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20-40-60 Etiquette---There is an art to opening a Champagne bottle

[Meghan McCarthy via Imagn Content Services, LLC]
[Meghan McCarthy via Imagn Content Services, LLC]

QUESTION: Is there an art to opening a bottle of wine or Champagne in front of party guests without having the cork hit the ceiling and the liquid spilling out of the bottles? I would like to serve these beverages at my next party, but I would probably hit someone in the face while trying to remove the cork.

CALLIE’S ANSWER: My husband is the wine or Champagne usual opener so here’s what he said: Champagne is always a fun, yummy, choice! There seems to be a misconception of how to open Champagne, primarily from how the movies portray opening a bottle of bubbly. To properly open Champagne you twist the bottle — not the cork. Keep in mind you need to make sure you keep pressure around the cork while twisting! You can always cover the cork with a napkin for an additional measure of safety if worried the cork from flying off like a bullet. Good luck and cheers!

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: If I’m opening Champagne and twisting by hand, I generally put a dish towel in my hand so the cork doesn’t pop out and shoot a hole in the ceiling or one of the guests. I think you can open bottles without a lot of fanfare unless you want to create that experience, and I would have to look up information from actual wine experts or ask for a lesson to get it right. Usually, any fanfare I create comes when the Champagne is already in the glass, and friends are ready for a toast. I honestly don’t know how they open Champagne bottles with flying corks and a spray of liquid for grand effect in the movies. I have never seen that happen in real life at formal or informal parties.

As for wine, just use a cork bottle opener that’s easy for you to operate or buy wine with a screw-top lid, which have become more popular in recent years. The lids that simply twist off take away from some of the flourish and anticipation that the ritual of opening a corked bottle of wine has, but they certainly are easy. As an aside, according to a 2014 NPR story on the program “All Things Considered,” many high-end winemakers prefer the screw-top lids so they don’t let in oxygen and prefer corks and synthetic corks for complex white and red wines.

HELEN’S ANSWER: Champagne is such a festive drink, and there are some occasions that just call for this beverage. There are many videos one YouTube and stories on the Internet about the proper way to remove the cork.

I have never removed a cork properly, but the next time I do, I will make sure it is chilled properly, and will hold the top and twist the bottle. Actually, I will probably ask someone else to open it, as there really is a right way to open the bottle. My attempts have always ended with the cork headed towards the ceiling.

GUEST’S ANSWER: Chuck Ainsworth, local community leader: Unfortunately that happened to me when I was a much younger guy, and it was both scary and embarrassing. Serving Champagne is a lot of fun and you can look like a pro if you follow some very simple techniques.

Never open a bottle of warm bubbly — it should be chilled to between 43-48 F or 50-54 minutes if you want to bring out more richness and depth.

First, remove the wrapper that covers the cork and wire cage, then place your thumb over the cork holding the neck and untwist the wire cage but DO NOT REMOVE the cage or your thumb. Grasp the bottom of the bottle with the other hand and tilt the bottle to about a 45 degree angle. With the hand holding the bottom, gently twist the bottle — not the cork — a few turns and the cork will come out and you will hear a gentle sigh, not a pop. To serve, just pour a little into a glass and let it set for a moment, then gently fill the flute, or coupe, not more than 2/3 full and enjoy.

Good luck and Santé, Prost, CinCin, Salud and Cheers to 2021!

Since 2009 Callie, Lillie-Beth and Helen have written this generational etiquette column. They also include guest responses from a wide range of ages each week. So many years later, Callie is 20-plus; Lillie-Beth, 40-plus and Helen, 60-plus.

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[Gaelen Morse/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC]

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