An introduction to opening wine

Written By

May 27th 2019

The latest edition in our “An Introduction” series might not seem as interesting as decanting and glasses at first glance, but you would be surprised just how often we get asked about corkscrews. So many kitchens only boast a blunt, thick, winged corkscrew, or an ineffective, over-designed novelty corkscrew. In this, as in so many areas of life, simplicity really is the answer…

Bottles of wine have a variety of closures, the two most common being cork and screw caps. Screw caps were first considered as an alternative to cork for bottling inexpensive wines. This view has changed dramatically, and they are used by wine producers, not only in the New World countries for bottling increasingly premium wines, but they are being used more frequently in the Old World such as France and Italy.

That said, the vast majority of wine we sell has a cork closure and so, to enjoy a glass, you must have a trusty corkscrew to hand! Before we even get to the corkscrew, we cannot recommend a foil cutter highly enough… Any of the simpler widely available styles will do the job perfectly, avoiding ripped foil and cut fingers.

Back to the corkscrew: the first one was designed in Oxford, by Rev Samuel Henshall in 1795 and since then many other developments/inventions have followed. It is interesting to note that some of the very early examples are extremely sought-after objects amongst collectors.

When purchasing a corkscrew be mindful of the maturity of the wines (ergo, the corks) that you have stored in your cellar. The length of the spiral (or worm) is also important; it should be neither too long nor too short. Too long and you can easily puncture the cork with ‘cork crumbs’ falling into the wine; if it is too short it could tear the cork on extraction.

While there are many increasingly pioneering corkscrews out there in the market today, we would like to focus your attention here on three very different examples, which we use here at Goedhuis.

corkscrews

1. Pulltap’s Classic 500 | Double-Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew – ‘Waiters Friend
The first is the ‘Waiters Friend’ – these textbook corkscrews are both durable and easy to use for removing all types of corks. Small (it will fit in your pocket), incredibly easy and efficient to use, this really comes into its own when faced with a maturing cork that is tricky to extract. It also incorporates a foil cutting knife and bottle opener.

Top tip: if the cork is quite clearly tearing, unwind the corkscrew and approach it at another angle, with very gentle pulling this corkscrew will pull out even the most stubborn of corks.

2. Le Creuset LM 250 Lever Corkscrew
The second is the ‘Le Creuset Lever Pull’, which will pop the corks on a whole case of wine in under a minute (having used your foil cutter initially, of course). Best to avoid using this one on old bottles though, as there is a slight risk of pushing in the cork.

3. Butler’s Thief Cork Remover
Thirdly, if you have very old bottles of wine, we would recommend purchasing a ‘Butlers Thief’ corkscrew. A two-pronged corkscrew that is arguably the best corkscrew to pull out damaged, or very old and crumbly corks. You initially slide the longest prong between the cork and the bottle neck, followed by the shorter prong, until the handle touches the top of the bottle. As you pull the cork from the bottle, a gentle upwards twist completes the job.