How to Properly Open Sparkling Wine

Here to help us properly open sparkling wine (Champagne, Prosecco, etc.) is Chris Lafleur, a sommelier based out of Toronto who focuses on selling and training all things wine.

The most challenging thing that sommeliers get nervous about when tableside is opening sparkling wine.

How do we do it?

What’s the right way?

Is it ok if the cork hits the ceiling?

Watch Chris Lafleur as he shares the basics of opening sparkling wine with us.

How to Properly Open Sparkling Wine Video Highlights:

  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 00:28 Opening Sparkling Wine
  • 00:49 The Tools
  • 01:11 How to Hold the Bottle
  • 01:20 Cut the Foil
  • 01:59 Remove Foil to Reveal the Cage
  • 02:15 Holding the Bottle and Cloth
  • 02:29 Open the Cage with 6 Turns
  • 02:45 Release the Cork / Open the Bottle
  • 03:16 Present the Cork
  • 03:29 Pour the First Glass and Top it
  • 03:55 Enjoy the Bubbly

Video Transcript:

Chris Lafleur
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back to the CH Wine tasting room. We have something a little bit different today. So for those of you who know a little bit about me, I’m a sommelier. I’m based out of Toronto, and a lot of the things that I do are focused on selling wine tableside in restaurants. And this also involves me training other people, servers, other sommeliers to do the same thing.

And the most challenging thing, I think that everyone is nervous to do tableside and probably if you’ve ever opened one of these in your home, you know what I mean? It’s opening sparkling wine. Like, how do we do it? What’s the right way? Is it okay if the cork hits the ceiling? Probably not. But I mean, depends on how many breakable things there are in close proximity to you when you do that.

So let me give you the basics on how we do it. First off, we need a corkscrew. We need our cloth. And these are going to be the most important items that we have today that we need our glass. And here’s the thing about glassware. You can pour into almost any kind of glass. Some people like coupe glasses, some people like flutes similar to this.

Some people like just regular wine glasses. For this one, we’re going to stick with traditional flutes because that’s what you’re most of the time going to see. So let’s begin. We take a grasp of the bottle by the neck. We’re very careful. And when we’re serving this to a guest, when we open it, we make sure that the label faces them.

For most of this procedure. Next, we take our corkscrew with a nice sharp knife on it, and we’re going to start to cut below this line. Now, I know if you’re looking at this in the camera, you can see that we do have actually a tag that you can use to pull this off and get it around that way.

You’re welcome to do that. But in a restaurant, because the tags aren’t always completely helpful or they don’t go all the way around instead of getting like one that’s only half pulled, we want to use the corkscrew knife to do it all the way. So like, so we’re going to cut it around underneath the second lip as if we’re trying to cut through the glass itself.

You won’t be able to do it, but it will ensure a nice cut along the foil. Then I make another incision. Incision like we’re doctors, a wine here along the cage, so that I can then use this to pull it up. And off we go. Oh, off we go, Off we go. That happens. That’s okay. Now, goodbye to the foil and goodbye to the knife.

We don’t need either anymore. Next thing we’re going to do is we’re going to take our cloth. We’re going to turn the little handle away. So it’s over here. We’re going to put our cloth with our thumb over the top of the cork. This ensures that once we open the cage, we never lose control of the cork. If you were doing, say, a certified CMS sommelier exam, this is one of the things you’ll be expected to do.

You don’t want to fail because you took your thumb off. Now I’ve opened up the cage with six turns of the cage six every time. Otherwise it’s a weird bottle. And then we flip the cloth back down over it. We use our fingers to loosen the cage a little, and then we start to open the wine. I’m keeping pressure on the top with my thumb and I’m slightly turning the wine back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

I’m not spinning it on the table and spinning it in my hand. I’m keeping pressure and keeping it fairly stable. Now I’m going to get close to opening it up. We’re going to let only a little bit of carbon dioxide out. So you get a little, little puff and a little sigh and that’s it. The wine is now open and I’ll take the bottle.

We’ll take the cork, will present it to the guests like so you can commemorate this for your first anniversary of the time that you defeated Strahd in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. You dungeon Heads know what I’m talking about. And then we’ll pour the first class. We start with just a light touch, and that’ll be the first sip that they can take to confirm the wine is not corked.

And then we top it up once we start getting around the table, we can still take two pause because of course, with effervescent wine, you don’t want it to bubble over the side. So we’re going very carefully and slowly and sometimes separate pause to pause is totally fine. And that’s it. That’s opening sparkling wine. Now show your friends how controlled and well you can do it.

And then on the second bottle, just pop that cork off and let the party begin. And that is how we do it. So I will see you at the next bottle and glass.

Chris Lafleur

Chris is a sommelier certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers and has worked on the floors of acclaimed Toronto restaurants, including Blueblood Steakhouse, Cibo Wine Bar, and Michelin Starred Don Alfonso 1890 (named the #1 Best Italian Restaurant in the World, outside of Italy).