Uncorking a bottle of sparkling wine is by far the most emotionally charged beverage opening ritual. Sure, there is the satisfying crack of a cold beer or the soul-crushing frustration of stabbing the Capri Sun packet, but nothing comes close to the festive, borderline-alarming explosion that comes from a bottle of bubbly.
Many of us use sparkling wine, like Champagne and Prosecco, to punctuate delightful life events like promotions, birthdays, or successful workplace unionization efforts. Because we want to drink it, of course, but perhaps even more we want to hear that sharp pop to signal that yes, the party has started.
But what if I told you that an audibly popped bottle is actually a sign that you opened it incorrectly?
During a cocktail video where I mixed an alcohol-removed sparkling wine with citrus and botanicals, I demonstrated an uncorking method where the objective was to make as little noise as possible. Some commenters were baffled why I would advocate for a method so bereft of excitement. Here’s why:
It’s something I picked up over a decade of working in bars and restaurants. Grant Reynolds, co-founder of Parcelle Wine, author of How to Drink Wine, and friend of mine, agrees: “Let’s call it the taught method in the service industry.” As he explains it, “Your finger must always be on top of the cork and then you open it slowly and gently so there’s no noise; that’s the classic, fine-dining style of opening it in a restaurant. The reason for this is literally so you can control the cork.”
Controlling the cork has a lot of benefits, but the biggest one is safety. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, sparkling wine bottles have enough pressure to launch a cork at 5src miles per hour, which is enough to shatter glass and cause permanent vision loss. Another reason is if the cork pops too fast, leading to an explosion of bubbles, you can lose nearly a third of the bottle and in the process get wine all over your hands and floor.
And yet another, far less dire reason: It’s simply how the pros do it. “I remember when I was going through the Court of Master Sommeliers exam training, it was a huge deal if you lost control of the cork,” Reynolds says. Especially if the bottle is pointed toward a person—in that case, it would be all but impossible to pass. A huge deal indeed.
How to open sparkling wine like a pro:
Remove the foil from the cork, then drape a small towel or napkin over the top of the bottle. With your thumb on the top of the cork, grasp the neck of the bottle with your fingers. With your other hand, unscrew the wire cage that secures the cork to the bottle neck—but don’t remove the cage! The wire offers additional grip and can help keep the cork in place if your hand slips off.
Holding your napkin-shrouded cork and cage in one hand, grab the base of the bottle in the other and hold it at a 45-degree angle, pointed away from yourself and anyone else around. Now instead of pulling the cork out of the bottle, slowly and gently twist and tug the bottle from the cork. If you’ve done it right, you should hear a demure pfft signaling that you’ve opened your wine with minimal agitation. And if you do lose control of the cork by accident, that’s why you have the towel: It acts as a net and prevents projectiles.