How to Open Champagne

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Well, 2011 is running out of steam and 2012 is knocking on the door! Got your technique down for popping that bottle of bubbly on Saturday night?

It’s not difficult – it’s just a matter of getting used to it – which means opening the bubbly more frequently! The most important thing to remember is not to point the bottle at anyone, including yourself until the cork is safely out. The bottle contains the same amount of pressure as the tires on a double-decker bus – about 60-90 PSI!

So, here’s how it goes: Sometimes the bubbly wants to foam out of the bottle the very second the cork comes out, so have your glass at the ready to catch any of those overly exuberant bubbles.

1. Go ahead and remove the foil. There’s usually a little tear tag to help you out.

2. Now, you want to loosen and remove the wire cage. Make sure you’ve got your thumb or hand on top of the cork, just in case it wants to launch. Then, pull down the wire tab and start twisting.  Remove the cage and get your thumb back on top of the cork.

Now the fun begins.

3. At this point you want to resist the urge to twist the cork out – you could put a hole in the wall that way! So, instead, hold the cork down firmly and turn the bottle rather than twisting the cork. If it feels kind of slippery you can put a towel over the top of the bottle and just hold it down with your palm. As you slowly turn the bottle you’ll feel the pressure of the cork against your hand – I love that! Just keep turning the bottle as you do this little pressure dance with the cork until it’s finally released with just a whisper of a sigh.

That’s it! Bottoms up!

TRIVIA: Sommeliers view a loud pop as very amateur hour. A very quiet release is a mark of professionalism for whatever it’s worth. I remember the Mondavis shooting the corks out into the vineyard with a very loud pop at party time. What better beginning to a festive evening!

You know I don’t usually do wine rating but you might like some ideas based on the price range. Here are my favorites – you may or may not agree:

Best under $10.00 Buy a Spanish Cava. My favorite in this price range is Segura Viudas. Many of the Cavas taste a little sweet or have a candy-like aroma. This is dry and ever so slightly toasty.

Best for under $25.00 No contest: Roederer Estate Anderson Valley. Beautifully balanced with a nice, toasty nose without going over the top. Depending on where you live and whether or not it’s on sale you can pay as little as about $16.00 (stock up – that’s as good as it gets!) up to $23.00/bottle.

Best for under $50.00 There are lots of really good ones in this range. Always reliably lovely: Bollinger Special Cuvee. Or, you might ask your retailer to help you select a Grower Champagne (look for the RM on the label).

$100.00 and up and up! Countless greats like Roederer Cristal, Fleur de Champagne… My favorite? Champagne Krug! Whether it’s the Grand Cuvee or the Clos du Mesnil, you’re drinking one of the very best of prestige Champagnes! 

And there you have it! Enjoy!! Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration and here’s hoping that 2012 is a wonderful vintage for us all!

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