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Corkscrews & Beyond: Six Ways to Open a Wine Bottle

Corks slowly became the most prominent bottle stoppers during a long three-hundred-year period between 1600 and the early 1900s.

With the cork becoming a standard closure, wine lovers developed several cork-pulling devices, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

Although we don’t know for sure who invented the first cork-pulling gadget, we DO know that the first 17th-century models certainly had a helical screw or worm. The invention was often called bottlescrew.

Time passed, and people devised an immense range of corkscrew models. Today, though, only some prevail. Here’s how to open a bottle six ways.

The Timeless Screw Pulls

A handle is vital to hold the device steady. It can be as simple as a piece of wood or as sophisticated as stainless steel, ergonomic handle.

As you turn the handle, the perpendicular worm penetrates the cork, and with a strong pull, the cork pops.

Although a classic device, the screw pull has plenty of disadvantages. Some corks are unwilling to yield, and old corks will break when facing such brute force.

More often than not, the wine will be spilled, and if you’re not careful, you might give yourself a black eye. Of all the ways to open a bottle of wine, this is our least favorite.

Two-Pronged Cork Pullers

A simple device comprising a handle and two parallel metallic prongs that fit in the tight space between the cork and the inside of the bottle’s neck is, for many, the finest cork puller in the market.

This classy tool allows the user to remove the cork without damaging it, which is immensely appreciated by collectors who keep the stopper as a token.

The two-pronged cork puller is also ideal for removing old, crumbly corks without damaging them or contaminating the wine with residue, so it’s a must in every sommelier’s pocket, even if it’s seldom used.

A more advanced model includes a helical screw that supports the prongs for a more secure pull.

Waiter’s Corkscrew

The waiter’s friend or two-step corkscrew is the single best tool for the trade.

Created in 1882 by the inventor German Wienke, the waiter’s corkscrew looks like a pocket knife. It conceals the screw and a blade, protecting the pocket’s integrity during a long shift.

The device uses a rudimentary lever, allowing the user to pull the handle while lifting the worm (and the cork) slowly and steadily within one or two controlled steps.

Two-hundred years later, the waiter’s friend is the most reliable corkscrew on earth, and you can find one for two dollars or a few thousand. Nevertheless, the concept behind every one of them is the same.

We designed our own waiter’s corkscrew, which we use at the Wine School. Pick one up yourself! Our personal favorite way to open a bottle of wine.

Winged Corkscrew

The winged corkscrew is a crowd-pleaser. A coiled screw concealed within the device’s body pulls up even the most stubborn corks with ease.

As you turn the handle, a set of gears pushes the worm towards the cork lifting a pair of wings in the opposite direction.

Once the wings are wide open, one must only push them gently to retrieve the cork.

Incredibly effective, this corkscrew has little portability, making it best suited for having it in one’s kitchen drawer rather than in a restaurant scenario.

This corkscrew can be beautifully ornamented, from a classic style to ultra-modern, making them fun collectibles.

The winged corkscrew is a crowd-pleaser. A coiled screw concealed within the device’s body pulls up even the most stubborn corks with ease. As you turn the handle, a set of gears pushes the worm towards the cork lifting a pair of wings in the opposite direction. Once the wings are wide open, one must only push them gently to retrieve the cork.

Incredibly effective, this corkscrew has little portability, making it best suited for having it in one’s kitchen drawer rather than in a restaurant scenario. This corkscrew can be beautifully ornamented, from a classic style to ultra-modern, making them fun collectibles.

Lever Corkscrews

The lever-style or rabbit corkscrew takes the winged corkscrew’s engineering to another level.

The device has a gripping handle that adjusts to the bottle’s neck, and with a swift up-down movement, the cork is gripped and pulled in the blink of an eye.

Although a beautiful collector’s piece and a flashy appliance, the lever corkscrew has little use in professional scenarios but might be appropriate for wine drinkers with movement disabilities as its leverage power can help anyone remove a stuck cork.

This is a very easy way to open a wine bottle. And big props to its inventor. Sadly, many sommeliers believe the effort to be akin to reinventing the wheel and adding little added value.

Bottom line: a great tool for wine enthusiasts, but if you want to look like a pro when you open a bottle of wine, opt for something else.

Automatic Wine Openers

Automatic wine openers work like magic. Set it in place and press a button, as simple as that.

The battery-powered appliance might be a technological breakthrough, but not a much-needed one. The device’s patent was filed in 2001, and after twenty years, the model has become fancier, but not much more useful.

Although it does as promised, you won’t see electric wine openers in restaurants soon, and you surely don’t need one at home unless you share your flat with an elderly roommate who will very much appreciate the wine opener’s comfortable advantage.

Coravin, The New Wave of Wine Openers

A real revolution in bottle-opening technology came with the invention of the Coravin in 2011.

More than a wine opener, this is a Wine Preservation System. A surgical needle pierces the cork and injects a sterile gas to force the wine to pour out the device by pure pressure.

Once the needle is removed, the cork’s natural elasticity seals the entrance protecting the wine from its most feared enemy — oxygen.

With Coravin, one can serve a glass of wine, or even a two-ounce pour while leaving the rest of the wine untouched. This has allowed wine lovers to enjoy their collection of bottles for weeks instead of hours and restaurants to serve age-worthy wines by the glass.

Choose Your Weapon

For professional wine service, you’re probably better off with a waiters’ friend for everyday use, a two-prong puller for old bottles, and a Coravin to serve contemplative bottles by the glass.

Other than that, if you’re looking for a wine opener to have around your house, have fun! For wine openers, the more creative, the better. There are tons of exciting models out there, and as long as they do the job, they’re okay.

Remember, wine might be a contemplative beverage, but it’s also fun, so build your corkscrew collection and bring it out whenever you have company. After all, wine is about sharing, and sharing your passion for wine is part of it all.

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