Cathy Gowdie

Popping tends to precede a lot of foaming and wine spillage.
Popping tends to precede a lot of foaming and wine spillage.

What's the best way to open champagne? I like to pop the cork with a bang but my girlfriend says I should take it more slowly.

Before we proceed, allow me to present you with the Memorial Two Ronnies Prize for Double Entendre. As for your question? For sheer effect, nothing beats opening a champagne bottle with a sabre. This is a big, curved knife - or a small sword - used to slice off the neck of the bottle before, somewhat hastily, pouring the contents (hopefully without glass shards therein). Bonus points if you wear Napoleonic military costume; double points if you provide video footage.

If you've mislaid your household champagne sabre, you can find a new one online for between about $100 and $600. Yes, I think that's expensive and, no, I don't have one. It's a gift idea for the dipsomaniac with everything.

If, like me, you would rather spend your hard-earned on actual champagne than on implements to open it, this brings us back to the age-old question: pop the cork, or ease it out? Popping makes a wonderfully festive noise and clearly has the advantage when it comes to breaking light fittings and causing lifelong eye injuries. It also tends to precede a lot of foaming and wine spillage, making it the method of choice for partygoers, Grand Prix winners and well-refreshed relatives at the Christmas table.

Wine professionals and hospital personnel, especially those rostered on for New Year's Eve, tend to favour the ''easing'' method. Instead of twisting or pulling the cork, hold it with one hand (a napkin or tea towel may aid your grip) while rotating the bottle with the other. Use a thumb to inhibit the cork from shooting out too quickly. It should emerge with no more than a soft hiss of escaping gas.

A friend likes to tell the story of a champagne expert giving a demonstration at a New York hotel. ''Take care,'' he told his audience. ''When the cork is released, it should sound like the sigh of a contented woman.''

The expert misjudged: the cork shot to the ceiling and bounced around the room. A man in the audience jumped to his feet waving his hand. ''Yes! I think I know her!'' Merry Christmas. And good luck with your girlfriend.