Don’t be afraid: Pop that cork with style

Are you planning to uncork a bottle of sparkling wine to hail the arrival of 2023? If so, you won’t be alone. According to market statistics, sparkling wine is the most popular choice for U.S. celebrations on New Year’s Eve. An estimated 29% of all Americans will enjoy a glass or more to celebrate the New Year.

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And I’m pretty sure that quite a few of them will be a little nervous about popping that cork. Some might say that this aversion is based on sound thinking. “The popping of a Champagne cork is actually quite dangerous,” warns Union des Maisons de Champagne. “The pressure inside a Champagne bottle can launch a cork at a speed of 13 metres per second — fast enough to hit the eye from a distance of one metre in less than 1/10 of a second. Which is slightly faster than the full 1/10 of a second it takes for the human eye to blink in defence.”

Whoa! And that’s coming from a French trade association that’s in the business of encouraging people to drink Champagne. No way do they want to discourage you. But they do want you to be careful.

So what’s a thirsty New Year’s Eve party-goer to do? The good news is that there’s a safe and stylish way to get that cork out so gently and quietly that the cork won’t fly across the room: You can keep it safely in your hand!

What’s more, it’s not just for safety’s sake that you don’t want that cork to go flying: If you’re opening a pricey Champagne – and bear in mind that some prize bottles go up to $4,000 or $5,000 – you don’t want to waste a drop. Even if you’re going with a budget bubbly, it’s still better to keep the wine in the bottle or your glass than splashed on the floor.

So what’s the trick? It’s really simple. Start by ensuring that the bottle is well chilled with at least a few hours in the refrigerator. This reduces the gas pressure in the bottle. Then, handle the bottle gently as you prepare to open it. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, maker of the wine reviewed today, offers this advice:

Whether it’s a swanky soiree or just an informal gathering with friends, it’s time to pop that bottle …

• Never point the bottle toward yourself or others.
• First, remove the foil and then untwist the wire hood, keeping one thumb over the top of the hood to prevent the cork from moving.
• Then, with a good grip, wrap the palm of one hand around the cork, and with the other hand, hold the bottom of the bottle and twist the bottle from there.
• Twisting the bottle instead of the cork gives you more control and leads to an easy and classy opening. ​
• As a note, never try to pry the cork free or use a corkscrew.

If you’d like even more details, the folks at Union des Maisons de Champagne can fill you in. Their article, Uncorking a Bottle of Champagne, goes into considerable detail (in English) on opening the bottle and serving it with style.

Try it with your New Year’s Eve bottle … and if you’re looking for an excellent California sparkling wine in the celebratory-yet-affordable $20 range, I can confidently recommend Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, a California sparkling wine made by a leading French Champagne firm in the methode traditionnelle (traditional method) that imparts carbonation through additional fermentation in each individual bottle. You’ll find my tasting notes below.


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Today’s Tasting Report

Mumm Napa NV Brut Prestige ($19.99)

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige

Labeled “methode traditionnelle,” Mumm Napa Brut Prestige is made with a typical French Champagne blend of 45% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, plus smaller amounts of Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier. Clear, light gold color, it pours out with a mound of white foam that falls back quickly to reveal small, lasting bubbles. Given a little time to warm in the glass, it unveils delicious, subtle scents of pears and peaches. Carbonation yields a creamy, nearly dry mouthfeel, with white fruit consistent with the nose and good, crisp acidity for balance. 12.5% alcohol. (Dec. 28, 2022)

FOOD MATCH: Assuming you aren’t drinking it on its own in a celebration or as an aperitif, the producer suggests pairing it with hors d’oeuvres like crab cakes or smoked salmon; fresh green salads, or grilled chicken
and vegetables. We tried it with an Italian pasta dish, spaghetti cacio e pepe, and found the wine’s acidity and carbonation did a good job of cutting through the cheesy pasta dish.

WHEN TO DRINK: Drink up, the producer says. It’s not a wine meant for aging.

VALUE:’s $20 average U.S. retail matches my local price, which seems fair for this quality California sparkler from a French maker, although finds some shops offering it for $15 or less. It sells for $24 plus shipping at the winery.

For extensive information about Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, follow this winery link.

Check prices and find vendors for Mumm Napa Brut Prestige on

Read more about Mumm Napa at this Wine-Searcher link and view listings for other wines from this producer.


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