New Year's Eve: How to safely open a champagne bottle

New Year's celebrations can be tricky business when the time comes to pop the cork a bottle of champagne. Here's how to open one safely.

Champagne corks can fly up to 80 km/h on their way out of the bottle

Each year, hundreds of people suffer serious, potentially blinding eye injuries from fast-flying champagne corks, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

New Year's celebrations can be tricky business when the time comes to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne.

The internet is filled with champagne-fail videos showing wannabe sommeliers and bartenders struggling with shattering bottles and wayward corks.

Each year, hundreds of people suffer serious, potentially blinding eye injuries from fast-flying champagne corks, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

"A warm bottle of champagne and poor technique in removing the cork can really be a dangerous combination," says Andrew Iwach, the group's spokesman, in a safety tips video created by the organization. Champagne corks can fly up to 80.5 km/h on their way out of the bottle, according to the organization.

To avoid disaster this New Year's Eve, follow these tips to safely pop open a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine:

  • Chill the bottle to at least 7.2 C.
  • Hold down the cork with the palm of your hand and remove the wire cage.
  • Place a towel over the top of the bottle and grasp the cork.
  • Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from you and any other people.
  • Keep the bottle at that angle while firmly twisting it and holding the cork to break the seal.
  • Continue until the cork is almost out of the bottle's neck.
  • Counter the cork's force just as it breaks free from the bottle by using slight downward pressure.

Never:

  • Try to open a warm bottle. The cork is more likely to pop unexpectedly.
  • Use a corkscrew.
  • Use your thumbs to force the cork out.
  • Shake the bottle.

Those with more experience may be tempted to try a technique called sabrage, where the cork is unleashed using a sword, sabre or knife.

This method is not recommended without having a seasoned sommelier on hand to take you through the process — it doesn't end well if not properly done.

Sommerlier Jake Richards from Grape Expectations showed CBC News the steps for safe sabrage.

Richards, who has seen this method done using ice skates, the bottom of a wine glass and CD cases, suggests:

  • Chilling the bottle.
  • Taking it outdoors.
  • Removing all the foil from the top and neck of the bottle.
  • Loosening the wire cage, bringing it up to the second lip and retying it.
  • Finding the seam running up the bottle's side to the mouth and making a fluid slide along it with a sturdy kitchen knife.
  • After a couple fluid slides, letting your elbow snap straight out to remove the cork fully.

To repeat, this is not something to try for the first time at a New Year's Eve and without some expert guidance.

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