(un)Screw that

I had something unusual happen to me last week: I tried and failed to open a bottle of wine. I don’t mean that a bad cork crumbled or a soft one pushed through into the bottle. I mean I couldn’t muscle the cork out. I was in New Hampshire, using the (quite good) corkscrew in my Swiss Army Knife, and the “cork” was one of those micro-foam ones, neither true cork nor that solid plastic type. When it resisted pulls of increasing strength, I tried every contortion I could think of. I applied both hands, I had H try to hold the bottle, I strained and jerked and sweated and, of course, swore. Nothing. Fortunately, we had another bottle in the cupboard—an Australian Sauvignon Blanc twist-off no less—so with the addition of a little ice (we’re such a déclassé pair) we were set.

At home for the last few years, I’ve been using a simple but wonderful double-lever corkscrew, similar to this, given to me by R. Elegant engineering, sturdy, essentially fail-safe (and with a really good foil knife). So I brought the offending bottle south over last weekend, applied the power of the lever…and the cork slid so silkily out I probably could have gotten it with my fingernails. What’s with that? I settled that bottle’s hash by consuming the wine (a Rueda, but not our usual Las Brisas) with aggressive haste.

Frustration, humiliation, and mystification aside, I’m a big fan of twist-off wine bottles. Many of the great New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs come with screw tops, and studies have shown they are at least as effective as corks at keeping the wine from going off. A tip of the hat to the Kiwis for their characteristic courageous pragmatism. Wake me when the French come around.

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