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The safest way to open a champagne bottle is by gripping the bottle with both hands, then consciously controlling the cork as it is removed. A loud pop and flying cork can certainly add drama to a festive event, but it also risks injury, not to mention spillage. Opening champagne with safety in mind dictates that the cork should be gently eased out of the bottle, preferably under a tea towel. Erring on the side of safety usually creates less of a spectacle, but often makes for a happier toast.
One of the first things a safety-conscious champagne drinker should do is chill the bottle. Champagne is carbonated, which means that it is filled with bubbles of carbon gas. These are the same bubbles that cause sodas to explode when shaken and are no less volatile in sparkling wine. Keeping the champagne bottle cold is a good way to keep the bubbles calm, at least in the short term. They are usually more active at room temperature.
It is usually a good idea to keep both hands on the bottle at all times during the opening process. Champagne corks are usually well secured during processing, but this is not always the case. To prevent any surprise releases, one hand should always be on the top of the bottle, holding the cork in place.
A champagne opener’s next move is to remove any foil toppers. Many of the fancier brands of champagne and sparking wine encase everything from the neck of the bottle upwards in foil. This adds a fancy touch while also providing an additional layer of security around the cork.
Beneath the foil is a wire cage. That cage is usually secured with a twisted loop near the base. In order to get to the cork, this cage must be removed by gently untwisting the wire, then stretching the cage up over the cork. All of this should be done slowly, with the bottle pointed away from both the opener’s face and any other people or fragile items. Directing the bottle into a corner or unpopulated area is usually best.
The champagne bottle should usually be held at about a 45-degree angle — that is, halfway between pointing it straight up and holding it flat. This gives the fluid in the bottle some air without presenting a risk to bystanders. It also allows the opener to remain in control of the cork.
Once the cage has been removed, it is usually recommended that the person in charge of opening place a tea towel loosely over the bottle, cork and all. This prevents the cork from flying and also gives the opener a better grip. Chilled glass can be hard to keep steady. The cork should then be gripped firmly through the towel with one hand, while the other hand grips the bottle.
The champagne bottle, not the cork, should be gently turned and twisted. Ideally, the bottle should be working to free itself of the cork, not the other way around. The hand on top of the bottle should be holding the cork in place, but should not be moving. Exerting control through the bottle makes the opening more contained, and also reduces the risk of a broken cork.
Before long, the cork should ease off into the tea towel with a slight, often hushed hissing sound. This method will not produce the popping champagne bottle so popular in movies and films. No champagne should spill out, but in case any does, the tea towel will catch it. The towel can then be wrapped around the bottle’s neck to absorb any drips as the champagne is poured.
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