The Life of Wine

 |  February 26, 2013

I think we can all agree that there is no more gorgeous a sound than that of a wine cork being removed from a bottle. Whether it’s the sudden explosion of a champagne cork or the squeaky sound of a corkscrew being twisted home followed by that most satisfying of pops, the sound is just heaven.

Because the pressure in a bottle of champagne can be as much as 90 pounds per square inch (imagine the pressure in the tyre of a double-decker bus) getting the cork out is not much of a problem. Indeed once the wire and foil have been removed, the bottle opening itself is somewhat inevitable. But the situation is far more complicated with still wine. For this a corkscrew is usually the requisite tool, a device that is sort of self-explanatory when you look at it.

But what if, having come out of 7-Eleven with a bottle of Jacob’s Creek and chosen a great bit of pavement to sit on, you realise you have left your trusty corkscrew at home on the bedside table.

This is a situation I hope none of you will ever have to encounter. It’s miserable. All that fruity goodness in your hands and no way to access it! Fear not however, I have done some tireless research, and there are other ways.

1. This is an extremely classy trick I learnt while at university. Ther many spiked metal railings lining our streets are in fact just rows of handy upside down corkscrews. Find an appropriately-sized spike on the railing, turn the wine bottle upside down, introduce the closure to the spike and smack the bottom of the bottle. Your shirt and trousers may become victims of collateral damage, but at least you are in!

2. This one can be used to survive in either an urban or jungle environment if you find yourself with only a bottle of Chateau Haut Brion or a nice, crisp Chablis for sustenance. You will need a reasonably solid, flat surface such as a wall or a tree and either a shirt or a sturdy shoe. Take the bottle and either place it in the shoe or wrap the base in the shirt. Start to smack the base of the bottle firmly against the solid surface and the pressure will cause the cork to slowly emerge. Leave up to three hours for this to actually work.

3. But it is not just on the mean streets of Chiang Mai or after waking up in the forests of Doi Suthep that you might find yourself sans corkscrew. It can be equally important to be able to open a bottle of wine in a hostile office environment. So, instead of asking your boss for a corkscrew at 10 in the morning, procure two paperclips, and a biro. Straighten the paperclips leaving U-shaped hooks at each end. Carefully slip one end of each clip down opposite sides of the cork and twist so the hooks will dig into the cork on extraction. Now twist the top of the clips together. Put the biro in the loop and pull. You didn’t even have to leave your desk!

4. Ever find yourself with a bottle in your bedroom, but you just can’t face the long journey to the kitchen draw for the corkscrew? Not a problem. This method requires a wire coat hanger like the one hanging in your wardrobe and some pliers. Cut the wire so that you have a long straight bit. Then bend a tiny hook into the end. With a bit of effort you should be able to encourage the wire to slip down beside the cork. Twist it so the hook grabs the base of the closure and pull. Voila!

5. This is a similar method to the previous one. Also useful for urban and jungle survival. You will need a shoelace and a long, sharp object such as a flick-knife. Remove the shoelace from your shoe and tie a small knot in the end of it. Take the long, sharp tool, it doesn’t need to be a flick-knife, a handy butterfly knife is equally as practical, and push the knotted lace down the side of the cork. Once the knot is below the cork remove the sharp thing and slowly pull on the lace. The cork should pop.

Finally, a top tip on what not to do: Don’t try removing corks with your teeth. It really hurts. Good luck.