Champagne is the perfect wine for a celebration or a good time. But it’s not the easiest bottle of liquor to open and it can actually be very dangerous if opened incorrectly. Here is a quick guide to get you opening Champagne bottles safely and confidently like a pro. We’ll start from the formal way through to opening the nouveau Sparkling Wine bottles under crown cap to the ultimate party trick of slicing the top off the bottle with a sabre or knife.
Opening The Traditional Way
This method will reduce the risk of the cork flying off unexpectedly (preventing your date getting a black eye) as well as making sure none of the precious liquid inside the bottle is wasted on the floor.
- Firstly make sure the bottle of Champagne is properly chilled, about 3 hours will do it.
- Do not shake the bottle; make sure it’s been in a stable position for the last few hours. Shaking will build up pressure and push that cork out sooner than you anticipate.
- Remove the foil cap from around the top of the cork, it’s usually perforated for easy removal.
- Untwist the wire ring to remove the wire cage from the top of the bottle. As soon as this is off make sure your thumb is firmly holding down the cork. This is normally the time when inexperienced openers find themselves with a flying cork and can count themselves lucky if they don’t hit someone.
- Tilt the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and others.
- Hold the cork firmly and slowly begin to twist the bottle in your hands. Some people like to put a tea towel over the cork for easier grip of the cork, feel free to do what’s comfortable for you.
- As you feel the cork loosen, hold it back with pressure from your hand until it finally releases from the bottle. If done correctly you’ll hear a gentle ‘sigh’ rather than a loud ‘pop’.
And then the rest is up to you! Sit back, relax and enjoy that gorgeous delicious elixir in your glass.
Opening a Bottle with a Crown Cap
Every now and then you may come across a Sparkling wine which has a crown cap closure on it. These caps are very similar to the caps you find on beer bottles. Plus I have to admit they’re less intimidating to open than a regular champagne bottle, as you simply need a bottle opener to open them. Just as you would a beer.
With a Sparkling Wine under crown cap you’ll actually end up with more bubbles in your glass. Unlike a sparkling wine with a cork in, you won’t lose that 10% of carbon dioxide, which is popped out of the bottle when the cork is released.
How to Sabre a Bottle of Champagne
It’s the ultimate party trick and just so darn fun to open a champagne bottle with a sabre or knife. The art of sabrage is a lot easier to master than one may think. But shhh.. Don’t tell your friends that!
- Make sure the Champagne is properly chilled and has not been shaken up.
- Strip all the foil off the neck of the bottle. As you’ll slide the blade up the length of the bottleneck you won’t want it to get caught on anything.
- Remove the wire cage, keeping your thumb firmly on the cork once removed.
- Find the crease in the bottle, as champagne bottles are made from 2 pieces of glass there’ll be a seam running the length of the bottle. The top of the crease is where you’ll need to strike.
- Make sure you’re pointing the bottle away from everyone and have a good open space to do it. I always go outside and make sure I have at least a 10-metre range of free space.
- You’ll then use the dull end of the sabre/knife to slide up the length of the bottle, holding the bottle at about a 45-degree angle and the sabre horizontally at a 90-degree angle to the bottle.
- I usually do a few slow test runs up the length of the bottle with my sabre before going for the cut. You’ll want to make sure you hit the top of the bottle at the crease. It’s surprising how little force it does take to cut the top off if holding the bottle at the correct angle and hitting the blade at the right spot on the bottle.
- When done correctly it should come off in a smooth motion, I usually let a little bit of the Champagne slurp out before returning the bottle to the upright position to wash away any shards of glass (sacrilege I know but it’s better to be safe than sorry).
My biggest tip when learning to use a sabre or knife to open a bottle of Champagne is to practise with cheap and cheerful bottles first. You really don’t want to be using a bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil on your first attempt otherwise you could be left very heartbroken!
For more info on the art of cutting the top of a champagne bottle off, check out my 11 Tips To Become A Champagne Sabre Master post, with video!