Strey Cellars

Archives: March 6, 2020

To The Rescue

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You know that moment when you are at a friend’s house, and you brought a bottle of wine to drink, but when you go to open it you realize that your friend isn’t a wine drinker, so they don’t have a corkscrew? This happened to me enough times in my early twenties that I just started keeping a corkscrew in my bag at all times. This didn’t always work out for me, because TSA isn’t a fan of sharp objects in your carry-on. And courthouse security wasn’t impressed, either… Oh, Disneyland security also didn’t appreciate it. I never really considered my corkscrew to be a weapon because I have only ever used it to pop bottles, but upon reflection, I suppose the corkscrew has dual purposes. *Places it back in my purse, you really can never be too careful* But let’s get back to that house party, what do you do? Obviously you want to drink the wine, so how do you open the bottle?

In my experience it was always easy enough to push the cork into the bottle. Doing this means you are committed to finishing it, which is pretty much the only way I drink wine anyway. I have had success using the handle of a wooden spoon. If you’re camping or someplace outdoors without a corkscrew, you can use a stick that’s a similar width. I know it’s not ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers. Next time, bring a corkscrew! 

If you really want to be impressive, or you’d like to save the cork, you can use your basic household screw, or screw hook. This works much better if the lining of the screw is wider, because it creates a better grip. Simply twist your screw into the center of your cork, and use the back of a hammer, or even a fork to gently pull the cork up. You might need to wiggle it a little and use your fingers to help pry it up, but this should work with just a little more effort than you’d use with an actual corkscrew. If the screw isn’t holding the cork well enough, screw it in at an angle.

There is always the blowtorch method…I would assume that if you have a blowtorch, you probably have a corkscrew, but then I’d be wrong, because my dad is a chef, and he’s sober. He definitely has a blowtorch, but has no use for a corkscrew. I still say that the blowtorch method is purely for fun, though… And it is super fun! All you need is a blowtorch! First, remove the foil so you can see the space between the wine and the cork, then turn on the blowtorch and direct the fire to the neck of your bottle, just underneath the cork. The idea is to heat the air between the wine and the cork, causing the air to expand, pushing the cork up and out of the bottle. You will need to turn the bottle while you’re heating the neck. It really should not take more than a minute for the cork to begin moving. Do not point the bottle at anyone because once it’s ready, the cork shoots out very suddenly.

If you are very patient, and don’t mind seriously disturbing your wine, there is the shoe trick! Place the bottom of your unopened bottle in a shoe, hit the heel of the shoe against a wall repeatedly until the cork is pushed out far enough for you to use pliers to pull it the rest of the way out. I know, it sounds so weird and random! But it does actually work. I am very curious to know who figured this out. Whatever the case is, if you do not have a corkscrew, but you do have a shoe, or a screw, all is not lost! 

As you know, my favorite daytime wine is sparkling, usually, it’s easy-peasy to pop a bottle of champagne, but I want to give you a few pointers on opening bubbly. First, CAUTION! Once you remove the cage, the cork can, and might go flying. People have lost eyesight, and even died from flying corks, sooo my very first point is this: keeping your face away from the cork! Remove the cage, and keep a hand over the cork, so it can’t fly. Then place a napkin over the top of the bottle. Wrap your free hand around the neck of the bottle, over the napkin while you remove the hand covering the cork. This serves a dual purpose, if the cork flies, you have it trapped, and now you can firmly grip the cork over the napkin, gently twist the cork away from you, it should pop right up at this point.

If you have a very stubborn cork, you may need better grip. My go-to is the rubber lining that I put on the bottom of my cabinets and drawers. I keep an extra strip in my utensil drawer to help me open jars and bubbles. I have also had success with oven mitts. I cannot stress enough to point the bottle AWAY from your face, but also away from any valuables, especially people.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “OK Justine, I know how to open bubbly, teach me how to saber champers!” Well, here’s the thing, I have not actually ever used a sword, or knife to open bubbly, and I don’t have a huge interest in it. I know, I am so lame. However, legend has it that Napoleon and his troops drank a lot of champagne, and they used their swords to open their bottles! There is a lot of lore surrounding Champagne, and I can’t say that Napoleon “invented” this method, but it sure does sound like a fun story! Since I am not an expert at Sabering Champagne, I thought I would share this fantastic video of Alton Brown, (one of our tasting room girls, Darcey refers to him as “Our lord and savior, Alton brown”, and now that’s all I can think whenever I use his cookbooks!) demonstrating “proper” sabering technique. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: Don’t try any of the unconventional techniques at home. They are very dangerous, and there is literally a tool to help you to open your wine bottle… it’s called a corkscrew, and they cost like $6. If you choose not to heed my warning, I am not responsible for missing limbs.

EDIT: Upon learning that I had never tried the saber method, Katie insisted on having me open bubbly at our staff meeting! Check out our Instagram story highlights for a peak at my sabering skills! @streycellars

Author’s note: My name is Justine and I have been working in the tasting room at Strey Cellars for over four years. We are a small family owned local boutique winery. If this is your first visit to my blog, you’ll notice that I write as if we are old friends, because this is the energy of our winery. Come visit sometime, and see for yourself. If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with a friend. Cheers!