Opening Wine

Opening & Pouring Wine

The only requirements for the seal on a bottle of wine are that it should be:

  • airtight,
  • hygienic,
  • long-lasting,
  • removable.

Unfortunately, cork is prone to infection and shrinkage, and although modern alternatives such as plastic or screwtops lack cork's cachet, they can give you a fresher wine.

Using a Corkscrew

Although the method for opening wine may depend on the type of corkscrew you are using, the general technique is as follows:

1. First remove the plastic seal or metal foil around the top of the bottle (known as the capsule). You can do this by tearing or cutting it away, or by using a foil cutter. You can buy these separately, or some corkscrews may include one in the handle.

2. If there is any dirt or mould around the top of the cork, wipe the lip of the bottle.

3. Press the point of the corkscrew gently into the centre of the cork, then turn the corkscrew slowly and steadily. Try to drive it in absolutely straight. If it begins to veer off-course, it is better to unwind it and start again than to carry on and risk breaking the cork.

4. Some corkscrews (such as the Screwpull) remove the cork by driving straight through it. However, for others, you will need to stop turning as the point emerges at the bottom of the cork, and then ease the cork out gently.

How to Open Champagne

A sparkling wine or Champagne bottle does not require any type of corkscrew to remove its cork; the pressure in the bottle does the work - all you have to do is control it. These bottles should be opened with the same caution used in handling a dangerous weapon, and you should always keep a thumb or finger over the cork.

1. Tear off the foil to reveal the wire cage that restrains the cork.

2. Place one thumb over the top of the cork and undo the cage. From this moment on, there is a chance that the cork could shoot off, so point the bottle at a 45° angle away from people and breakables.

3. Grip the cork with one hand and hold the base of the bottle firmly with the other. Now pull and turn the bottle slowly (NOT the cork). The cork should ease out gently. If done correctly, you will hear a gentle "sigh" rather than a loud "pop".

4. Hold the bottle at an angle of 45° for a few moments to calm the initial rush of foam, and then pour small amount in each glass.

5. As the initial mousse subsides, top up each glass.

Bear in mind that a cold bottle will open with a less dramatic burst than a warm one.

Broken Corks

To remove a broken cork that is still wedged into the bottle neck, drive the corkscrew in at the sharpest available angle and press the cork fragment against the side of the neck as you work it gently upwards.

However, if this technique doesn't work, simply push the cork down into the wine. You will probably get bits of cork in your glass - just fish them out.

If a sparkling wine cork breaks in the bottle, then your only option will be to resort to a corkscrew. However, take great care in doing so - always remember that you're dealing with a pressurised bottle.