Which Came First, Cork or Corkscrew?

As we discussed in a previous post, wine was once stored in terra cotta pots and wood barrels and was not aged long term.

Around the 1700s, glass blowing technology evolved to produced wine bottles with narrow necks that provided for an air-tight storage option that enabled the aging of wine.

The English were the first to use cork to seal bottles, sourcing cork from Portugal and Spain. Cork is derived from cork trees, which are a species of Oak grown in Spain. As it became commonplace to use cork to seal bottles, the need to extract the cork grew. According to corkscrew historian Ron McLean of “the Virtual Corkscrew Museum”, the first corkscrews originated from the gun worme which was a tool used to clean stuck bullets from rifles. Around the 17th century, blacksmiths began to make corkscrews specifically for removing corks from bottles .

1Mary Bellis, “Popping the Cork” TheInventors.org, accessed December 5, 2019, http://theinventors.org/library/weekly/aa122000a.htm

Types of Corkscrews

The corkscrew has now evolved into many different designs, making it easier than ever to uncork your favorite bottle. Here are a few designs to choose from as curated by Vinotemp:
wood corkscrew
Waiters Corkscrew or Wine Key: One of the most common models of corkscrew, this all-in-one tool has become a staple in many restaurants and bars. It consists of a corkscrew, foil cutter, double-hinged lever, and handle. To open a bottle, you must first place the bottle on a level surface, remove the foil using the built-in knife, and then extend the lever and handle so that it forms a T-shape with the spiral worm. Twist the worm clockwise into the cork until only the last loop is visible. Use the first notch of the double-hinged lever to hook onto the neck of the bottle and pull up. Then, hook the second notch and pull up once again until the cork slides out.

Lever Corkscrews: Modern lever corkscrews feature an ergonomic design that saves your hand and wrist the stress of twisting out the cork. Many designs include a foil cutter. To use, simply lower the handle to insert the corkscrew into the cork and then pull up to remove. No twisting required.

Winged Corkscrew: This traditional design has a worm, a ring, and two levers. To use this corkscrew, remove the foil from the bottle and place the ring atop the neck of the bottle so that the cork is positioned over the cork. Turn the handle until the levers are in the up position. Press the levers down to remove the cork.

T Corkscrew: Arguably the simplest to use, the T Corkscrew is just a T shaped handle with a spiral worm. To use, place the spiral atop the cork and begin twisting down using the T handle until the worm is fully buried, then pull up to remove the cork.
electric corkscrew

Electric Wine Opener: Thanks to electricity, we can now open a bottle of wine at the push of a button! This modern type of corkscrew comes with a rechargeable base, foil cutter, and preserver. To use, remove the foil from the bottle, place the device over the neck, push the down button to insert the worm, then press the up button to extract the cork.

Corkscrew Alternatives and Other Tools

Traditional and modern corkscrews are not the only tools available to remove a wine cork. A cork puller can be inserted into the neck of the bottle, allowing you to pull out the cork with one motion. Some of us have had the unfortunate experience of accidentally pushing the cork into the bottle or having part of the cork fall in. When this happens, a cork catcher can help to fish the cork from the bottle. Check out our Serve and Preserve category for more wine openers, corkscrews, stoppers, and more.

Do you have a favorite model of corkscrew or a special trick for opening a bottle? Let us know below.