Like the ability to tie a bow tie or mastery of Latin, knowing how to open a bottle of wine correctly is one of those skills that can set you apart from the crowd (especially at dinner parties). It will also lead to greater enjoyment of the wine: In part because extracting a cork from a bottle of wine can be stressful for people who don't have experience in serving wine; and in part because the aromas and flavors of wine can been affected negatively by improper handling of the bottle.
This is the first in a how-to series devoted to shopping for wines, serving wine and ordering bottles in restaurants.
1. Proper storage and transportation
As surprising as it may sound, one of the most important elements in opening a bottle of wine is getting it to the table safely. Especially in Houston, where high temperatures can take even the natives by surprise, wine often "cooks" in the trunk or back seat of a car as the merciless sun beats down. Make sure to store and transport your wine in a cool space, protected from sunlight. And be careful not to submit the bottle to agitation or other violent movement. Wine likes serenity, and the more care you take not to shake the wine, the better it will taste.
2. Have the proper tools handy
Ask any wine professional and they will nearly unanimously give you the same answer: the double-hinged, Pulltap-style "waiter's corkscrew" (like the one in the photo above) is the ideal tool for opening a bottle of wine correctly. Forget the plastic tube you swiped from the hotel where you stayed on your vacation or the winged corkscrew that has lived in your grandmother's kitchen drawer since 1978. Invest the $10-15 to buy a proper Pulltap and you'll never need another wine opener again.
Also, keep a clean napkin or towel handy whenever opening a bottle of wine in case of accidental spillage or residue along the lip of the bottle.
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3. Remove the capsule
Use the knife of your Pulltap to cut and remove the capsule by gently applying pressure under the ridge of the neck of the bottle. Never twist the bottle as you do this: simply cut the capsule on one side and then turn the knife over and cut the other side, then use the knife to tear the capsule off gently. When you twist the bottle, you can inadvertently shake the wine.
4. Insert the "worm" of the corkscrew at a 45-degree angle
This is another one of the most important steps in opening a bottle of wine successfully. If you insert the worm at a 90-degree angle, you run a greater risk of breaking the cork. The worm will straighten out by itself as you gently apply pressure and twist.
5. Use the first ledge to pull the cork (or synthetic stopper) halfway out of the bottle
If you're right-handed, use your left hand to keep the bottle steady while gently applying pressure to the fulcrum of the corkscrew. Use the first ledge to pull the cork (or synthetic stopper) halfway out of the bottle.
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6. Use the second ledge to extract the stopper
At this point, you should be able to remove the stopper with relative ease by using the second ledge of the fulcrum.
Next up: how to serve wine properly...