How to Open a Bottle of Wine

Photo by Jeremy Parzen
While some laypeople prefer simpler-to-use openers like the Rabbit, nearly all wine professionals concur that the double-hinged Pulltap style "waiter's corkscrew" is the best tool to employ in opening a bottle of wine.
Like the ability to tie a bow tie or mastery of Latin, knowing how to open a bottle of wine correctly is one of those skills that can set you apart from the crowd (especially at dinner parties). It will also lead to greater enjoyment of the wine: In part because extracting a cork from a bottle of wine can be stressful for people who don't have experience in serving wine; and in part because the aromas and flavors of wine can been affected negatively by improper handling of the bottle.

This is the first in a how-to series devoted to shopping for wines, serving wine and ordering bottles in restaurants.

1. Proper storage and transportation

As surprising as it may sound, one of the most important elements in opening a bottle of wine is getting it to the table safely. Especially in Houston, where high temperatures can take even the natives by surprise, wine often "cooks" in the trunk or back seat of a car as the merciless sun beats down. Make sure to store and transport your wine in a cool space, protected from sunlight. And be careful not to submit the bottle to agitation or other violent movement. Wine likes serenity, and the more care you take not to shake the wine, the better it will taste.

2. Have the proper tools handy

Ask any wine professional and they will nearly unanimously give you the same answer: the double-hinged, Pulltap-style "waiter's corkscrew" (like the one in the photo above) is the ideal tool for opening a bottle of wine correctly. Forget the plastic tube you swiped from the hotel where you stayed on your vacation or the winged corkscrew that has lived in your grandmother's kitchen drawer since 1978. Invest the $10-15 to buy a proper Pulltap and you'll never need another wine opener again.

Also, keep a clean napkin or towel handy whenever opening a bottle of wine in case of accidental spillage or residue along the lip of the bottle.

This story continues on the next page.

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My Voice Nation Help

Giacometti, I don't know of any studies of how agitation affects wine but I can tell you that I've tasted wines that have clearly been affected by "bottle shock." I think that you'll find that most wine professionals have had similar experiences. Especially when it comes to older wines, holding the bottle steady is very important: the more the wine is agitated the more the sediment can rise, for example.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

The only reason anyone would tell you to use the "waiter's" corkscrew is because they are/were a waiter.  They are the easiest to place in your pocket.  The winged corkscrew or the rabbit are far superior in opening a bottle of wine, and don't require you to follow the seventeen other steps you mentioned.


Is there a basis in chemistry for not shaking the wine (even during a slight bottle twist) or is this just accepted wisdom circulated among somms?

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