kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


Miss Manners Tackles Champagne

I read the following letter to Miss Manners this morning in The Washington Post, and her response. I've never written to Miss Manners before, but I had to put in my 2 cents worth, so I emailed her (see the letter I emailed her at the end).

Dear Miss Manners:
At a lovely restaurant near our home, my husband and I ordered a bottle of champagne to enjoy with our meal. When the champagne was brought to the table to be opened, my husband smiled at me in anticipation, as we always love to hear the sound of a cork popping from a bottle of champagne -- one of the most celebratory sounds one can imagine, at least in our minds.

After watching the waitress uncork the bottle soundlessly, we joked that it must've been a "dud" and we were disappointed that it didn't pop, and explained our feelings about the joyfulness associated with the sound.

She smiled and agreed with us, but then told us that management of the restaurant was very specific in their instruction to the servers that champagne corks must exit the bottle utterly soundlessly, seemingly with the implication that the noise may disturb others.
While I realize that there may be some small extra emission of effervescence if one allows the cork to pop, it seems stoical to me that one would have to do so for reasons of etiquette. Could you clarify?
First please allow Miss Manners to ease the cork out of her eye from your last celebration.
Your waitress's theory notwithstanding, it is not the noise that is disturbing to others in the vicinity so much as a fast blow from a flying cork. And then there is the overflowing bottle, a look best saved for christening ships.

Your waitress opened the champagne bottle correctly, even if she didn't understand why. Popping the cork, however exciting you may find it, is considered a sign of ineptitude. Miss Manners suggests that you celebrate at home in the future, rather than among innocent strangers.

Dear Miss Manners,

I read with interest the letter from a woman who was disappointed when she and her husband went out to dinner, and the waitress didn't "pop" the cork loudly on their champagne bottle...

You were correct in stating that a flying cork can be dangerous to anyone seated nearby. However, as a wine educator and consultant, I can tell you that any sommelier worth his or her salt wouldn't think of loudly disengaging a Champagne cork for another reason: people drink and enjoy Champagne and sparkling wine for the bubbles. As dramatic as it may be to hear that loud "pop", and see the champagne flow out of the bubble, much of the carbon dioxide--the power behind those gorgeous bubbles--escapes as well, making the sparkling wine, well, less sparkling. Much of what makes fine Champagne is the size of the bubbles and how many of them there are (lots and lots of really tiny bubbles is desirable...)

If the couple really cared for the taste of Champagne, and not just the spectacle of it, it doesn't behoove them to complain about a soundless uncorking. On the contrary, they should be happy that they had a server who knew the correct procedure to allow them to truly enjoy the bottle.

Cheers-- Kelly