It’s often said that there are a thousand different ways to do a simple action, but only one you can rely on. Whoever came up with that saying may well have been thinking about opening wine bottles when they jotted it down.
Over the years, we’ve seen hundreds of different methods for popping that cork and getting to the good stuff inside. These have included the various ‘hacks’ which you can rely on when you’ve found yourself caught with a bottle of wine but no corkscrew (our favorite? Putting the bottle in a shoe, and banging it against the wall), as well as the pomp and ridiculousness of ‘sabering’ Champagne bottles. Believe us – that one’s best left to the professionals.
Let’s take a look at this subject in a little more detail, and clear up any doubts you have in mind. After all, there’s no feeling worse than when you see a cork snap off in the bottle, and those tiny pieces of wood bobbing about in your precious wine!
Corkscrews and More
We’ve been introduced to dozens of devices and mechanisms (many of which look for all the world like they’ve dropped out of a science fiction movie) whose only purpose is to pry a piece of wood out of a glass bottle neck… and yet which do it with only marginally greater ease than you’d find with a cheap corkscrew from your local store.
Our advice? Take your cue from the great sommeliers and staff at the best wine bars of the world. These guys wouldn’t be seen dead with a cumbersome semi-automatic electric corkscrew, which lights up with a dozen LEDs when you’re trying to open a bottle of Beaujolais. In their place? A simple ‘waiter’s friend’ style corkscrew – small, neat, and perfectly adequate at doing the job with a flick of the wrist. They might take a little practice to perfect the use of, but once you do, you’ll never look at another corkscrew again.
The Technique: Step by Step
Here is the standard technique for opening any regular bottle of wine (Champagne will require a different technique) which has been stoppered with a cork.
Hold the bottle of wine stationary, with the base flat on the table or other steady surface. Don’t tuck it under your arm, as you’ll cause a spillage. Also, don’t squeeze it between your thighs – you’ll probably end up smacking yourself in the chin (if you don’t give yourself a hernia first).
Use the sharp, serrated blade of your waiter’s friend to cut across the back, front, and top of the foil seal. Mind your fingers – unless you’re secretly a vampire, blood and wine aren’t the most pleasant of combinations.
Push the sharp tip of the screw into the cork – just off from the center – and then rotate well into the cork itself, until just one twist of the screw remains outside.
Pull down the lever of your waiter’s friend. Use the first ‘step’ of the lever to pry most of the cork out of the bottle, then switch to the second. This should allow you to remove the cork completely. If not, use your hand to give it one final tug.
Pour your wine, and enjoy!