Rachel Bennett

How to Open a Bottle of Champagne

In Food on June 7, 2011 at 20:20

There are many ways of tackling a champagne cork: the practiced dexterity of a sommelier as, with gentle pop and vaporous sigh, the bottle is unbound and bubbles cascade into your flute; the violent yank of tipsy revelers and attendant cheer as the bottle emits a shower of froth and drenches the drinkers. And then there is my favorite.

I first witnessed Catherine’s method of uncorking champagne at a brunch party in honor of the royal wedding. For some reason the happy couple had chosen marry at 11 in the morning, evidently not anticipating the destabilizing effect this would have on the nation’s sobriety.  Naturally, such an occasion called for serious bubbles and by 10.30 we were ready to uncork the first bottle. Catherine obliged.

She began in routine fashion, peeling off the foil and freeing the cork from its wire cage. Here her method diverged from the norm. She tugged and twisted the cork so that it began to give a little. Then she held the bottle with both hands and an expression of mingled curiosity and alarm, like someone witnessing the final moments before the detonation of an explosive. After several seconds the cork began sliding of its own accord and Catherine’s eyes widened as with a resounding pop the cork launched across the room with the speed of a determined torpedo.

Catherine’s method may not be graceful or practical but it possesses a certain panache that other, more conventional methods lack. Last weekend, during brunch (always incomplete without mimosas) I had Catherine aim the bottle out the window, to avoid damaging my cousin’s flat. The cork erupted from the bottle and sailed across Saint Andrews Road heading towards the tennis courts beyond. As it happened, a man from downstairs was walking his scottie just as the cork took its maiden voyage though the bright, morning air. Fortunately, the cork missed both man and dog, yet both looked up at the sky and then down at the fallen cork, bemused.

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