Don’t Rely on Gimmicky Wine Openers,
Learn to Use a Waiter’s Corkscrew
Having a glass of wine and experimenting with different varietals is one of life’s biggest pleasures. However, one thing that is no fun at all is bringing a fabulous bottle of wine to a friend’s house and not having a way to open it. Almost every house hold will have a ridiculous device to open wine: a needle and air pump system to remove a wine cork, a Swiss army type contraption that consists of a plain screw-type piece of metal that has no leverage system requiring superhuman strength to yank out once inserted, or worse, a corkscrew with two arms that one presses down once the corkscrew bit has been twisted in.
A great bottle of wine – or even a cheap bottle of wine- can get ruined by nasty bits of cork floating around in it caused by inferior cork removing devices. The simplest solution to opening a bottle of wine is to use the old-fashioned waiter’s corkscrew; a fairly straightforward gadget that usually only costs a few dollars.
A waiter’s corkscrew, when folded, looks almost like a pocket knife. At one end there will be a small folding knife, the other end will contain a fold-out lever, and in the middle will be a fold-out corkscrew. Some models may have a bottle opener attached, and the so-called “Spanish waiter’s corkscrew” will have a hinged double lever which makes the entire process even easier. The Spanish waiter’s corkscrew will usually be more expensive, with solid, robust models starting around $20.
Presenting the wine
If you are working as a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, NEVER open a bottle of wine until the client has seen you bring the wine to the table and present it to the person who ordered it. This is to ensure that the correct wine has been brought out; you need to hold the bottle in such a way that the client can clearly see the label. Once the bottle has been approved, then the opening ritual may occur.
The opening of the bottle
If you have never opened a bottle of wine before, set the bottle down on a stable surface, like the table. Do not try to open the bottle holding it aloft in your hands until you’ve got some experience.
First, unfold the knife, and use it to cut off the foil around the top of the cork. Run it all the way around, and then remove the small circle of foil. Some bottles also have foil that is easy to pull open, just look for the little tab.
Second, fold the knife back in, and unfold the lever and the corkscrew bit.
Third, insert the corkscrew bit directly in the middle of the exposed cork while holding the bottle firmly with one hand. Twist it in while pressing downwards, and insert the cork all the way in. However, be careful that the corkscrew does not come out of the bottom of the cork; this can cause bits of cork to get dropped into the wine. If this occurs in a restaurant setting, the customer has every right to refuse to pay for the wine. Wine with cork chunks in it is known in the industry as being “corked” as is considered undrinkable (it tastes awful).
Fourth, after ensuring the corkscrew is in as far as it can go without breaking the bottom of the cork, bend the lever down so that the notched bit sits on the top edge of the bottle. This will act as an anchor when you pull out the cork with the corkscrew.
Fifth, with one hand holding the bottle and keeping the edge of the lever on the bottle edge, push or pull up the other end or handle of the device; this will lift out the cork relatively easily. Be careful at this point; if the cork looks like it is going to break in half, simply twist the corkscrew in a little bit more and lift the handle again.
Cork details in a restaurant or bar setting
At this point, the cork will be out of the bottle and the wine will be ready to pour; however, if you are in a setting where you are serving wine to a customer, remove the cork from the corkscrew by twisting it off and put the cork down in front of the person who ordered the wine. The customer at this point will test is the wine is “good” by touching the end of the cork that was closest to the wine; it should be wet. A cork that is dry at both ends means that some evaporation has occurred inside the bottle and the wine may have turned into vinegar. If the client complains that the cork is dry, he or she is under no obligation to pay for the bottle as the contents are possibly ruined. Smelling a cork usually doesn’t indicate much; it will generally only smell of wet cork material. Once the cork has been touched and it is wet at one end, the wine can be poured and enjoyed.
Opening a bottle of wine with a waiter’s corkscrew sounds a little complicated, but once it’s been attempted a few times it becomes second nature and easy. Don’t waste your money on other “easy methods”; the classic waiter’s corkscrew has been around for decades, possibly centuries and is by far the best device for opening wine on the market today.