Prior to learning the correct way to uncork a wine bottle, I was absolutely rubbish! Maybe you fall into this category and feel like hiding under a rock any time someone asks, “Would YOU like to do the honours?”
There are several things I’m naturally good at but uncorking a bottle of wine was definitely not on the list.
Was I just not born with this innate ability to open a bottle of wine perfectly? Would I ever be able to master this skill? Was there a support group for lousy wine bottle openers that I could join?
Okay enough! In all seriousness, I don’t think I was alone with my inability to uncork a bottle of wine ‘the right way’. That’s when I decided, for someone who is as enthusiastic about wine as I am, to get serious and start focusing on improving this rather mundane but necessary skill .
Welcome WSET courses! Prior to embarking on taking the WSET courses, I had never really thought that opening a bottle of wine properly was a big deal. Well, now I know. There’s a right way and a wrong way!
First of all, you need to start with the correct corkscrew. Some of the ones I own are pictured below.
A and B are known as a sommelier’s knife corkscrew. Personally, I prefer using this type because you are able to have more control throughout the bottle opening process and the end result is cleaner and more professional. There is a tiny knife that opens out to cleanly cut the foil enclosure covering the bottle top and cork.
C is called a winged corkscrew and it’s easier for a beginner but doesn’t have the precision that A and B offer, although it sure is cute. Mine is the Alessi Anna G. The main problem with any winged corkscrew is that you can try and trim the foil with the tip of the worm, but honestly, the end result isn’t as clean as using a corkscrew with a knife. Also, the worm (the bit that goes into the cork) on C can sometimes split the cork, because it functions in a similar manner as a drill, rather than fully embedding itself into the cork as in A and B.
My overall top choice would be corkscrew B!!! Why? Well, this corkscrew is a bit longer and there is a double hinge (silver bit that sticks out) to help ease out the cork in a more controlled manner. This extra bonus feature helps to not split the cork while gently easing it out of the bottle.
Wow! Who knew there were so many options?
So, now…let’s learn how to actually use a sommelier’s knife corkscrew and open a bottle! To make it easier, I’ve listed the steps below.
Uncorking a bottle of wine…the correct way!
Begin by gently wiping off any dust that may have accumulated on the neck or bottle, especially if it’s been stored for awhile. You don’t want any unpleasant bits to get into your beautiful wine!
Using the knife on the corkscrew, carefully trim the foil around the bottom ring of the bottle finish, which is just above the bottle neck, where the cork goes in.
Once you’ve trimmed the entire foil circumference, make a 1cm cut perpendicular to the bottom ring of the foil enclosure cut you initially made.
Using the knife tip, gently coax the corner of the perpendicular bit up.
This motion will help to pull all the foil off in one, clean, precise piece, exposing the top of the cork.
Once the foil is removed, close the retractable knife (you don’t want to accidentally cut yourself). Then open the worm bit of the corkscrew (the spiral bit) and dig the tip into the centre of the cork just a bit.
Gently press and turn the corkscrew in a slow, steady motion clockwise while keeping the worm perfectly upright and perpendicular to the cork.
Once the worm is 3/4 of the way in the cork, place the inner hinged part of the lever on the top of the bottle’s rim.
Then gently begin pulling up on the corkscrew’s arm.
Continue pulling the arm up until it comes to a stop.
Now you’re ready to use the second hinge of the lever to do the final pull of the cork. Begin by gently pushing down on the arm, which will lift up the lever and disengage the innermost hinge.
Place the second hinge on the bottle rim and gently push down on the arm of the corkscrew. This will gently coax the cork out even more but in a slow and steady manner.
Once the cork hits the inner hinge, you won’t be able to push down anymore. Gently pull up on the arm, while holding the bottle firmly with your other hand, which will enable you to fully remove the cork in a controlled manner. You might even hear a ‘POP’ sound!
When the cork has been released, inspect it to ensure that the wine is ready and safe to drink. Look for any imperfections in the cork and smell it to make sure the wine isn’t tainted.
Wipe the bottle opening for a second time.
Finally, you are ready to pour and enjoy your bottle of wine!