You'll Put Your Eye Out, Kid

I've seen a champagne cork blow a hole in a ceiling tile. Opening a bottle is always tricky, but here's how to do it like a pro. First, NO POPS! You want the escaping gas to make a quiet hiss. Second, if you are new to this, put a dry, clean dishcloth over the cork to give you a better grip and to protect your eyes and ceiling in case of a particularly boisterous bottle. Finally, hold the cork with your left hand, and twist the bottle with your right (opposite if you are a lefty). Once open, pour the wine gently to get as little head as possible. And don't ever use one of those old-style flat-shaped glasses. If you don't have a champagne flute-style glass, a regular wineglass is okay.

Is It Really Champagne?

True champagne is only from the Champagne area of France, just east of Paris. If it comes from anywhere else, it is rightfully called sparkling wine.

Meet the Expert

If you are interested in delving more deeply into the world of champagne, you should be aware of the guru of sparkling wines, Tom Stevenson. He is the author of the two indispensable books on the subject, Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine (Wine Appreciation Guild, $50) and Tom Stevenson's Champagne and Sparkling Wine Guide (Wine Appreciation Guild, $14.95). The encyclopedia is jammed with facts, insights, and information that you won't find anywhere else. His guide is an annual release, covering all of the champagnes he has tasted during the prior year.

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