The actual process of opening a bottle of Champagne is not exactly something that would realistically qualify as a fine art, but there are nevertheless a few ‘dos and don’ts’ that should be kept in mind. You don’t want to ruin your first bottle of Cristal!
Of course, if this happens to be the very first time you have opened a bottle of Champagne then this article is very much for you. As stated, there is really nothing by way of specific talent required to open a bottle of Champagne, but it is nonetheless wise to exercise a little caution in order to prevent damage or injury.
• Chilling – Champagne should be chilled to a temperature of around 7 degrees Celsius before being opened. For the very best results and quality, refrigerate the bottle for no more than two or three days before the contents are to be consumed.
• Direction – Even before you actually begin the opening process, ensure the top of the bottle is directed safely away from people and property. Though rare, it is not impossible a cork to be ejected from the bottle almost immediately and entirely without warning.
• Foil – The next step is to remove the outer foil if present around the top of the bottle. Said foil is usually thin enough to be torn by hand, or may be supplied pre-perforated for easy removal.
• Cage – Following the foil, the next stage is to carefully remove the wire cage from around the cork. Removal of the cage is very simple, though it is essential to keep a thumb of finger on the top of the cork as this stage in particular is where the majority of unexpected accidents occur.
• Towel – Though not strictly a requirement, the removal of the cork can be made much easier and indeed safer by wrapping a towel around the cork, or the hand used to remove it.
• Twist – The final trick in the process is to grab the cork firmly and twist the BOTTLE from the bottom, rather than cork itself. A couple of twists and a slight wiggle will usually suffice to see the cork released safely and with ease.
Sabrage (How to Saber a Champagne Bottle)
Sabrage is a ceremonial technique for the opening of a Champagne bottle with a Sabre (also spelled Saber). A Sabre is a sword with a curved blade. Using the blunt side of the blade, the sword slides along the bottle to the tip, breaking the neck away from the body of the bottle. It should be noted that the cork remains inside the collar after separating from the neck.
This technique found it’s popularity in France in the late 1700’s within the army of Napoleon, who famously said “Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it”.
Read more in the book “The Champagne Guide: The Definitive Guide to Champagne“
CAUTION: As fun as it may look in both movies and the media in general, shaking Champagne prior to opening and firing corks off deliberately is never recommended. The pressure within a Champagne bottle is often equal to or greater than that of a standard car tire, therefore a degree of care and respect are essential for safety reasons.