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How to Open a Sparkling Wine Bottle with a Broken Cork

This has been an interesting week.  I found myself with a serious problem.  I had chilled a bottle of sparkling wine to have handy if we found ourselves in need of some bubbles.  We normally have at least one in the fridge at all times.  Having just finished our chilled split of Ruffino Prosecco the night before, we didn’t currently have anything open.  My mother in law is in town and she likes to occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner, so I decided to open the next bottle of sparkling wine, a CA sparkling which shall remain nameless due to the issues it caused.

It started like any other sparkling wine opening.  Peel the foil, un-hook the cage, cautiously reposition bottle so one hand is on the top and the other is able to twist the bottom of the bottle.  Normally what happens at this point with a properly chilled bottle of bubbles is that the cork gently pushes out with a quiet “pssssst” and we go on our merry way.  This time the cork didn’t budge.  It didn’t even move a bit!  I gently twisted, then twisted a bit more and out came the cork but no hiss.  Suddenly I realized that only the top part of the cork had twisted off, leaving the small compressed bit inside the bottle of wine.  Several scenarios went through my head, none of them are advisable under normal circumstances and all come with a level of danger that I would not recommend to any person.  Remember, sparkling wine bottles are a grenade in glass and I had just pulled the pin.  I quickly took the bottle outside in our back yard to prevent unnecessary damage to our home and then set about working on getting the bottle open.

  1. Pull the cork out with a corkscrew?

No! This puts your hands and face directly in the path of the pressure coming from the bottle and is extremely dangerous.  Not even I was that crazy!

2.  Try to dislodge the cork by shaking the bottle.

In theory, this should have worked.  I pointed the bottle away from anything and anyone which could have been injured and shook vigorously.  However, I was unsuccessful.

3. Bang the base of the bottle on something hard to dislodge the cork.

I’ve seen this work for still wines so why shouldn’t it work for sparkling.  I fully expected the cork remnant to come flying out.  This was not the case and after denting our stairs, much to my husband’s chagrin since he just built them, I decided to reconsider.

At last I was left with no other option.  I could only saber the bottle open.  There was only one problem.  I had never had the guts to saber one open before.  Of course, like any good wine professional, I knew the theory behind how to make it work but had never actually done it.  I stocked up on safety gear such as safety glasses, an oven mitt, and my apron to protect from flying shards (or at least that’s what I told myself).  I found our large chopping knife and then the seam on the bottle. I turned around to see my mother in law, son, and husband filming me.  Fabulous! If I’m going to die, I might as well get it on video.  I turned my eyes back to the bottle, placed the knife, and prayed.  As I sliced up the neck, along the seam created by the mould, and hit the finish of the bottle.  Off it popped and flew across the lawn. I had successfully solved the problem and my mother in law had her bubbles for the evening!  However DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!


10 Responses

  1. none of your suggestions worked for me when I had the cork break on a bottle of champagne.
    A corkscrew worked excellently.
    Really you should delete what you’ve written here, sticking a knife in a high pressure bottle is dangerously bad advice.

    1. Hi Dan,
      Sorry this didn’t work for you. As a point of clarification you should never stick a knife into a bottle of sparkling wine. The idea is to run the knife up the seam of the glass and strike the finish of the bottle (rim around the opening) to cause it to pop off. I definitely DON’T recommend trying this at home if you haven’t been instructed on proper technique from a professional.

  2. yes it does work. I just did it. Thank you!
    to the person who commented on you should never stick a knife in a bottle, I’ll say only this: You should always read the entire paragraph before commenting and forging an opinion.

  3. I’m a longtime bartender, and I have never had a dry cork with a bottle of bubbles (I have opened hundreds) UNTIL today! However, lacking a saber, or anything I could trust equivalent, I did use a corkscrew. I did not use my waiter’s key, but used one of those gull wing types that are common in most homes. Slow, steady insertion, with the bottle at the usual 45° angle, applying an even twist on the withdrawal, and I had no problems whatsoever. Do not fear the corkscrew, just use caution and the same safety principles for opening by hand and you will be sipping tiny bubbles in no time.

  4. The gull wing wine opener worked wonderfully on a champagne bottle with a broken cork. We put a couple of kitchen towels around it just to be safe.

  5. My cork is stuck wsy down in the neck and is so hard that the cork screw can’t even penetrate it. I guess I am at a loss for my Prosecco

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About Nova Cadamatre

Nova Cadamatre has become one of the most versatile and experienced winemakers in the industry. She holds a Bachelors from Cornell University in Viticulture.  In 2017 she achieved the title of Master of Wine and was the first female winemaker in the US to do so. 

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