Q: What's the safest way to open a bottle of Champagne? Is it true that people have been injured by flying corks?—Dale, Tacoma, Wash.
A: Sparkling wine is synonymous with the holidays, but it's important to celebrate safely. (Just ask world champion downhill skier Lindsey Vonn!) According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the exit velocity of a flying Champagne cork can reach 50 mph, powerful enough to cause bleeding, abrasions or glaucoma if it hits someone in the eye. While quite rare, a direct hit can even result in loss of sight.
But have no fear: Taking the proper precautions to popping a bottle should ensure a safe and festive celebration. First, chill the bottle appropriately, down to about 40° F to 45° F. Chilling the bottle lessens the pressure inside; overheated bottles of sparkling wine have been known to spontaneously pop. When you're ready to open the bottle (which should never be pointed in the direction of anyone, or anything of value, for that matter), place it on a sturdy surface, with one hand over the top of the cork. With your free hand, unwrap the foil capsule and loosen (but do not remove) the wire cage that secures the cork in place. Finally, with one hand securely gripping the bottle and the other on the cage and cork, gently twist out the cork—ideally it will come out not with an explosive pop but with a gentle sigh. Enjoy responsibly!