uncorked

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 June, 2006, 12:00am

Banging, pumping, pulling or pounding: whichever method you prefer, it is not easy to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. Stories abound about folks desperately wresting corks from the necks of bottles in ingenious ways. If your usual tipple requires only fingers and an opposable thumb to open, you may not have a corkscrew handy to pull the cork on a Chateau Lafite Rothschild, so here are some alternative methods.


The most obvious way is to mimic a corkscrew. Providing you've hung your own pictures, you'll have everything required: screwdriver, large screw and pliers. Thread the screw into the cork and, holding the bottle between your feet, tug on the screw with pliers. Vice grips make this task easier. Alternatively, use the nail-removing end of a hammer to tug on the screw, pulling the cork partly from the bottle. Pliers can then be used to grip the exposed cork. You could also screw a large storage hook - the type used to hang a bicycle on a wall - into the cork and, gripping the curved end of the hook, pull. A screw can be threaded at a right angle through a piece of wood, steel or even another cork to improvise a handle grip.


A most ingenious technique is the nails-a-trois approach. Gently pound two nails (with heads) into the cork. Slip a loose third nail between the other two, perpendicular to the bottle. Twist and pull.


Sportsmen will have an array of toys to use, such as a manual tire or ball pump. Pierce the cork with the needle and work the pump as though inflating a tire. The air pressure under the cork will force it out of the bottle. A syringe has also been known to do the trick.


If needles make you squeamish then you are a pounder and should use the following method. Wrap a small towel or your jacket around the base of the bottle. Find a firm, flat vertical surface, such as the jamb of an open doorway, a tree trunk or a solid wall. Pound the padded base of the bottle against the surface repeatedly, striking evenly. The trick is to keep the bottle at a 90-degree angle at all times. The pounding will slowly ease the cork out of the bottle, but keep in mind the following caveats: the wine will be somewhat fizzy; there will be spills on the floor; you might be liable for wall damage; and you will perspire heavily. Perhaps this technique is more appropriate for opening wallets than wine bottles - there is always someone in the room willing to bet it cannot be done.


The issue isn't so much getting the cork out of the bottle, but extricating the liquid. Another solution is


to push the cork into the bottle. Almost any implement will do; items that have achieved success include toothbrushes, house keys and screwdrivers. For the more technically minded, insert a butter knife into the cork. Use a hammer to tap the knife, gently pushing the cork partway into the bottle. Then use a chopstick to push the cork right in. Whatever instrument is used,


beware of uncontrolled spurting at the cork's final plunge and remember: you cannot reseal what you have undone. Also, avoid trying this with Italian wines as they have very long corks.