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How to Safely Open Champagne

Do you know how to safely open Champagne or Cava? As I observe people trying, most of the time incorrectly, it occurred to me that there should be instructions on what to do. There is a danger that if not done properly someone or something could get hurt or broken.

Actually it is a similar story with removing a cork from a normal bottle of wine, there is a right way and lots of wrong ways!

Celebrations with Champagne bottles exploding and its contents being sprayed everywhere are for show. Even more impressive is when bottles are opened with a saber, as you can see in the picture.

What is the correct way to open a bottle of sparkling wine safely?

Step 1. Check the temperature of the bottle. It should be chilled or better cold prior to opening. The colder the better as this reduces the pressure in the bottle.

Step 2. Set the bottle on a table and remove the strip at the base of the foil capsule that covers the wire mesh that protects the cork.

Step 3. Place your thumb firmly over the top of wire and cork and then slowly undo the wire. At no time from this point on should you remove your thumb because if the sparkling wine has been shaken the pressure will have increased and the cork could explode and injure someone.

Step 4. Once loose, grip the top of the bottle with your hand, with you thumb on top of the wire/cork. Hold the bottle at an angle of 30º, more or less, ensuring the cork is not pointing at anyone or anything.

Step 5. Grip the cork firmly with one hand while the other gently turns the base of the bottle. As the bottle turns the cork should start to move and the cork begins to slowly easy its way out of the bottle.

If the bottle is wet then use a towel to give you a firmer grip. Please note that it can take quite a bit of strength to get the cork to move.

Step 6. The cork should come out of the bottle with a ‘pfff’ sound, not a bang. While no wine should escape it is a good idea to have a serviette or towel at hand just in case.

Step 7. To serve the sparkling wine, hold the bottle by the bottom, place the glass at an angle of 45º and slowly pour. This prevents the bubbles from spilling.

What is the correct glass to use for sparkling wine? The traditional flute shaped glass is popular with Champagne houses because it shows the strings of bubbles racing up the glass which is great for effect. However, if you want to properly smell the aromas prior to tasting I suggest that you use a tulip shaped glass suitable for white wine.

Finally, sparkling wines, Champagne, Cava and Prosescco, are not just for New Year and other celebrations. A good quality Champagne or Cava is one of the most versatile wines that can accompany every style of food because of the bubbles, natural acidity and intensity of flavours.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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