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Choosing a Corkscrew

There are so many corkscrew options out there.

What makes a good corkscrew?
Can a corkscrew help in appreciating a wine?
Does it really make a difference?

The first, and best, corkscrew rule is: the Easier the Better.
Some corkscrews are bad for the wine and even dangerous to the user. Others are just a real pain to operate and make it hard to get the cork off the corkscrew.

The next rule is: Try Not to Break the Cork or Let it Fall Into the Wine. That's not as easily said as done, but a good corkscrew does the work for you. All you have to do is operate it properly.

The last rule is: No Matter How Difficult, It's Always Better to Struggle With a Corkscrew Than to Drink Wine with a Twist-Off Cap.

Here are some corkscrew options:

In my opinion, the best corkscrew is the 'waiters corkscrew'. This is the contraption that folds up into itself and is often given as a complementary gift with wine purchases. This corkscrew is easy to carry and has 3 main parts: the small knife section with which you cut off the top cover (usually foil) of the bottle; the screw itself which goes directly into the cork; the lever with teeth that you place along the rim of the bottle allowing you to control the lifting of the cork. It is simple and never fails.

Another popular corkscrew is the more elaborate shape "with hands" that you press down and then lift to remove the cork. Although popular and decorative, these corkscrews are very poorly constructed and often break. But they are foolproof - when properly used. When not used properly, they often rip the cork or sink in too deeply forcing the cork into your wine. One of the least appetizing things to drink is wine cork.

Another variety of corkscrew, marketed as foolproof, is the variety that just swirls down and down and down. The screw is large and comes with handles that extend horizontally off the top. The nozzle of the corkscrew, housing the screw, is placed over the bottle (after removing the foil covering). And then you rotate the handles sending the screw down into the cork. You keep turning and turning until the cork is completely removed from the bottle. When worked properly, the cork comes out smoothly and cleanly. When botched, it is often difficult to retrieve the entire cork.

About twenty years ago the asau corkscrew was developed in California. Small and compact, this corkscrew has two long "tongues" that slide down between the inside of the bottle and the outside of the cork. With a quick twist of the wrist and an upwards yank, the cork is removed. If you twist or yank incorrectly, the cork goes plopping down right into the wine. This is the corkscrew used by professional wine stewards. It takes time and practice, but the benefit of mastering this corkscrew is all the wine you taste in the process.

Beware: Another popular corkscrew looks like a syringe. You insert the needle into the cork and pump several strokes until the cork pops out. The concept works by injecting air between the wine and the cork. When enough air is present the cork gives way. This corkscrew is dangerous. Many bottles have been burst by the pressure exerted against even slightly imperfect bottles. In addition to the mess of red (or even white) wine bursting all over, shards of glass can go flying. I recommend throwing these corkscrews away immediately.

The list of corkscrews goes on. Some are functional, others are decorative. If you've found one that works, stick with it. Otherwise, experiment. The more wine you uncork, the more wine you taste.

"We lost our corkscrew and were compelled to live on food and water for several days." - W. C. Fields
Hiram Codd opener 1872

French Excelsior, $250.00

Swissmar Double Spindle, $80

Pedrini Ergosoft, $19.95

Zyliss FoilCutter, $22

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