What is a Corkscrew?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Copyright Protected:
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A corkscrew is a small kitchen gadget designed to remove the cork from a bottle of wine. The most basic corkscrew model consists of a metal spike in the shape of an open spiral (helix) connected to a wooden handle. The user centers the point of the helix on the top of the cork and twists until the wire has become securely embedded in the body of the cork. Securing the bottle with one hand, the user then pulls on the handle until the cork has been released. The cork can then be removed from the corkscrew and examined or discarded.

Wine experts estimate that pulling a cork out of a bottle with a corkscrew requires the same force as lifting 100 pounds. For this reason, many mechanical improvements have been made to the traditional corkscrew design. Some provide more leverage for pulling out the cork, while others emphasize more torque during twisting.

Waiters who routinely open and pour corked wine bottles carry a simple lever corkscrew. The worm (proper name for the helix-shaped screw) is twisted into the cork as before, but the waiter uses a side-mounted lever to lift the cork out in one fluid motion. Further refinements lead to a corkscrew with a double lever action. Two 'wings' are mechanically drawn upwards by a gear as the worm drills into the cork. The user steadies the bottle on a table and presses down on both wings. The cork is pulled straight out by the central gear assembly.

An even more recent corkscrew design called a 'rabbit' uses both increased torque and a vertical lever to pull up on the cork. Wineries have begun to replace corked bottles with screw tops, however, so investment in an elaborate corkscrew system may not be necessary.

Using a corkscrew properly can prevent some of the most common wine-opening hazards. An inferior corkscrew with a solid auger design instead of an open spiral can dig out too much of the cork, which could lead to contamination of the bottle. Drilling completely through the soft center of an older wine bottle may also lead to problems with cork pieces and damage while pulling. Those who are uncomfortable with using a traditional corkscrew may find a self-centering double lever system or a rabbit corkscrew to be the best investment.

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How is a double lever corkscrew made?