|SERVING: Corkscrews ...a
most important tool for getting the contents
LEAVE HOME WITHOUT TWO
years ago I learned a difficult lesson on a Spring picnic
in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It should have been a
romantic afternoon. I had scouted out a private location
with a breathtaking coastal view, assembled gourmet fare
including a fresh baguette, an assortment of cheeses and
fresh fruits, a fine bottle of dry white and a back-up
bottle of not so dry. I packed an oversize blanket,
cutting board and knife, plates, silverware, even real
wine glasses and a custom-recorded cassette of my date's
favorite music. She was sure to be impressed.
expected my uncorker of choice to impress her as well, a
double-pronged tool called the "Ah-So." The technique of
this device is to slide the opposing spring-metal prongs
between the bottle lip and the cork, alternately, and in
a gently "rocking" motion until the cork is wedged
between the prongs. The handle is then twisted and the
cork pulled. The procedure takes a certain "feel" and is
mildly tricky, but easy to master.
used this instrument to deftly remove dozens of corks.
That is, until this occasion -- miles from civilization.
One prong suddenly broke off, stuck between the cork and
the bottle. The back-up bottle would do me no good: I had
no back-up cork puller and so the image I intended to
project plummeted instantly from that of Cary Grant to
that of Elmer Fudd. Lesson learned, these days, computer
files are not the only things I back up.
THE CORKSCREW JUNGLE
There are many styles and prices of corkscrews, from the
99¢ bamboo "portable" model that hides the screw
inside the "T" handle, to elaborate lever models on
tripod floor stands. Once proven that the given model
will do the job reliably (not all will), the decision to
buy should be based on purpose and
cork pullers come in myriad configurations, no
matter what the handle or mechanical lever
advantages, the screw is the tool,
so get the right one. There are three basic
designs, two good, one junk. The planed
helix is most often found on antique models.
A wooden match fits neatly up the center of a
good wire helix worm; some have the
benefit of Teflon coating for ease of entry and
release. Avoid the auger shape, which
does not grip well, bores a hole in the cork,
and adds mass that actually makes the cork
harder to remove! The only advantage of the
auger is that it's cheap to manufacture. It
performs so poorly, however, that even if free , it is overpriced! Unfortunately,
most of the popular "winged" corkscrews come
with auger screws. Those levers won't make a bit
of difference if the opener can't get a
THE WAITER'S FRIEND
In terms of reliability, durability and portability, the
best cork puller to own is the "Waiter's Friend",
patented in 1882 by German inventor Karl Wienke. The
spring-loaded screw is mounted in the center of the
handle, with a fulcrum at one end and a short knife at
the other end and on the opposite edge.
modern bottles have only a wax seal atop the cork.
Pretend it isn't there; the corkscrew goes right through.
Trying to pick it out only makes a mess.
the bottle lacks a hood or foil covering its neck and
cork, simply skip this paragraph.)
knife is used to remove the foil. There is one safe and
sure way to do this. Open the blade and lay the handle on
the palm-up hand across the base of the fingers, with the
blade tip pointing in the same direction as and the blade
edge pointing TOWARDS the outstretched thumb. Gripping
the handle firmly with the fingers, turn the palm down
and place the neck of the bottle between the thumb and
the knife edge. The knife should be UNDER the bottle's
drip ridge. Squeezing the bottle neck with enough
pressure to cut the foil, use the other hand to rotate
the bottle one full turn. Use the point of the blade to
separate and discard the cap from the remainder of the
foil, which stays on the bottle. Close the blade. Plastic
hoods usually require more pressure than tin or aluminum.
Some will have a pull-strip to assist in removal,
although these don't always work.
the screw. Although old wisdom says not to penetrate
through the opposite end of the cork in order to avoid
getting cork pieces in the wine, never mind. Size does
matter; so does sharpness. A long, sharp wire helix worm will neatly pierce even a dry cork without
breaking off pieces and is guaranteed to grip and remove
the cork whole.
the POINT of the screw in the CENTER of the cork. Do not
be at all concerned about aligning the worm parallel to
the bottle neck. It is more important to get the worm
centered. As the worm is turned into the cork (most often
clockwise), it will begin to right itself as it goes
deeper. When only one turn of the worm is still visible,
STOP. Bend the handle-lever down to allow opening the
fulcrum. Place the fulcrum's notch on the edge of the
bottle and, on the hand gripping the bottle, use the
index finger to hold the fulcrum to the bottle. use the
other hand to lift the handle-lever and raise the cork
about one-half inch. Turn the screw that last turn and
finish lifting and removing the cork. You have probably
already figured out the next step: pour and