January 19, 2011

The Grape Escape: Not with a bang but a whisper

Part of the fun of a sparkling wine is popping the cork, but letting it fly with a noisy bang isn’t really a great idea. You might break the china, poke out a pal’s eye, or make a mess and waste good wine.

A lot of people fear the cork. Whip out a bottle of champagne or other sparkling wine some time and watch the people around you duck down or start edging for the exits.

You can solve this problem, though, by popping the cork as the wine pros do. Learn to open the bottle the alternative way, and impress your friends as you nonchalantly hang on to that pesky cork, holding it safely in the palm of your hand. Here’s how:

•Make sure the wine is ice-cold before you serve it. Avoid shaking the bottle as you bring it out.

•Place the bottle on the table. If you want to be extra careful, press down on the top of the cork with one hand as you use the other to carefully peel the foil; then loosen and remove the wire cage that holds the cork in place. (That cage is called a “muzzle” in French, by the way. Save that one for your next trivia game.)

•If there’s any gunk around the cork, wipe it off with a damp cloth or paper towel.

•Now, here’s the secret: Assuming you’re right-handed, grip the bottle firmly with your right hand and grasp the cork tightly with your left, bare-handed or using a cloth or paper towel if you prefer. Hold the cork steady while you gently twist the bottle. The cork will ease loose with a soft hiss, and there you are, cork in one hand and an open bottle in the other. Salut!