How to Open a Bottle of Wine

Kate Miller-Wilson
open bottle of wine
Learn more about corkscrews.

When it comes to useful life skills, knowing how to open a bottle of wine ranks near the top of the list. With some good instructions and a little practice, you'll look just like an experienced sommelier.

Does It Matter How You Open It?

It's tempting to think that as long as the cork ends up out of the bottle, you've succeeded in opening the wine; however, how you open a bottle can affect the quality of the beverage. Knowing the proper methods will stand you in good stead at dinner parties and wine tasting events.

There are several reasons to use the proper method for opening wine, but these are the most important:

  • It's possible to break the bottle as part of the process, leaving you with a wasted beverage.
  • Many wine enthusiasts are offended by pieces of cork floating in their glass of wine.
  • It's more sophisticated and elegant to open wine in front of guests using the traditional method.

Basic Wine Opening Procedure and Etiquette

There are several different corkscrew models you can use to open your wine; but, no matter which tool you use, it's important to follow these steps:

  1. Hold the bottle of wine upright. It's most proper to hold the bottle, but few people would be offended if you placed it on a table or countertop.
  2. Use a small knife to cut the foil around the neck of the bottle. A small serrated blade works best for this. Cut all the way around.
  3. Remove the foil above the line you cut, and discard it.
  4. Use a corkscrew to remove the cork in one piece. Place the cork on the table so guests can sniff it if they are interested in the wine's bouquet.
  5. Use a small towel or napkin to wipe the lip of the bottle. This was originally done to remove traces of lead, but now it's mostly just a matter of custom.
  6. Pour about half an inch of wine into one glass, and allow one of your guests to taste the wine before pouring the rest.
  7. Pour the rest of the glasses, returning to the taster's glass last.

How to Open a Bottle of Wine with Various Tools

Unless you have a bottle of wine that is sealed with a screwcap, you'll probably need to use a tool to get the cork out of the bottle. Many of these tools are called corkscrews, and there are several different designs.

Butterfly Wine Openers

Butterfly corkscrews are perhaps the most popular tool for opening wine at home. These corkscrews are very easy to use, and they're perfect for beginning wine enthusiasts.

  1. Simply line up the point of the corkscrew with the middle of the cork and apply slight pressure.
  2. Turn the handle on the top, but make sure you leave the wings free. As you go deeper into the cork, the wings will raise up.
  3. To remove the cork, hold the bottle and press these wings downward.

Waiter's Corkscrews

If you've ever been served a bottle of wine in a restaurant, you've probably seen a waiter's corkscrew. This device folds to fit in a drawer or pocket and includes a spiral corkscrew, a grooved lever, and a small serrated knife for cutting foil. It takes a little practice to get the hang of using a waiter's corkscrew, but it is an elegant way to open a bottle of wine.

  1. Unfold the corkscrew, and line it up with the center of the cork. Rotate the entire device to drive the corkscrew as far as possible into the cork.
  2. Angle the handle so you can place the end of the lever on the edge of the wine bottle. The groove in the lever should sit comfortably on the lip of the bottle, but you can use your hand to keep it from slipping.
  3. Firmly hold the neck of the wine bottle, and lift up on the handle to pull the cork out.

Ah Sos or Butler's Friends

An unusual looking device, the ah so or butler's friend is a wine opener with two long blades and no corkscrew. This style of opener is said to have been popular with Victorian butlers because it allowed them to remove the cork, sample the wine, and replace the cork again without detection. You can use it to open wine, too.

  1. Insert the longest blade along the edge of the cork, right against the bottle. Push it down until the other blade is even with the surface of the cork.
  2. Push the other blade down along the opposite side of the cork, and move the device until both blades are completely in the bottle.
  3. Pull firmly to remove the cork from the bottle.

The Rabbit

A recent invention for wine opening, the Rabbit or screwpull lever is one of the easiest ways to open a bottle of wine. It lacks the elegance of other devices, but it makes up for this with its convenience.

  1. Line the corkscrew up with the cork, and make sure the levers are in the upward position.
  2. Pull the upper lever down all the way until the corkscrew has gone into the cork.
  3. Firmly holding the bottle, push the lever back to the up position and remove the cork.

Now that you know how to open a bottle of wine, you're all set to throw a wine tasting party or entertain guests for a fancy dinner.

How to Open a Bottle of Wine