Sep 10 2008

Makes screwing around with a cork easier

Published by at 4:22 AM under Savvy Sip Tips,Wine Accessories

The foil over the top of a cork-sealed wine bottle is just a thin sliver. Being efficient (“lazy” is just so harsh), I usually try to pull the cork right through it. Often, this works. Sometimes, it doesn’t, and I have a mess on my hands far more time-consuming than fishing in the kitchen drawer for a foil cutter in the first place.

So this Rolls-Royce of corkscrews, something called a rabbit lever, is rather handy in that it includes a foil cutter, along with ergonomic handles and a sommelier to serve your wine all evening. (Yes, I made that last part up.) I’m also notorious for inserting the corkscrew at a cockeyed angle, so this contraption seems to have all my bad habits covered.

There are many other devices out there, however, that can serve the purpose of unlocking your beverage. The waiter’s friend might be the most familiar, akin to a pocket knife with foil cutter, lever and screw all folded inside. It requires deft strength, but in the hands of an experienced server, it’s a jack-of-all-trades and a cool tool.

I’ve lately been putting my wing screw to work. On this little contraption, the two handles raise as the screw is turned into the cork. When the screw is nearly through the bottom of the cork (but not totally–you don’t want to pierce it through in case you want to seal the wine with the cork again), you push down on the handles, and up pops the cork. This, however, has no foil knife, which is why I’ve been taking bad shortcuts.

Less well-known versions include the double-action screw, the screwpull corkscrew and the T-shaped screw, which use varying levels of brute force to turn the screw into the cork and pull it out. The double-action and screwpull corkscrews are great for removing corks from old bottles, according to Sales and Service for the Wine Professional, Second Edition, by Brian K. Julyan (Thomson Learning, 2003).

The T-shaped screw, with no foil cutter, no lever, no nothing, is about as effective as sticking a steak knife into your cork and twisting. It happens in moments of desperation, but I’d not make it a habit. Again, it’s that too-much-work factor.

From personal experience, I might consider these my top three favorite types of corkscrews:

  • the rabbit lever–points for flash and ease of use
  • the wing screw–stable, relatively foolproof and forgiving of bad aim
  • the waiter’s friend–if you can master this tool, you can take it anywhere and look cool

And if all else fails, there’s always the screw top, which only requires a decent set of biceps. (To get those, you have to read my fitness column elsewhere!)

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