Removing corks from Champagne and sparkling wines used to scare me silly. Face scrunched, heart beating fast, I worked the cork anticipating the familiar “pop” and celebratory locker room spray as those nearby scattered and ducked. My friend Michael DeLoach, president of the Hook & Ladder winery, took pity on my plight and wrote the following instructions for me on how to remove the cork quietly, safely and saving all that spray in favor of actually drinking the wine. Today I cork like a pro! You can, too.
Have the bottle as chilled as possible (this keeps the internal pressure lower). With your non-favored arm, hold the bottom of bottle inside the crook of your elbow, firmly against your midsection, with your hand firmly around the neck.
While aiming the bottle at a ceiling corner (just in case), completely remove the foil and wire cage from the bottle (NOTE: the cork is now free to leave the bottle without warning — keep a hand or finger on the cork AT ALL TIMES).
Using a cloth towel, clutch the stopper in an “O” made by the thumb and forefinger of your favored hand. Gently, firmly, slowly and steadily twist the stopper back and forth, about a 1/2 turn at a time. Do not pull; the pressure inside the bottle should start to push the stopper out. Be patient! Jarring motions can break cork stoppers.
CRITICAL AND REQUIRING PRACTICE: As the stopper works its way out, it will steadily begin to accelerate out of the bottle. Your job: hold it in, allowing the compressed CO2 gas inside the bottle to seep out slowly, thus releasing all of the pressure inside the bottle gradually.
The stopper should now be out (without the “pop”, and without the spill), and the bottle ready to pour.
You may also enjoy, wine guru Michael DeLoach’s article, Champagne and Sparkling Wine: Stuck in an Expensive Rut?