13 Ways to Open a Bottle of Wine
It’s wine o’clock. You’ve picked out the perfect bottle of wine. But it’s a cork closure. Whether you don’t know how to open it or you’ve misplaced your handy corkscrew, here’s our practical guide on how to open a bottle of wine. All 13 methods. We’ll cover everything from removing the foil to what to do if the cork starts to break (hint, not all hope is lost). So whether you’re enjoying happy hour at the office or winding down at home you’ll always be able to get that bottle of wine open.
Table of Contents
How to Remove the Foil Seal
Wines with a cork closure will always have a seal, also known as a capsule. Most often this is a foil seal but these can also be made out of wax. They were created to prevent pests like rodents and insects from damaging the cork when they were stored in cellars. While this is no longer an issue today, the tradition still remains. So how do you remove the seal?
Pull the Seal Off
This method largely only applies to foil seals. Simply hold onto the neck of your bottle and gently, but with some force, twist and pull the seal off.
Cut the Seal
If you can't pull the seal off, or you find yourself with a wax seal, you can cut it off. Using either the serrated knife of your Waiter's Friend, the tip of a corkscrew, or a serrated knife, slice around the lip of the bottle. Once you've sliced all the way around you can use the tip of the knife or corkscrew to lift the seal off.
Slice the Seal
If you want something quicker or a method to impress your guests, you can slice the seal off. Facing the bottle away from you (and anyone else in the room with you), use a serrated knife or kitchen knife and slice upwards to cut through the side of the seal.
Once you've removed the seal from your bottle of wine, now it's time to get the cork out.
Opening Wine with a Corkscrew
First, let’s cover the traditional methods of opening a bottle of wine: with a corkscrew. There are plenty of different types of corkscrews out there but we think the most common are the Waiter's Friend Corkscrew and the Winged Corkscrew.
How to Use a Waiter’s Friend Corkscrew
This is perhaps the most common type of corkscrew. In fact, it’s the standard type used in restaurants and bars (hence the name).
- Insert the corkscrew: press the corkscrew at an angle into the center of the cork and push just enough to break the surface then straighten out the corkscrew while holding onto the bottle
- Rotate the corkscrew: rotate clockwise about 6.5 turns. You want the last of the corkscrew to still be visible
- Pull the cork: place the fulcrums notch against the tip of the bottle and gently pull up until the cork is almost fully out of the bottle
- Use your hands: to fully remove the cork grab it with your hands and pull
To remove the cork from your corkscrew, simply unscrew it counterclockwise. Remember to save it if you don’t plan on finishing your bottle so you can use it to reseal your wine.
How to Use a Winged Corkscrew
For some, these can actually be easier to use than the Waiter's Friend.
- Insert the corkscrew: with the wings (or arms) down at the side place the corkscrew directly above the cork
- Rotate the corkscrew: rotate the head of the Winged Corkscrew clockwise until the arms have fully raised
- Pull the cork out: push down on the arms with both hands and this will life the cork out of the bottle
To remove the cork from your Winged Corkscrew simply hold onto the cork and rotate it counterclockwise.
Opening Wine Without a Corkscrew
Now let’s go into some of the more unconventional — or practical depending on how you view things — methods of opening a bottle of wine. After all, you won’t always have a corkscrew handy. A word of warning: some of these methods do have elements of danger so we do ask you to practice caution. Remember, patience is key to avoid breaking the cork, or worse yet, breaking the bottle.
The Screw and Hammer Method
If you’re a DIY-type person and have a fully-stocked tool box lying around then this method is for you. All you need is a long screw, a hammer (pliers or a fork will also do), and a screwdriver. You’re essentially creating your own corkscrew.
- Insert the screw into the cork and use a screwdriver to screw it into the cork but leave about ½ inch gap between the cork and the head of the screw
- Use the claw of a hammer and insert this into the screw and pull the screw out, this should bring the cork up out of the bottle as well. If you don’t have a hammer you could also use pliers with a good grip or use a sturdy fork just as you would the hammer.
The Lighter Method
This method brings in some physics to get that cork of your bottle. Just make sure your bottle isn’t too cold to avoid shattering the glass with rapid temperature changes.
- Use a lighter and apply the flame to the neck of the bottle just below the cork.
- Rotate the placement of the lighter to evenly heat the neck
- After a minute or two the heat will cause the air inside the bottle to expand and push the cork out of the bottle
The Key Method
If all you have on hand are your keys then fret not, you can use these as well. All you need is a towel and a key.
- Insert the key into the cork at a 45° angle crossing the center of the cork
- Use the towel to help you push the key deeper into the cork
- Once the teeth of your keys are fully in the cork you can start rotating the cork. Patience, and some brute strength, may be key here but you’ll start to see the cork lifting up out of the bottle
The Knife Method
This is perhaps one of the most dangerous methods so do exercise caution. Using a sharp steak knife you’ll follow the same steps as with the key method. Just ensure you have a good grip on the cork and start trying to rotate the cork out of the bottle.
The Shoe Method
The shoe method is one that seems ridiculous but for the most part is successful. If you’re curious about how this works, here’s a quick article on the science behind this method.
- Place the bottle into a shoe where your heel would normally go. You can add a towel in between the bottle and the shoe for some extra padding
- Find a hard, flat surface and hit the heel of the shoe (whilst holding the wine) against it repeatedly. We recommend doing it with some force but not so much that you risk breaking the bottle entirely.
- After a few hits you should start to see the cork coming out of the bottle
A word of warning, the cork may inadvertently shoot out of the bottle so make sure to do this away from anything breakable or away for any people.
The Bike Pump Method
If you happen to have a bike pump or a ball pump laying around, you can use this to remove the cork from your bottle. Just ensure that your pump is the style with a needle tip that can be inserted between the cork and the bottle.
- Press the needle of the pump in between the cork and the side of the bottle
- Start slowly pumping air into the bottle, this will push the cork up and out of the bottle. Usually about 3 or 4 pumps should do the trick. Try as much as possible to position the cork away from your face in case it flies out of the bottle.
The Wire Hanger Method
This method will require some brute strength and patience. If you have a spare wire hanger laying around that you aren’t using anymore then it’s time to fashion it into a corkscrew. There are 2 methods you can use when it comes to a wire hanger.
- Unwind the wire hanger then wrap it around something cylindrical so you’re essentially making a corkscrew. Insert this into the cork and rotate it until you have a good grip. Now you’ll need to pull it out. We recommend either using a towel to cushion your hands or using pliers
- Straighten out the head of the wire hanger then bend it into a fish hook shape. If it’s thin enough you can squeeze it in between the cork and the wine bottle. Once it’s inside the wine bottle, rotate it so that the hook can latch onto the bottom of the cork and now you can pull and your cork should come out of the bottle
The Paper Clip Method
It’s time to unleash your inner MacGyver. This is similar to the second wire hanger method but instead you’ll need 2 paper clips and a pen or some pliers.
- Unwrap 2 paperclips so that each paperclip only has 1 hook
- Insert the hook part of the paperclip into the side of the wine bottle and do the same with the second paperclip but on the opposite side
- Rotate the two paperclips so that the hooks can latch onto the bottom of the cork
- Attach the tops of the paperclips together and tightly wrap them around a pen or a pair of pliers (this is what you’ll use to pull)
- Once everything is secured, gently but firmly pull using the pen or pliers until the cork starts to come out of the bottle
Note: we have seen this method both work and fail but it’s always worth a go even just for the fun of seeing if you can get it to work.
The Wooden Spoon Method
If all else fails, the cork is starting to break, or you just can’t be bothered to pull the cork out; you can always simply push it into the bottle. Either using the end of a wooden spoon or even a whiteboard marker, you can push down on the cork until it's floating inside your wine. Of course, only do this if you plan on finishing the bottle in 1 sitting.
Our team of wine experts tested out 6 of these methods so you can see how they work in real life. Watch our video below on 6 ways to open a bottle of wine:
What to Do if the Cork Breaks
If the cork breaks while you’re trying to open the bottle of wine, it doesn’t automatically mean something's wrong (although do keep a nose out for any off-odors that could indicate the wine is corked). If the cork has started to crumble because you’ve attempted to open the bottle without a corkscrew there are a few simple “fixes”.
- Use the wooden spoon method and simply push the cork entirely into the bottle
- If you’ve got small pieces of cork floating in your wine just filter them out with a coffee filter or a sieve before serving
How to Open a Bottle of Sparkling Wine
Although sparkling wine bottles come with cork closures, you won’t be needing a corkscrew to get these open. Here are 2 methods to open your bottle of sparkling wine.
The Gentle Pop
We’ve all seen the movies and the TV shows where opening a bottle of sparkling wine is accompanied by a big pop and the overflow of bubbles. While this gets people excited, it can be a bit of a waste. In fact, what you really want to hear when you open a bottle of sparkling wine is a gentle pop as CO2 gets released. So how do you do this?
- Keep the bottle pointed away from your face and away from any guests or breakables at all times
- Keep your thumb on top of the cork at all times
- Remove the foil by pulling on the pull tab or cutting it off
- Remove the wire cage by unwinding it — be sure to keep your thumb on top of the cork to avoid the cork shooting out of the bottle without warning
- Use a towel to place over your hand and the bottle — this will help act as a blocker if the cork does decide to shoot out
- Hold onto the cork with one hand and with the other hand twist the bottle back and forth until you start to feel the cork releasing from the bottle and you hear a gentle pop
If you're more of a visual learner, below is a quick video from our wine experts on how to safely open a bottle of sparkling wine:
If you want to go full-on theatrical there is the saber method, which we don’t recommend you do indoors. All you need is a bottle of sparkling wine made using the traditional method such as Champagne (these will have the highest pressure inside the bottle) and something with a sturdy blunt edge that you can use to apply friction to the bottle.
- Make sure your bottle of wine is cold, you want to have kept it in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Why? When the bottle is cold, the glass is harder allowing it to break cleanly and the pressure inside the bottle will be less than if it were warm.
- Get the right tool. Anything that is made of metal, thin, and sturdy will do. If you’re going to use a kitchen knife we recommend using the back of the knife to avoid blunting the sharp edge.
- Remove all the foil and remove the metal cage but make sure to keep your thumb on top of the cork until you’re ready to saber. For an added layer of protection, you can keep the metal cage on but move it so it’s secured just above the lower lip of the bottle.
- Find the seams of the bottle, one of these should be facing you as you’re about to saber and this is where you will place your tool. The idea is to hit where the seams cross at the top of the neck
- The moment of truth. Holding the bottom of the bottle at a 45° angle, slide your tool along the seam all the way to the top and hit the lower lip of the bottle. You don’t need to hit it with all your force but do it firmly and with purpose.
Of course, if you'd rather not deal with the cork at all you can always buy bottles of wine with Stelvin closures. Just unscrew the cap and you're good to go — plus it makes resealing the bottle that much easier.
How to Open Wine with Paper Clip Photo Credits