How (NOT) To Open A Bottle Of Port

A little while ago we posted about the various ways one might attempt to open a bottle of champagne… of course, if you opt for Sabrage then on your head (or your hands) be it!

There is a unique and traditional way top open a bottle of port. It involves heat and tongs… oh and a steady nerve, don’t try this at home unless you know what you are doing!

Get yourself some port tongs

The worst thing you can do when preparing to consume a bottle of vintage port… you know… the one you’ve been waiting a couple of decades to drink… the absolute worst thing you can do is to disturb the sediment. If you do then you’ll have to wait a few days for it to settle before trying again!

Well there is an expert method of opening a bottle but it’s not for the faint hearted. The first step is to heat your port tongs until they are glowing red. Port tongs are specially shaped to close around the neck of a port bottle, and they glow red at around 500 degrees!

Once they are nice and toasty, place them round the neck of the port bottle just below the cork and grip the bottom of the bottle to stop it moving.

After waiting for a minute or so, twist the tongs sharply and hopefully you will have just snapped the top of the bottle off cleanly without sending shards of glass into your expensive vintage Port! Remember to put the very hot tongs down somewhere safe after carefully letting go of the bottle.

You can then smugly decant your port safe in the knowledge that you didn’t disturb the sediment, impressed any onlooker and avoided a horrific and painful injury.


Image of “Rabelo Douro en–Porto” by Photographer: Thomas Istvan Seibel – English Wikipedia: w:en:Image:800px-Blick über den Rio Douro auf Porto.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Rabelos are boats traditionally used to transport barrels of port down the River Douro for storage and aging in caves at Vila Nova de Gaia near Porto.


How To Open A Bottle Of Champagne

Opening a bottle of Champagne is an occasion in itself. The sound of popping corks is synonymous with celebration. Here are a number of ways to get your party started!

Formula One Style

While it is true that the champagne bottles found on the winners’ podium of a Formula 1 race have already had the corks removed before the champagne is sprayed, it is also true that shaking a corked bottle will result in the cork flying from the bottle showering those in the immediate vicinity. After all, Champagne was initially known as “the devil’s drink” due to its explosive tendencies. Ultimately, a fun but arguably wasteful method, particularly if it is good champagne!


According to legend Napoleon and his troops invented this method of opening bottles of Moët to celebrate victory. Clearly Napoleon was a fan of Champagne and is widely reported to have commented:

“I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate….and I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself.”

This technique involves sliding a sabre sword along the neck of the bottle breaking the glass. Think carefully before trying this. Assuming you can get a sabre home without violating British knife legislation, think… am I any good with a sabre? Warning, may well result in broken bottles and severed fingers – certainly not recommended.

Slowly and safely

Firstly, remove the foil and loosen the wire cage surrounding the cork. Hold the bottle at a 45 degree angle. Start to turn the base of the champagne bottle, while holding the cork and cage firmly. As the cork starts to push out, hold the cork firmly until you hear a soft pop.

While this method lacks some of the ‘show’ of the other methods, the soft pop sound means that you’ve preserved the bubbles in your champagne and you’re ready to serve with your bottle and fingers intact!

So get practising!

Caution, we did warn you about the sabres..

If you have a different method of opening your champagne then please comment or contact us and let us know!

Featured image is “Champagne uncorking photographed with a high speed air-gap flash” by Niels NoordhoekOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.