Control that Cork!
It sounds like a joke, I know. But apparently hundreds of people each year get hit in the eye with champagne corks, many of them on New Year's Eve. And many of them suffer lasting, serious damage to their vision.
According to Tamara Fountain, a Chicago-area ophthalmologist speaking for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a cork fired from a bottle of bubbly can travel up to 50 miles per hour. If it hits you in the eye, it can scratch the cornea (the pain from which will bring you to your knees), bruise or tear the retina, disrupt the drainage system (which can eventually lead to a certain form of glaucoma), or damage the lens (leading to a cataract).
Like many injuries, though, this one is easily avoided. Here are the AAO's tips for safely opening that magnum of Dom Perignon (or Korbel....). You can also watch this video supplied by the AAO showing the proper technique; watch till the end to see a flying cork shatter a glass.
- Chill your champagne or other sparkling wine to 45 degrees Fahrenheit before opening. Corks are more likely to pop unexpectedly from warm bottles.
- Don't shake or agitate the bottle before opening.
- Take precautions from the very start of the opening process: You can't count on that little wire cage to hold a ready-to-burst cork from popping. (Fountain says the pressure in that bottle is between 50 pounds per square inch and 90 PSI -- the same, she says, as the pressure in the tire of a double-decker bus.)
- Remove the cage. Drape the cork end of the bottle with a towel, and grab it.
- Point the bottle at a 45-degree angle, away from yourself and any bystanders.
- Slowly and firmly twist the bottle while holding the cork -- still sheathed in that towel -- steady. When the cork's just about to pop, press it down slightly to keep it under control as it eases out.
- Never open any sparkling beverage with a corkscrew.
Have you ever corked yourself in the eye? Please share your story.
And have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!
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