Wine For Dummies

The Screwpull is about six inches long. It consists of an arched piece of plastic (which looks like a clothespin on steroids) straddling an inordinately long, five-inch worm that's coated with Teflon (see Figure 8-1). To use this corkscrew, you simply place the plastic over the bottle top (having removed the capsule), until a lip on the plastic is resting on the top of the bottle. Hold on to the plastic firmly while turning the lever atop the worm clockwise. The worm descends into the cork. Then you simply keep turning the lever in the same clockwise direction, and the cork magically emerges from the bottle. To remove the cork from the Screwpull, simply turn the lever counterclockwise while holding on to the cork.

Figure 8-1: The Screwpull corkscrew.

The Screwpull comes in many colors  burgundy, black, and China red being the most common and costs in the $15 to $20 range in wine shops, kitchen stores, and specialty catalogs. It's very simple to use, does not require a lot of muscle, and is our corkscrew of choice for over 95 percent of the corks that we encounter. Other corkscrews worth owning

Did we say 95 percent? Well, you see, that's why we have two other corkscrews for the remaining 5 percent of the corks that the Screwpull can't remove (or threatens to break itself on; after all, it is mostly plastic, and $20 is $20). Flange-top bottles, for example, really challenge the Screwpull because of their unusual width at the top of the bottle.

Our two alternative corkscrews are smaller devices that besides working better now and then  can conveniently fit into your pocket or apron. Their size is one reason that they are favored by servers in restaurants. The two-pronged type that they use in California

One is called, unofficially, the Ah-So because (according to legend, anyway) when people finally figure out how it works, they say, "Ah, so that's how it works!" (Some people also refer to it as the Butler's Friend, but who has a butler these days?)

It's a simple device made up of two thin, flat metal prongs, one slightly longer than the other (see Figure 8-2). To use it, you slide the prongs down into the tight space between the cork and the bottle (inserting the longer prong first), using a back-and-forth seesaw motion until the top of the Ah-So is resting on the top of the cork. Then you twist the cork while you gently pull it up.

Figure 8-2: The Ah-So corkscrew.

One advantage of the Ah-So is that it delivers an intact cork, without a hole in it, that can be reused to close bottles of homemade vinegar, to maintain the integrity of the cork for collectors, or to make cutesy bulletin boards.

Although more difficult to operate than the Screwpull, the Ah-So really comes into its own with very tight-fitting corks when no other corkscrews, including the Screwpull, seem to be able to budge the cork. Also, the Ah-So can be effective with old, crumbly corks in which other corkscrews cannot get a proper grip.

The Ah-So is useless with loose corks that move around in the bottle neck when you try to remove them. The Ah-So just pushes those corks down into the wine. At that point, you'll need another tool called a cork retriever (which we describe in the "Waiter, there's cork in my wine!" section, later in this chapter).

The Ah-So sells for around $6 to $8. It seems to be especially favored in California for no particular reason that we have ever been able to figure out. The most professional corkscrew of them all