Eye doctors urge care while opening bubbly on New Year’s Eve

jholland@modbee.comDecember 29, 2013 

  • OPENING A BOTTLE OF SPARKLING WINE

    • Chill it to 45 degrees or colder before opening. The cork on a warmer bottle is more likely to pop unexpectedly.

    • Don’t shake the bottle. Shaking increases the speed at which the cork leaves the bottle.

    • To open the bottle, hold down the cork with the palm of your hand while removing the wire hood. Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle away from yourself and others.

    • Place a towel over the entire top of the bottle and grasp the cork.

    • Keep the bottle at a 45-degree angle as you slowly and firmly twist the bottle while holding the cork to break the seal. Continue to hold the cork while twisting the bottle until the cork is almost out of the neck. Counter the force of the cork using slight downward pressure just as the cork breaks free from the bottle.

    • Never use a corkscrew to open a sparkling wine.

    More information, including a video, is at www.aao.org.

    Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

— If you drink on New Year’s Eve, don’t drive. And if you’re opening a bottle of sparkling wine, try not to put your eye out.

The latter advice comes from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which offers tips on safely removing corks from bottles as 2013 winds down Tuesday night.

“The pressure inside a champagne bottle is anywhere between 50 and 90 pounds per square inch,” said Dr. Andrew Iwach, an academy spokesman, in an online video. “That’s as much pressure as is found inside the tire of a double-decker bus.”

A cork can travel as fast as 50 mph and shatter the glasses you were about to fill with the drink, he added.

It matters not just because of eye health. A fair amount of the nation’s sparkling wine is made by Central Valley companies, and we don’t want anyone to sour on it because of a holiday mishap.

E.&J. Gallo Winery has some longtime brands, such as André and Totts, and its more recent Barefoot Bubbly has shaken up the market like nothing else – just don’t shake the bottle itself, unless you want to end up in an ophthalmologist’s office.

The Wine Group, with holdings including the former Franzia winery near Ripon, produces sparkling wines such as Cupcake and Flip Flop. Bronco Wine Co. near Ceres offers Allure, Crane Lake and a dozen other sparklers.

The state produced 8.94 million cases of sparkling wine for the U.S. market last year, up from 8.66 million in 2011 and 6.42 million in 2000, according to the Wine Institute in San Francisco.

Foreign countries shipped 7.75 million cases to the United States last year, and their growth rate has been greater than the state’s.

Speaking of foreigners, particularly French ones, there long has been quibbling about use of the term “champagne” on sparkling wine. Purists think it should go only on products made with grapes from the Champagne region of France. Under a 2006 agreement with the European Union, the term can be used on bottles made with U.S. grapes, as long as this origin is specified. Hence the “California champagne” you might pluck from a shelf next week.

It’s something to keep in mind for New Year’s Eve, along with that rule in the state Vehicle Code about driving drunk.

And don’t forget the advice from ophthalmologists about opening bottles. These are devoted professionals – visionaries, really – who wish you only the best for 2014.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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