What’s The Right Way To Open Wine Bottles?

With so many gadgets on the market these days aimed at easing the pain of opening a wine bottle, it is easy to forget that once upon a time there was just one preferred method.

The corkscrew has been around for hundreds of years, or perhaps more. As far as any historian can tell, the first widely manufactured corkscrews appeared in the early 1600s and were made by blacksmiths familiar with making similar devices. In fact, the corkscrew as we know it was derived from instruments used to extract stuck bullets from gun barrels.

Methods For Opening Wine Bottles

We’ll start with some rather barbaric methods for opening wine bottles, and progress towards the more modern tools.

Slamming Method


If you’re stuck on a picnic with no corkscrew, you’re not completely out of luck. Before you go jamming a knife or a stick down the neck and potentially ruining the wine with bits of cork, consider the miracles of physics. If you’re very careful in how you do it, you can remove a cork simply using pressure. Wrap a towel (or a blanket, if you’re on a picnic) around the base of the bottle. Using just enough force, you can slam the bottom of the bottle against something flat (like a rock or the hard ground) until the cork begins to peek out of the neck of the bottle. Applying sufficient force to the cork at this point will allow it to pop right out without breaking. Just be careful not to smash the bottle or spill wine once the cork emerges.

Screw Method

If you’re at home and have access to some tools (but no corkscrew) consider inserting a wide threaded screw into the cork until just a bit of the screw is still showing. Then, using either the nail pull end of a hammer or a pair of pliers, pull the screw out, and the cork with it. This looks pretty barbaric, but if done right it should avoid breaking the cork.

Strking Method

For a fancy bit of bottle opening, there’s the tried and true sword method. Most often done as a celebratory gesture with a bottle of Champagne, le sabrage as it is known is often done to impress a crowd. The idea is to strike the bottle of Champagne about an inch below the lip of the bottle with the blunt end of the sword. In one continuous movement, you’ll pop the neck of the bottle (and the cork with it) right off. If done right, and it almost never is, very little if any of the delicious bubbly within will be lost. This method takes lots of practice, and lots of spilled wine to perfect.

How To Use A Corkscrew

Perhaps the safest and most accurate way to open a wine bottle is with a corkscrew. Even the fancy bottle opening devices you find in stores today are just updated versions of the classic corkscrew. Insert the long screw end of the corkscrew into the top of the cork and twist until a little over half of the screw is buried in the cork. Then, using the leverage provided by the lip of the corkscrew, you ease the cork out of the buttle until you hear a satisfying (but muted) pop or thud. Popping sparkling wine corks off dramatically may look cool, but can ruin the flavor of the wine.

Yes, there are some rather gregarious ways of opening wine bottles, and if you aren’t too fancy using a corkscrew there are many modern versions which make the job easier for you. The Rabbit is perhaps the most popular and can be found at most major retailers. This device claims to take the guesswork out of the corkscrew — you simply push down on one lever, then pull it back up ejecting the cork. The design is truly remarkable, and the makers claim it has “over 30 moving parts”. Still, there’s something to be said for the romance of the old fashioned corkscrew . . .

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