The advent of screw-top wine bottles has certainly assuaged the bottle opener anxiety that frequently accompanies dinner parties, picnics and weekends away – just twist and pour. But those who’ve ever been unprepared while in possession of a corked bottle will well-understand the frustration and helplessness that accompanies the realisation that you’ve no means to open it. Fortunately, there are countless hacks for getting around this. Here are the ones that work the best.
1. Use a shoe
There are multiple videos online demonstrating how seemingly easy it is to open a bottle using footwear. Simply slip the bottom of the bottle into a shoe and bang the sole against a wall (or any other sturdy vertical surface) – the pressure will slowly push the cork out of the bottle neck. It works, but it takes a little more elbow grease than the viral clips would suggest. It also helps to use a hard-soled shoe, rather than rubber. Stop before the cork is fully removed, though, otherwise you’ll find yourself in a bit of mess.
2. Push the cork into the bottle
One of the safest and simplest methods. Simply take the handle of a wooden spoon or a similarly-shaped blunt instrument and push the cork down into the wine, keeping a firm grip on the bottle. Of course, the downside to this is that there’s no way to retrieve the cork, so you’re basically committed to drinking the whole bottle, which certainly isn’t a problem if you’re sharing it with friends. If the cork is old, or made of actual cork rather than rubber, you might want to strain the wine before drinking.
3. Twist it out
All the principles of a traditional corkscrew, without the actual corkscrew. For this approach, you can use keys, a serrated knife, a sturdy nail or any sharpish object that provides some leverage. Plunge the item into the cork at a 45-degree angle and then move the ‘handle’ of the object in a circle. A few rotations later (while gently tugging upwards) and the cork should begin slowly sliding out. Make sure to really plunge your item into the cork though – if it’s not inserted deep enough the cork could crumble.
4. Screw it
Similar to the above twisting approach, this one also relies on you having some tools to hand. Find a screw – the longer the better – and screw it into the cork, then use a backside of a hammer to gently lever it out. It sounds simple – and it is, in theory – but there’s quite a bit more effort involved than you’d expect. In the time it takes you to wrestle the cork out you might just be better off looking for a bottle opener!
5. Heat things up
If you’re not very handy with the makeshift tools, you could try applying heat to the neck of the bottle, either with a lighter or – if for some curious reason you have one to hand – a blow torch. The heat will eventually force the cork to move upwards and out of the bottle. Make sure the bottle isn’t cold, though, or it could explode from the rapid change in temperature. Also bear in mind that this method works by creating pressure within the bottle, which will affect the wine’s flavours and aromas, so it’s definitely not an avenue to pursue for anything other than corner shop plonk.