Paul has been a fan of the grape for many years and is particularly partial to a glass of La Rioja, Cabernet Sauvignon, or cava.
Most wine lovers have been in situations where they're at a social event, on the beach, by the pool, or sailing in a boat with a bottle of their favorite wine, only to find that they can't open it because they don't have a corkscrew to remove the cork.
This article looks at various ways of opening a wine bottle without a corkscrew and then suggests a few ideas for avoiding the situation in the future.
So here, in no particular order, is my list of ways to uncork a wine bottle. (Note that generally speaking, you do always want to remove the wrapping from the cork before you proceed with any of these methods.)
10 Ways to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew
- Push the Cork Down
- Hammer and Screw Method
- The Hook and Pen Method
- The Shoe Method
- Slap Method
- Key (or Knife) Method
- Pump out the Cork
- Knot and String Method
- Apply Heat With a Blowtorch
- Scissors Method
I explore each method in more detail below.
1. Push the Cork Down
Theoretically, any piece of cutlery or long blunt implement with a thin enough handle or grip to fit down a bottle can be used, but I've found the end of a wooden spoon to be the best. You simply push the cork down into the bottle. It takes time and effort, but it is generally reliable.
There are downsides to this method though:
Firstly, the wine tends to splash out when you push the cork down and will cause a mess if you're not careful.
Secondly, once the cork is down inside the bottle, it's pretty much impossible to remove, it bobs around and makes the bottle harder to pour smoothly.
Thirdly, sometimes a wooden cork (not plastic) will disintegrate under the pressure and you will get bits of cork in the wine. You can then pour the wine through a strainer to sift the bits out, but it's annoying.
Fourthly, you need to be careful. Depending on what implement that you use, you can easily injure yourself if you're not careful. For this reason, I would certainly stay away from using anything sharp, such as a knife.
2. Hammer and Screw Method
This method essentially involves driving a screw into the cork and then pulling it out using the "claw" of a hammer. It's a relatively straightforward and reliable method in my experience, but it does depend on you having access to some household tools.
If you can also find a screwdriver, even better, as you can use it to screw (rather than drive) the screw down into the cork, providing an even firmer and easier removal. If you don't have access to a claw hammer, then a pair of household pliers can be used to grip the screw and pull out the cork.
As with most methods, you should be careful, as it is easy to spill wine, or worse, injure yourself.
3. The Hook and Pen Method
For this, you will need to find one of those screw-in wall hooks that are fairly common in many houses. There might be one lying around in a drawer, or you may be able to unscrew one from the wall and "borrow" it.
The method involves screwing the hook into the cork, then slipping a pen through the hook and using the pen as a grip. You can then pull the cork out using a similar action to what you would use with a basic corkscrew.
4. The Shoe Method
This method may not seem like an obvious solution, but iI can assure you that it does work. You remove the wrapping from the cork, then place the base of the wine bottle in a shoe. Next, with the bottle held in place, you give the bottle and shoe a good few whacks against a hard wall and watch the cork gradually work its way out.
A variant of this method is to wrap a towel around the base of the bottle instead of using a shoe. Anything that cushions the bottle enough to stop it breaking without absorbing all of the impact when you whack it against the wall will do. If you don't have a wall to hit against then a tree will also work.
5. Slap Method
This method has some similarities with the shoe method above, but it doesn't require a wall or tree to hit the bottle against. Instead, you turn the wine bottle upside down and firmly grip it between your thighs, then slap the base from above with a shoe, flip flops, or an old book. Once the cork is loose enough, you can pull it out with your hands.
6. Key (or Knife) Method
Stick a key into the cork, it could be your house or car key, whatever is handy. You need to insert it at a 45-degree angle for maximum effect. Then you need to twist the bottle and gently pull to gradually unscrew the cork.
A variant of this method is to insert a knife instead of a key, but this requires a lot of care as it is potentially more dangerous. It should certainly not be attempted if you've already consumed wine!
7. Pump out the Cork
This method is perhaps one of the most fun. All you need is a bicycle pump (okay that is probably a big ask in most situations). Wedge the pump into the cork and start pumping. The air will enter the cork and pass through it. Eventually, the pressure builds to a high enough level to push the cork out. I'd never tried this method until I stumbled across it when researching this article, but I can assure you that it really does work!
8. Knot and String Method
You will need a screwdriver, or another long thin metal implement, plus a thick piece of string or cord for this method.
First of all, make a hole in the cork with the screwdriver. Then tie a knot at the end of the string and push the knotted end down the hole with the screwdriver. You can then yank the cork out with the string.
This method requires a lot of physical strength and effort, it isn't one of my favorites, but it's worth trying if all you have is a screwdriver and piece of string.
9. Apply Heat With a Blowtorch
This method is pretty crazy, but it works (I've not done it myself, but I have seen it done by others). It requires the use of a blowtorch. Heat is applied to the bottleneck just below the cork, the air expands and pushes the cork out.
This method is potentially dangerous, as a cold bottle can easily explode if it is subjected to a rapid temperature increase. The bottle therefore needs to be reasonably warm to start with.
10. Scissors Method
Another method that does require great care, but works, is the scissors method (please try not to lose any fingers!). Splay the scissor blades apart and stick one of the blades deep into the cork. Holding the scissors by the handle, gradually twist and pull, this maneuver should loosen the cork.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
The way to never get caught out, of course, is to always carry a corkscrew with you. That's not as difficult as it sounds. I have a Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-tool Pocket Knife which I take with me everywhere. I used to keep it in the central console of the car, but later fastened it to my key ring, so that now I'm never without a corkscrew (and many of the other tools have come in very useful over the years too!). If you are going to buy a Swiss Army Knife with a view to opening wine, it's worth spending a little more money, in my experience, as the corkscrew tool often breaks with the cheaper pocket knives. I bought my Victorinox nearly five years ago, it follows a classic design and is a quality product, and everything still works great, including the corkscrew!
There are also some great key chain wine-opening tools available that are focused entirely on unscrewing bottles, they are usually less bulky than multi-tool pocket knives as well as more affordable.
Another tip is to always to keep a corkscrew in your car when traveling, the glove box, central console, or trunk are all good places. It's amazing how many times it can come in handy!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Paul Goodman