Just imagine the horror: you’ve just brought home a beautiful bottle of wine, or have carried one lovingly over hill and dale to the perfect picnic spot when you realise catastrophe has struck - you’re without a corkscrew. You curse your decision not to go for the box of wine or screw-cap, and start flailing through your drawers in search of this essential tool, or beginning emptying your pockets, vainly seeking a Swiss army knife. What do you do?
Most of us wine lovers have been in such a situation at some point or another. In such an occurrence, we often end up trying to push the cork into the bottle with a knife. Big mistake. You generally end up with bits of cork floating in your vino, ruining what should be the blissful experience of sipping a silky Pinot Noir or crisp, clear Riesling. Desperate times call for innovative approaches, and thankfully, there are a handful of tried-and-tested methods that allow you to prise that cork from the bottle, and leave your wine just as the vigneron intended.
Let’s take a look through five top hacks for getting a cork out of a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. Believe us - you’ll be more than thankful for the tips and tricks in this blog, and we’ve no doubt you’ll be using one or more at some time in the future!
- Get Your Toolbox
This one might not work if you’re out at a picnic in the middle of nowhere, but if you’re safely at home, it really does the trick. All you need is a common household screw, a screwdriver, and a hammer - easy peasy!
Stick the screw (you need one of a reasonably length, for obvious reasons) into the cork, and use the screwdriver to twist it in, until about an inch is poking out from the top. Simply take your claw hammer, and use the end (not the head!) to pull the screw and the cork out from the bottle with a satisfying pop.
- Push with a Wooden Spoon
With a normal kitchen wooden spoon, you should be able to push the cork into the neck of the bottle without creating any crumbs that might ruin your wine. Remove the foil covering, and apply plenty of pressure to the cork with the handle of the wooden spoon. With a bit of effort (and some luck), it should slide fairly easily into the bottle without splitting or creating crumbs, giving you perfect access to the delicious wine within. This probably won’t work with your 20 years aged bottle of Bordeaux, however, as the cork is likely to be dry and a bit crumbly. Be warned!
- Use a Wall (yes, really!)
If you’re really desperate, and have no tools to hand, you can actually open your bottle of wine without the need of any items at all… just with the help of a solid flat surface. Wrap your bottle in a tea towel, jumper, or any other fabric item that will protect both the wall and your bottle, and rhythmically bang the bottle’s base against the surface, making sure to keep it horizontal at all times. After a while, the cork will start to make its way out of the neck of the bottle, and you should be able to grasp it with your fingers and pull it free. Seriously, though - make sure the base of the bottle is wrapped in something, as you don’t want a shattered mess on your hands!
- Use your Shoe
Don’t even have access to a wall or flat surface? This really is a technique for the picnickers out there, as it really does strip things back to basics!
In order to use your shoe to open the bottle, you want to sit down with the bottle clenched between your thighs, neck side facing the ground. Smack the base of the bottle with the flat of your shoe, and continue gripping the bottle with your legs as you do so. After a few good strikes, the cork should start poking its way out, at which point you can use your fingers to do the job.
- Use a Car Key
This is a slightly more advanced method which works best with plastic corks, or young wines with a nice moist cork (again, no aged bottles please!). Shove the end of your car key at a 45 degree angle into the edge of the cork, where it meets the rim of the bottle neck. By pushing the key around in circles, you should be able to wriggle the cork upwards until enough of it is out to remove with ease. Be careful, though, as this may break the cork and result in the dreaded crumbs.
Opening a Champagne Cork Properly
Champagne and sparkling wine corks are quite significantly different from corks in table wines. The mushroom-shaped corks have to handle a lot of pressure (which is why Champagne bottles are also made of thicker glass, interestingly), and as such, should never be opened with a corkscrew.
A huge number of people actually open their Champagne bottles incorrectly, which is what leads to the cork flying out of the bottle at high velocity, following by a wasteful fountain of wine spewing from the neck. By following the correct way of opening a Champagne bottle, you never need to worry about this again! Here’s how it’s done:
- First, remove the foil cover from the top of the bottle, and discard.
- Loosen the wire cage by twisting the wire, and popping it off completely.
- If you’re feeling a little unsure, you can then drape a tea towel over the top of the cork (this isn’t necessary for more experienced bottle openers), to make sure the cork doesn’t fly away.
- Grip the base of the bottle firmly with one hand, and the cork firmly with the other. Twist the base of the bottle in an anticlockwise direction, and gently ease the cork from the neck. Simple!
How to Remove a Cork from a Corkscrew
Corkscrews work by twisting the ‘worm’ (the spiralled piece of metal) into the cork. With each twist of the screw, the worm is sent deeper into the cork, allowing it to have a firmer grip. In order to remove the cork from the corkscrew effectively and without making a mess, simply twist the cork in the opposite direction, allowing the work to twist itself free.
There you have it - our top tips for everything related to getting those pesky corks from a bottle, in those nightmare-inducing moments you find yourself without a corkscrew! For a range of top products designed to take your wine drinking experience further than ever, check out the amazing selection at Brumate!