A coat hanger? Tweezers? A kitchen torch? Here are the best — and worst — ways for how to open wine without a corkscrew.
Ever stayed at a hotel or vacation home and brought your own wine, only to realize they don’t have a corkscrew? Of course, the first response is panic. But after that subsides, it’s time to problem solve!
In fact, there are several proven ways to get that cork out of the bottle. But there’s also a lot of “advice” that you should steer clear of.
Here are the 4 best methods for how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew — and 4 techniques you should avoid.
Dos: 4 best ways to open wine without a corkscrew
Use a key
Keys aren’t just for opening doors or starting cars. They can come in handy for opening wine as well! In fact, this is one of the best ways to do it, according to Wine Enthusiast. Here’s how:
- First, choose a key with an angled end on it.
- Clean the key thoroughly.
- Insert the tip into the center of the cork at a 45-degree angle, then slowly twist it in. You want to apply enough pressure so most of the key enters the cork, but not too much that the cork breaks.
- Once the key is in, slowly turn it and pull at the time until the cork comes out.
👉🏼 Why this works: This technique is similar to how a traditional corkscrew works. By mimicking the twisting and pulling motions with a key, you can eventually get the cork out cleanly.
Use a screw
You’ll need to grab your toolbox to make this method work. But it’s surprisingly easy and effective.
- To start, gather a long screw, a screwdriver, and a hammer.
- Fold a paper napkin over the cork. This helps protect the top of the bottle when you use the hammer later.
- With the bottle on a flat surface, insert the screw into the cork and slowly twist it in with the screwdriver. Leave about a centimeter of space between the cork and the end of the screw.
- Then slide the back of the hammer under the screw and gently lever it out. Take care not to press down too firmly so you don’t crack the lip of the bottle.
- Once the wine cork is about halfway out, remove it the rest of the way by simply pulling it out with your hand.
👉🏼 Why this works: This method uses leverage to release the cork and once it’s halfway out, the rest should come out cleanly. By using a paper towel, you add a cushion between the bottle neck and the hammer so you can help prevent any cracking. So basically, if you don’t have a corkscrew handy, but you do have access to a hammer, screwdriver, and a screw, then it’s worth a try!
Have an older bottle of wine with a brittle cork? Try using tweezers to extract it.
- Grab a large pair of tweezers and clean the ends thoroughly.
- Slide the pincers into the edge of the bottle over either side of the cork.
- Once it’s firmly in place, gently twist and pull out the cork.
👉🏼 Why this works: This method operates the same way as an Ah-So wine opener (also called the Butler’s Friend corkscrew). It relies on pincers that are inserted on either side of the cork to grasp it, then you slowly twist the cork out. It’s ideal for older or more brittle corks because you never penetrate the cork this way.
Push instead of pull
Sometimes it’s better to go against the grain. They say “no,” you say “yes.” They go right. You go left. So instead of straining to get the cork out minus a corkscrew, you could simply push it in.
- Find a small object with a blunt end like the handle of a wooden spoon or small spatula.
- Use it to firmly push the cork into the bottle, being sure to hold down the bottle securely.
- Once it falls into the bottle, grab a sieve and strain the wine into a decanter to filter out any cork debris.
👉🏼 Why this works: You’re not at risk of breaking off the cork this way and it’s effective. But if you leave the cork bobbing in the bottle for too long without decanting the wine, it could affect the flavor.
👉🏼 Related: 5 Ways to Chill Wine Fast
Dont’s: 4 worst ways to open wine without a corkscrew
According to Real Simple, this is one of the worst ways to open a bottle of wine. Why? Corks can be tricky to remove from wine bottles with a corkscrew. So it should go without saying that trying to use a knife instead is a bad idea.
This method swaps a serrated knife for a key in the technique described above, inserting part of the blade into the cork and slowly twisting it out.
❌ Why this doesn’t work: Put simply, there’s a lot that can go wrong. The cork may split or the knife can slip and you could end up hurting yourself. That bottle of wine isn’t worth personal injury, so skip this method.
You may have seen movies where the bad guy unlocks a car with a wire hanger. But what may work to open a car won’t work to open a bottle of wine. Let’s take a closer look.
This method is simple in practice. You start by squeezing the end of a wire clothes hanger together so the hook becomes more narrow. Then you slide into the bottle down the side of the cork. Once the hook clears the cork, you turn it and pull up slightly so the hook end gets lodged into the bottom of the cork. Then theoretically, you can pull the cork out.
❌ Why this doesn’t work: While it seems like a plausible way to uncork a bottle of wine, wire hangers simply aren’t strong enough to make this work. If you’re able to get the hook under the cork, it will just bend when you try to get the cork out. So you’ll be left with two things you need to get out of the bottle!
Kitchen torch or lighter
The theory behind this technique is as follows: heating the neck of the wine bottle will cause air below the cork to expand, pushing the cork up and out. But theory can be different from reality, as one man learned when he tried this technique, leaving the bottle shattered
To be fair, he used an industrial torch instead of a kitchen torch. But you see what can go wrong.
❌ Why this doesn’t work: As Epicurious explains, it’s simply not a good idea to mix heat and wine. Warming up the bottle with a flame can steam the wine and affect its flavor. There’s also the chance you could burn yourself. Or even worse, the bottle could break if it’s heated for too long.
Hitting the wall
If you’ve hit the wall trying to get that cork out of your wine bottle, what you shouldn’t do is actually hit the wall.
This technique involves wrapping the wine in a thick towel, then gently and repeatedly smacking the side of the bottle against a wall. The thinking goes that the force of the impact will slowly push the cork out.
A similar method holds that you can turn the wine upside down and hit the bottom of the bottle with a shoe to pop the cork out. Food & Wine advises against these methods for two reasons: they’re ineffective and they’re potentially dangerous!
❌ Why this doesn’t work: Let’s face it. Banging a glass bottle against a wall, no matter how much it’s protected, can still shatter, causing a mess and maybe worse. And smacking the base of the bottle with a shoe can have the same effect. Even if the cork does come out this way, you may lose all of your wine since the bottle is upside down.
Screw caps work just as well as corks when it comes to keeping wines fresh. And since they don’t break down or crumble over time, they may even be a better choice. But like with any wine, once you open it, the shelf life decreases quickly. On average, wine will stay good for 2-3 days if resealed with a screw top. After that, the taste and aroma will deteriorate.