering a bottle can come with some risks. I suggest using gloves if you have them, and protective eyewear,” says Cordell.
To start, remove the foil from a (very cold, well-chilled) bottle of champagne. Keeping pressure on the cork and cage, carefully loosen the cage and remove it from the bottom lip of the bottle neck, and re-secure it to the top lip. Hold the bottle securely from the bottom, with your thumb at the indentation at the bottom of the bottle and aim away from the crowd. Find the seam of the glass and hold your saber firmly along that line; Cordell says to think of this line as your runway.
Now you may be getting nervous and feel your heart rate increasing. You want to put on a show and everyone is watching! But having a slow, fluid action versus a fast, forceful one will allow you to saber like a pro. Position your saber flat against the bottle, and run it down the seam of the glass toward the lip. On the count of three, your fluid strike should separate the bottom of the neck of the glass and cork from the bottle itself...and possibly a little bit of wine. You did it (I hope)!
Everyone will be anxious to try the newly sabered bottle, but it's important to hold the bottle with caution as it now has a sharp edge to it.