Public Service Announcement

It is coming upon the season of the year for champagne, and in the interests of safety and peace amongst family and friends, we here at The LawDog Files would like to address some concerns.

Specifically involving the humble champagne cork.

Ladies and gentlemen, nothing takes the sparkle out of a celebration quite like an errant champagne cork ground-zeroing in your hostesses heirloom crystal stemware collection, prized Ming vase or — worst case scenario — impacting amidships of Fluffy, and causing said family feline to take a high-velocity lap or six through various displayed pretties.

Plus — and here I speak to my fellow knuckle-draggers — as gentlemen, we strive to avoid offering unintended insults or creating unintended awkward situations.

And nothing says “Awkward Situation” quite like the random ricochets of your champagne stopper terminating in the dècolletage of another gentleman’s date.

So. Here is our nemesis, the standard bottle of champagne.

First, champagne must be chilled. Not only is sparkling wine meant to be consumed while cold, it has considerably less pressure contained in the bottle — which means less velocity if things should go all agley. A bucket of ice with some water is quite adequate to chill the champagne to the required 45 degrees Fahrenheit — if given adequate time. Twenty minutes should do nicely.

Now, find a cloth napkin or kitchen towel, and either drape it over your non-dominant arm, or place next to the bottle.

Take your non-dominant hand and place the palm firmly upon the top of the cork, with the twist of the wire cork cage betwixt your fore-finger and thumb.

Press down with a gentle firmness upon the cork as you untwist the wire cork cage. You do this because there is some small chance that the cork will fire upon release of the cage. Be prepared for this — your startle reflex will cause you to clamp down on the errant cork — smile, and present the cork to your date or hostess with a gallant bow.

In this case, the cork has remained steadfast in its duty. While keeping gentle pressure upon the cork, loosen the cage all around the bottle and cork, then take your cloth napkin or towel and flip it over the top of the hand resting on the cork. Slide that hand down the neck of the bottle until below the fall of the cloth, then reach back up with that hand and take a grip of the cloth-wrapped neck of the bottle and lift the bottle gently.

With your dominant hand, secure a grip upon the fat part of the bottle, then grasp the cloth-covered cork just above where it enters the neck with the other hand, bottle canted at an angle of 45 degrees — more or less.

Now, the hand holding the body of the bottle gently — gently, I say! — twists the bottle towards your body, and down; while the other hand — again, gently! — twists the cork in the opposite direction and up.

You will be rewarded with the characteristic “Pop!” — stop pulling. Leave your hand holding the cloth and cork on the neck of the bottle until you are sure there will be no spewing forth of foam — the cloth will catch any froth if there is.

Remove the cloth containing the cork — a restrained flourish is appropriate here, if desired — and pour the champagne into glasses.



I wouldn't do that if I were you ...
The Bourne Syndrome

32 thoughts on “Public Service Announcement”

  1. Since I prefer my décolletage to remain unadorned by champagne corks, thank you for the wonderful instructions. We will pass them on to all the gentlemen-in-training we know.

  2. I, too, was expecting instructions on where to obtain the proper sabre, proper sabreing technique, how not to decapitate the hostess, and so forth.

    Also, remember that it’s legally only champagne if it comes from Champagne. It may well be a sparkeling wine made using the méthode champenoise, and you may even like it better than one from Champagne, but some consider it to be a gaucherie to refer to, say a Spanish Cava or a California Sparkler, as “champagne.”

    (Our local wine store likes to do Champagne Tatsers” in the run up to the holidays. Mrs. Drang has discovered that she prefers the more modest priced products, whether “real chapmagne” or “mere” sparklers, to the higher priced brands.)

  3. Silk sheets, room service, strawberries in champagne and a view of Paris from the Georg Cinq….and no an errant cork. Can’t beat it.

  4. Awww Hell. If you can’t have a little fun bouncing the cork off the ceiling, what’s the point?

  5. When well-practiced at executing the removal technique slowly enough, one can also impress champagne snobs present by letting the bottle depressurize with a gentle hiss, instead of the pop.

    They claim some highfalutin’ folderol about the sudden release of pressure injuring the flavor of the beverage.

  6. And here I thought stepping outside, placing both thumbs on the underside of the cork and hollering “Bombs Away!” before popping it was the proper method of decanting champagne…..

  7. Fluffy isn’t the worst case. My junior high shop teacher had a glass eye. I always assumed it was due to some sort of cool shop accident. I found out that it was actually from taking a champagne cork in the eye. Looking back, I can’t remember who told me, and therefore the likely veracity, but it at least sounds plausible.

  8. What’s wrong with unscrewing the cap or just opening the carton?


    Probably French for nekulturny

  9. AS someone who had to explain to her military daddy that the rapidly growing bruise expanding out of her shirt collar was a result of a simple champagne misstep and NOT in fact something he had to go killing a lad over…

    thanks. Here’s hoping you spared another lass an uncomfortable moment.

  10. Being a youngin, less than 2 years out of college, and with no sophisticated friends to speak of, we drink champaign like the Russians drink vodka. They throw away the cap, forcing them to consume the whole bottle. The convenience of champaign allows us to ballistically dispose of the cork with the security of having no clue where it went. We pop the bottles outdoors, never aim it at anything we don’t intend to destroy, always keep the bottle pointed downrange, but we don’t really select a target, therefore don’t know what is beyond it.

  11. The art of properly opening a bottle of Champagne is, IMHO, one of the essential skills every man should master.

  12. I thought I was the only one under 30 who knew how to do this properly. I wowed an entire room of similarly aged acquaintances and friends when serving a (rather cheap) champagne in the correct manner, though in this case, I had to cover and flourish with a clean dishtowel. I had read the method you describe, though you put it better, in some “how to tie a tie/greet the Earl of Windsor/mix a perfect martini” combo book. I received murmurs during the process, and a little light applause at the end.

    I didn’t think it was all that amazing, but if the ladies were impressed, let ’em stay that way. Personally I think that my friends just have drastically low expectations, even in the middle of a Shadowrun session.

    Nowadays, being married, I tend to threaten to use the champagne cork’s bruising velocity to prevent insubordination in the ranks.


  13. OR you could have my luck… Gently pop the cork, then drop the damn bottle… sigh…

  14. One should examine the ceiling of the room prior to “bouncing” a cork from it. At my sister’s wedding, one of our guests decided to uncork one of the bottles in the kitchen…which had a drop-ceiling of fiberglass panels interspersed with fluourescent lighting panels.

    At launch the cork proceeded at high velocity through one of the plastic light-covers (leaving a nicely circular entrance wound), destroyed the 4-foot fluorescent bulb in a shower of thin glass which was fortunately retained by the remnants of the plastic panel, ricocheted off the bottom of the fixture, and left an exit wound through the adjacent fiberglass panel.

    My mother was NOT pleased.

    All subsequent launches were outdoors.

  15. Pfft.

    Everyone knows the proper way to open a bottle of champagne is to break it over the bow of a newly commissioned ship.

    Failing that, shake the hell outta the bottle, point it at the person in the room you like the least, and holler at the top of your lungs, “For those about to drink [POP] We salute you!”…

    (In all seriousness, thanks for the tip LD)

  16. Pshaw…

    Campers, it’s not a GOOD reception unless the guys line up facing each other, and try to score hits… Last man standing has to kiss the one who catches that flowery thing. Sometimes this can be a Good Thing, but often can be a Bad Thing.

  17. Great, now I’m unsure if a cherished childhood memory means I’m family to a bunch of uncultured boors or wasteful snobs.

    Early 80’s, close friend of the family is the pastor at a church in St. Thomas, USVI. We went down to visit for Christmas. Apparently my parents found out champagne was pretty cheap on the island compared to back home, and a case was bought. My parents and their friends used up a case of champagne, popping corks from the second story balcony and seeing how far they’d go. I remember a couple easily crossing over the street and into the park below the house.
    Fluffy was not hurt that night, but the island governor did call and tell us to turn down the reggae tape we had playing.

  18. :: Threads boggles at the Capt and the saber opening, but thinks he should have been in the full kilt’n’kit for the honour of the regiment::

    Best cork disaster at my house was the one where the cork scored a direct hit on the chandlier in the dining room. Got a new light fixture out of THAT one from the FIL. I’m not sure he didn’t aim at it deliberatly – it was a VERY ugly piece that came with the house and he’d threatened to destroy it before.

  19. Hey kid, here’s fifty if you can hit that chandelier with it.

    We started drinking champagne recently at our favorite club. The first bottle the little waitress tried to serve us caused me to display the involuntary ‘don’t point it at me’ flinch. I took the bottle from her and opened it, using your method and explanation.

    Next time we ordered champagne at the same club, the waitress handled the bottle pretty well, proving that some of us learn as we go along.

    Nice post.

  20. LawDog my Brother . . .

    Truly entertaining and informative as always. Although I too prefer the sword method. Keep up the good fight.

    Drive Thru Please. Later, AF.

  21. Yes, very elegant, I’m sure.
    It was the pouring it into the Flintstones jelly jars that marred the moment, to his everlasting chagrin.

  22. Champagne? Ick – nasty stuff. Some fine old Kentucky bourbon will do nicely.

    Ky Person

  23. You mean some idiots still uncage, prop thumb and push?

    *blank look*

    Well, kudos for trying to help them, sir, but if they’re still doing that then it’s the least of their worries. Really.

    They’ll sit then wave thair lady to a chair, that sort.

  24. Dammit. Dammit dammit dammit. There’s a place just up the road carries Veuve Cliquot. I may have to raid the exfiltration fun tomorrow.

    Oh, I do hanker so.

  25. I tasted Champagne once. To me it was like drinking an extortionately priced low grade carbonated vinegar. I’ll stick with Glen Garrioch.

    Gerry N.

  26. Strangely enough, last New Years we took the back of a meat cleaver after the cork of a bottle of sparkling wine, and it worked admirably. Didn’t even spill much. That young guy ain’t dating my daughter anymore, but he’ll be able to impress his next flame with serious panache! I think I’ll get my DH to try it this year.


  27. Dear Gentleman & Officer 'Dog:

    It is so good to read the works of a rare one who knows John Milton's definition of a gentleman: one who knows all of the arts of war and peace. While I was instructed in the gentle art mentioned above by my father when I was a lad of eighteen, it is good also to see the art described simply.

    And for those who think it proper to sword a champagne bottle, I am reminded of the sage words of my father, who taught that one should unsheath one's sword only when one is in the process of dispatching one's foe.

    This last maxim is also proper in the war between the sexes. Of course, every gentleman knows that the best part of that war is in sleeping with the enemy.

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