How to Properly Use Wine Openers

How to use a wine opener

How to Properly Use Wine Openers

There is a large variety of wine openers on the market today. While none of which are necessarily better than the other, there are different reasons to use different openers. You may need to consider price, function and ease of use before choosing the opener that you are going to be purchasing.

Uncorking a bottle of wine may seem like a simple task, but there is a proper technique used for each type of opener to ensure that you do not break the cork or damage the corkscrew. It is also important for sommeliers and servers to open and present the bottle well for the guests.

Here are is a list of the most popular types of wine openers on the market today, how to properly use them, and a guide to help you choose the best opener to suit your needs.

Winged Corkscrew

The winged corkscrew is probably the most common type of opener found in your everyday household. It is recognizable due to the levers, or wings, on the side. It is also commonly called the owl corkscrew or the butterfly corkscrew. It is simple to use and can need less guidance than your typical wine key. You will usually not see this style used in fine dining restaurants since it does not have a knife to cut the foil and it is a tad too bulky to carry in an apron pocket.

  1. Cut the foil. Traditionally the foil is cut just under the lip near the top of the bottle, but it also looks nice when it is cut right above the lip.  Winged corkscrews do not have a knife to cut the foil, therefore you will need one to cut it.

TIP: If you do not have a knife handy or presentation does not matter, simply take the sharp end of the screw and cut the foil from the bottom toward the top. Then peel off the foil. This will also allow you to take the entirety of the foil off.

  1. Insert the end of the screw into the middle of the cork at an angle. Once it is inserted partially, put the screw straight. While having a firm grasp on the wine bottle, start twisting the screw clockwise. The wings will raise up as the screw enters the cork.
  2. Once the screw is completely in the cork, press the wings down. This will release the cork from the bottle. Lastly, simply pull the rest of the cork out. To get the cork off the screw, simply twist it counter clockwise.

BONUS: The top of the winged corkscrew also doubles as a bottle opener, making it an extra handy tool in the kitchen. The opening of the bottle opener can also be used to hang it in a convenient location.

Basic Corkscrew

Also known as the twist and pull corkscrew, this is a corkscrew in the simplest of forms. The design is a simple corkscrew attached to a wooden or metal handle. These are simple, small and cheap. The biggest downside to this is that it takes a lot of muscle to be able to manually pull out the cork without any help from a lever and they do not have any other functions. You also must be careful to pull straight so that you do not damage the cork. Pulling the cork out at an angle can cause breakage.

  1. Cut the foil. Traditionally the foil is cut just under the lip near the top of the bottle. Basic corkscrews do not have a knife to cut the foil, therefore you will need one to cut it.

TIP: If you do not have a knife handy or presentation does not matter, simply take the sharp end of the screw and cut the foil from the bottom toward the top. Then peel off the foil. This will also allow you to take the entirety of the foil off.

  1. Insert the screw into the middle of the cork at an angle. Once the tip is in, tilt the screw upright. Twist clockwise until the screw is completely in.
  2. Once you have a firm grip on both the wine bottle and the handles, pull straight out from the bottle to get the cork out.
  3. Twist counter clockwise to remove the cork from the screw.

TIP: Breakage often occurs while using this method. Try bracing the bottom of the wine bottle on a table at an angle while you pull the screw out to ensure that you are pulling straight out and not at an angle.

Opening wine bottle with a corkscrew

Rabbit Wine Opener

This opener is named more for its speed rather than cuteness. Also known as the lever corkscrew, the rabbit comes in many designs and styles. The key features are that it has horizontal handles and a lever on the other side that make it virtually effortless to pull out the cork. While this type of corkscrew is bulky and retails for a higher price than other corkscrews, they often come with warranties up to ten years. This is also a great option for those who suffer from arthritis or hand injuries that limit grip.

  1. Cut the foil. Traditionally the foil is cut just under the lip near the top of the bottle. Most rabbit corkscrews do not have a knife to cut the foil, therefore you will need one to cut it. Occasionally the rabbits come with a separate foil cutter that you simply grip and twist around the neck of the bottle to remove the foil.
  2. Make sure that your lever is pulled down. Then place the rabbit over the cork. While gripping the handle, pull the lever up. This will insert the screw into the cork.
  3. Pull the lever back down toward the bottom of the bottle. The cork will now come out. No twisting is involved as lever both puts the screw into the cork and pulls it out.
  4. To get the cork out of the rabbit is just as simple as getting it out. Just repeat the motions again. Pull the lever up and then back down and the cork will pop off.

TIP: Keep your receipt. Many of these rabbits come with warranties. You may also need to replace the screw or other parts at some point.

More: How Long does Red Wine Last After Opened

Electric Wine Opener

The electric wine opener is extremely easy to use and needs minimal effort. They are cylinder in shape and use batteries or sit on chargers when not in use. Many of these are also quite affordable, some are even cheaper than the rabbit. This is the most convenient wine opener for those who suffer from arthritis or other hand injuries. These are also compact and can be portable. The electric wine opener will also be your quickest option compared to other openers on the market.

  1. Cut the foil. Traditionally the foil is cut just under the lip near the top of the bottle. Many electric wine openers come with a separate foil cutter. You will simply place the cutter around the neck of the bottle, grip and twist.
  2. Place the base of the electric wine opener over the neck of the bottle. Press the button to remove the cork.
  3. To remove the cork from the opener, simply press the button again.

TIP: Keep your receipt. Many electric wine openers come with a warranty or you may need to replace parts after a while.

Wine Key

Also known as a waiter key or sommelier knife, this is by far the most popular wine corkscrew. Like a pocket knife in the way it can fold up, the wine key is very compact and quite affordable. They even double as a bottle opener. You will see all servers, sommeliers and wine professionals with a wine key. It is quicker and less bulky than a winged corkscrew, has more functions, and allows for better showmanship of the wine while opening.

  1. Remove the foil. On one end of the key is a small knife that folds out. Grip the bottle with one hand and cut the foil below the lip on the neck of the bottle. Fold the knife back in.
  2. On the other end of the wine key, fold out the arm and the screw. Insert the tip of the screw into the cork at an angle. Once the tip is in, tilt it upright. Twist until the screw is all the way in the cork.

TIP: Make sure you place the screw in the middle of the cork. If it is off-center it may make it harder to pull the cork out, as the arm will have trouble resting on the top of the neck.

  1. Next, place the lip of the extended arm onto the top of the bottle to brace it. Lift the lever up to remove the cork. Most wine keys have a two-part lever system and you may need to adjust the arm so that the bottom lip (the part of the wine key that is used as a bottle opener) is braced on the top of the bottle. From here you would simply pull the lever up again to completely remove the cork.
  2. From here, you will need to remove the cork from the wine key by just twisting it off. Fold the wine key back up.

How to Find the Right Corkscrew

There are three things that you need to take into consideration when you are picking out a corkscrew: Function, budget, and ease of use.

  1. Are you using it for work or pleasure? If you are a server, sommelier or wine professional that needs to open wine at a table for guests, you will need to use a wine key. If you are simply a wine enthusiast who enjoys the nice bottle at home, you have a few more options to choose from.
  2. What is your budget? Corkscrews can run from $5 to over $50. While the basic corkscrew will be your cheapest option, most people agree that a winged corkscrew or wine key is more valuable because it makes the cork come out with less force and they have more functions. If you have a larger budget, consider the rabbit or electric corkscrew. Both come with warranties, last a long time, and require minimal effort.
  3. Do you need special accommodations? Many people suffer from arthritic hands and other hand pain that can hinder their ability to open a wine bottle. Both the rabbit and the electric corkscrew would be the best options for you as they take the least amount of effort and motion.

How to Properly Serve Wine

For those of you who are sommeliers, servers or otherwise work in the wine industry; you know that it is important to showcase your wine as you are opening it and there are proper steps to do this. On top of the above instructions for how to use a wine key, additionally following the steps below will ensure proper high-end wine service.

  1. Ensure that the glasses are polished before placing them on the table. Whether you set the wine glasses out before guests arrive is up to the place of service. Also, many fine dining restaurants have both red and white wine glasses set out, remove the unneeded style of wine glasses after they order. If they ordered both red and white, keep both on the table even if there are not currently being used.
  2. Know your wine menu well and always ask if they would like a recommendation. You will get a large variety of customers. Some customers may know exactly that they want in a wine and ask more complicated questions, like what specific vineyard it is from. You will need to be able to find a wine that is suited for their taste or find a wine like what they were looking for if you do not have it. There will also be customers who would like lots of assistance finding a wine that is suitable for their taste and meal.

TIP: As a server, memorize the wine menu and have in know which items on the menu it pairs well with, including the daily specials. This way you are always ready to give a recommendation when people ask.

After you come back with the wine that the guests ordered, introduce the wine with the label of the bottle facing the guests. If they knew the wine they wanted, simply say what it is; including the name of the wine, vineyard, and vintage. If you were the one to recommend the bottle, a slightly lengthier introduction may be necessary, so the guests know what they are drinking.

Introduce the winery, region, varietal, vintage and other tidbits about the wine. Introducing the wine serves a few purposes; it allows you to interact more with the guests and share your knowledge of the wines and it also ensures that you grabbed the right bottle. You would not want to open the bottle and realize it was the wrong one.

After the introduction, while you are opening the wine bottle, be sure to keep the label facing the table. Smell the cork to ensure that there are no faults.

When the wine is open, set the cork on the table in case they do not finish the bottle and they want to take it home. Pour a small amount of wine into the glass of the person who ordered the bottle. Allow them to taste the wine and confirm that this is suitable for their taste. Continue to pour wine for that guest then continue around the table.

If the guest ordered red wine and there is leftover after pouring for the entirety of the table, simply set the bottle in the middle so the guests can help themselves. If the guests ordered white wine or champagne, have a wine cooler ready on the table so the wine can stay chilled for the guests.

If the guests want to bring the rest of the bottle home, there is a proper way to ensure it is done legally. Each state has their own rules. However, the best way to ensure that you have done your part is to mark with a sharpie how much wine is left. You also want to date the bottle, so they know when it was opened. Lastly, put the wine in a bag. This legally covers the restaurant in case there is a drinking and driving incident.

There is no “right” wine opener to use. Each opener has different functions that may appeal to you. The most important thing is to get your wine open with the cork in one piece. We hope this article was useful in helping you learn how to use each style of wine opener and which ones will be useful for your needs, whether that be the wine key or the rabbit!

Cheers.

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