A bottle of sparkling wine, whether it’s the real deal from the Champagne region of France or an inexpensive offering from one of the world’s other wine regions, gives celebration vibes to any gathering. The impressive pop and fizz you see in movies are purely for show and shouldn’t be your goal when opening a bottle at home. Instead, open it quietly and try to keep your wine in the bottle where it belongs—why would you want to waste a single drop of bubbly? Here’s the right technique, which works on both real corks and the plastic ones used on less-fancy brands.
Before you start, understand that the cork in your bottle is a dangerous projectile. A flying cork can hit 50 miles per hour, threatening to shatter your Chanel eyeglasses, not to mention take out your actual peepers. To quote generations of mothers, you really can “put someone’s eye out with that thing.” Just be aware of where the bottle is pointing when you open it.
Pro tip: Don’t open a bottle of sparkling wine the moment you get it home. Instead, chill it for several hours. This reduces pressure inside the bottle, and—like resting a soda that’s been shaken—provides time for gas to be reabsorbed into the wine. Once the bubbly is chilly, it’s ready to go.
Moisten a handkerchief or small kitchen towel and wring it out thoroughly so it’s damp rather than wet. Set it beside you where it’s within reach.
Remove the foil from the bottle, exposing the cork and the wire cage holding it in place. Angle the bottle away from any people or fragile items, and rotate it so the cage’s twisted closure is visible.
Drape the dampened towel over the cork and cage and grip it so you have a thumb placed firmly over the cork. With your other hand, twist the wire closure until it opens. If the bottle tries to push the cork out, your thumb will hold it in place and keep you in control.
Grasp the damp towel and the underlying cork firmly. With your other hand, twist the bottle gently, until the plastic cork begins to move, then pull the bottle away. Your plastic cork should slide from the bottle with just the gentlest popping noise.
Allow the pent-up gases to escape for 5 to 10 seconds before pouring.
The steps for opening a bottle with a natural or plastic cork, are essentially the same, so you might legitimately wonder the difference between the two. The main thing is that the porous surface of natural cork doesn’t stick as doggedly to the inside of the bottle’s neck. Plastic corks, on the other hand, are reluctant to move when you twist the bottle. That’s why the dampened towel, which helps you grip, is a useful tool. Once the plastic cork begins to move, it should pop out just as easily as a natural cork. Plastic corks are also harder than their natural counterparts, so if one gets away from you, you better duck and cover.