10 Ways to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew

Updated on March 12, 2018
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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.

Using cork as a stopper goes back thousands of years, they were used by the Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Cork is the outer bark of an evergreen oak. Its yielded when the tree is between 15 and 20 years old and then every 8 to 10 years.
Using cork as a stopper goes back thousands of years, they were used by the Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Cork is the outer bark of an evergreen oak. Its yielded when the tree is between 15 and 20 years old and then every 8 to 10 years. | Source

Most wine lovers have been in situations where they're at a social event, on the beach, by the pool, or sailing on 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 methods for 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 bottle. Note that generally speaking, you will always want to remove the wrapping from the cork before you proceed with any of these methods.

1. Push the Cork Down Into the Bottle With a Wooden Spoon

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 a wooden spoon to be ideal. You simply push the cork down into the bottle.

There are downsides to this method. Firstly, the wine tends to splash 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 sift the bits out if you then pour through a strainer, but it's annoying. Thirdly,

2. The 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 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.

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 is not an obvious solution, but 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. The 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. The 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 it before I began researching this article, but I can assure you that it really does work!

8. The 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). 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.

The bottle needs to be reasonably warm to start with though. A cold bottle could easily explode if it is subjected to a rapid temperature increase.

10. The Scissors Method.

Another method that does require great care, but works, is the scissors method (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, it 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 at all times. That's not as difficult as it sounds. My ex-wife used to have a Swiss Army Knife attached to her key ring, so we were never without a corkscrew when together, or a beer bottle opener for that matter. There are also some keychain wine opening tools available that are focused entirely on opening bottles that are less bulky as well as cheaper.

Another tip is to always 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.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Paul Goodman

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