This New Year’s Eve there is a strong chance you will be cracking open a bottle of the bubbly. But opening sparkling wine can be a dangerous affair—sometimes it seems the cork and contents have minds of their own. Most drinkers take care not to shake a bottle before opening it. But it's not as risky as you think, according to a new study from the University of Reims in Champagne-Ardenne. In fact, their research suggests that giving a bottle of Champagne a vigorous shake can reduce the risk of an explosion upon opening.
The reason, according to the study, lies in the bubbles. While sealed, the carbon dioxide in the wine and the carbon dioxide in the bottleneck are proportional. Shaking the bottle creates lots of large bubbles as the gas and liquid mix. But as these bubbles collapse, some of the carbon dioxide is temporarily absorbed into the liquid, slightly reducing the total amount of carbon dioxide gas in the bottle.
The drop in pressure is very dependent on time. If a bottle is opened right after a vigorous shaking session, there will be the familiar gushing spray that should really be reserved for a winner’s podium. However, if the bottle is left for a few minutes—the researchers found that 220 seconds is, on average, best—the dissipating bubbles trigger a slight pressure drop that lasts around 30 seconds.
Gérard Liger-Belair, a physics professor at the University of Reims who co-authored the study with colleagues at the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal in Bordeaux, is quick to point out that the decrease in pressure, “is indeed very small, and only detectable with our high-precision pressure sensors.”
Liger-Belair believes that because the pressure drop after shaking is minor, “The safer way to uncork a bottle of Champagne is to do it gently, without shaking the bottle,” he told Wine Spectator. Nevertheless, if a friend has some fun on New Year’s Eve by shaking the Champagne, you can thank them, wait 220 seconds and ease off the cork with ease.