Champagne

The No-Explosion Way to Open Champagne

And if you’re feeling up to it, try sabering a bottle too.

November  2, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

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:

Step One

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).

Step Two

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.

Step Three

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.

Step Four

Voila! Your champagne bottle has been popped. Chill it in an ice bucket or pour immediately into a coupe or flute glass.

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.

Have you ever tried to saber a bottle of champagne before? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Julie Iantorno
    Julie Iantorno
  • Diana Campbell Stoll
    Diana Campbell Stoll
  • chayac
    chayac
  • channelzed
    channelzed
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    Amy
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9 Comments

Julie I. December 31, 2021
It would be nice to hear suggestions on how to store a partial bottle of champagne that was not completely consumed.
 
W J. December 31, 2021
I use a stainless steel and plastic wine stopper -- the one with two wings that come down and lock onto the shoulder on the lip of the champagne bottle.

It works quite well on 99% of bottles. There are a few bottles that for some reason have a narrower neck. For those, I simply wrap a tight rubber band around the clamping arms to hold the stopper in place.

An open bottle will lose carbonation continuously, so for best results, use the stopper immediately after pouring and keep the bottle cold. If you are unable to refrigerate or keep the bottle chilled, then using the stopper promptly will preserve the carbonation as much as possible.

Even if you keep the bottle at room temperature and sealed, when you rechill it, the CO2 in the headspace will redissolve in the wine to some extent.

For best results, if you close it up and refrigerate promptly, the carbonation, though a slight bit less than originally present, will last indefinitely, but will decrease of course with the pressure loss as the bottle is successively opened and the amount of head space within increases.

If the wine goes flat, then chill it, and enjoy as you would any chardonnay or chardonnay/pinot noir blend, which is what most domestic sparkling wines as well as imported French Champagnes are based on.

See "The grapes Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, and Chardonnay are used to produce almost all Champagne, but small amounts of Pinot blanc, Pinot gris (called Fromenteau in Champagne), Arbane, and Petit Meslier are vinified as well." -- Wikipedia on Champagne

I just looked at my stopper and can see no brand nor manufacturer's name. Search Amazon for 'Wine Stoppers,Reusable Wine Preserver,Stainless Steel Love Design Heart Shape Wine and Beverage Bottle Stoppers for Wine Lover, Holiday Party,Wedding, Birthday(3PCS)" or the equivalent.


or click on this URL

https://www.amazon.com/Stoppers%EF%BC%8CHeart-Stopper%EF%BC%8CReusable-Preserver%EF%BC%8CStainless-Beverage-Stoppers/dp/B07TGTT8PZ/ref=sr_1_46?crid=1M47XTBN3R1LM&keywords=champagne+stoppers&qid=1640981812&sprefix=champa%2Caps%2C240&sr=8-46

Note: I don't recommend the stoppers with the single arm clamp, nor do I recommend the non-clamping, simple plug type as I have never had satisfactory performance from either type.
 
Julie I. January 2, 2022
Thank you so much for all this information.
 
Diana C. December 31, 2021
When I was young I had a stint working as a chef for a hot-air balloon company in France: opening a champagne bottle with a sword was the great party trick we performed after the balloons landed. I've sabered many bottles over the years—it's an impressive trick but REALLY disappointing when the bottle is stubborn and it doesn't work! After all that flourish and excitement—"Oops, sorry . . . let me try that once more." Don't try it without a proper sword or saber: in my experience, a long knife won't work.
 
chayac December 30, 2021
Yesss I learned the trick of leaving the cage on from a somm friend and it makes opening champagne so much easier and safer! Glad you are spreading the word for those of us not as blessed as W J., lol.
 
channelzed December 30, 2021
It would be better if there were either drawings or a more revealing (meaning showing the bottle and cork without a hand covering the action) video of ALL the steps listed in the article. I usually take foil and cage off first, twist the cork gently to break the seal, then proceed to press up on the cork’s top mushroom with the thumbs from BOTH hands, or, if I don’t care about spillage, pull the cork upwards and out while twisting it
Use a hand towel or other piece of cloth to hold the bottle to reduce heat transfer from your hand(s) to the bottle and contents.
 
Amy November 15, 2021
I haven't tried sabering a bottle of champagne yet, but accidentally sabering a glass bottle of salsa while trying to remove the plastic covering (TWICE!) with a much bigger than necessary knife has given me the necessary confidence to give it a go. I think.
 
W J. November 14, 2021
I open a bottle of domestic "champagne" most every evening. I don't have problems with corks exploding or the champagne gushing out.

I really don't understand the instruction in this article as described in Step Three:

"Place your thumb tightly on top of the cage and twist the bottle with one hand..."

Gee, but it seems like you're missing something in that description. Something important.

I remove the foil and also the cage most often. Then I try twisting the cork to see if it will move at all. Sometimes it does. Most times it doesn't. Then with a paper or cloth towel, I grip the cork and slowly twist it, holding it down so as to gently remove it without the "pop." I am looking for just a slight hiss as the pressure is released. The slower the hiss, the better. Since my bottles are well chilled and undisturbed, there is very seldom any gushing. Nevertheless I have a glass handy in case it does happen so as to catch most, if not all of the wine.

I couldn't agree more about preserving the carbonation, for isn't that the whole point of sparkling wine? Other than that there is little difference between that and a still chardonnay, pinot noir, or blend of 75% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir or 25% chardonnay and 75% pinot noir.

As for sabering a bottle, I leave that for those unthirsty folks, who wish for a show more than a fine glass of bubbly.
 
Jenina G. November 3, 2021
We bought a sabre for our wedding and sabred Champagne after we said 'I do'!