Opening a wine bottle is somewhere between opening a gift and a time capsule. It’s part celebration and part transmission.
That’s why, in the grand scheme of opening bottles, opening wine bottles is a touch more involved. It’s also really hard to do if you don’t have the right tool on hand.
In this post, we’ll go over how to open a wine bottle properly. Normally. Sensibly. But after that, all bets are off. Because we’ll be covering how to open wine bottles without a corkscrew. Maybe keep a wine stain remover nearby just in case.
And, thankfully, your ability to hit a standard wine pour or provide the right glassware to aerate your wine doesn’t hinge on whether or not you opened the bottle with a shoe. Though you may find one of these top wine aerators handy.
How to Open a Wine Bottle with a Corkscrew
Opening a wine bottle with a wine bottle opener is a step-by-step process. We’ll lay it out one step at a time. And we’ll assume you’re opening your wine bottle with a corkscrew on a wine key, a type of wine bottle opener.
- Step 1: Cut the foil beneath the bottle’s lower lip. Cut it all the way around the bottle’s neck. Then you’ll be able to neatly remove the top of the foil off. As if you were politely removing someone’s hat. Put the foil in your pocket.
- Step 2: Press the tip of the corkscrew into the center of the cork and push just enough to break the cork’s surface. This is where you’ll be drilling down. You’re just positioning the corkscrew right now. Next, straighten the corkscrew upright while still holding the tip in place.
- Step 3: Rotate the corkscrew approximately 6 to 7 times. Or however long it takes for the hook of the corkscrew’s lever to be in a position to latch onto the bottle’s upper lip.
- Step 4: Place the lever on the bottle’s upper and push down, leveraging the cork out. Don’t do this too quickly. There shouldn’t be a popping sound. Once the cork is almost entirely out, wiggle it and pull it gentle and finally remove it by hand.
- Step 5: Wipe the bottle’s lip of any sediment or cork pieces.
- Step 6: Place the cork on the table and your corkscrew in your pocket.
If you’re not using a wine key and you’re using a corkscrew with two collapsible handles, the process is similar. The difference is, if you’re trying to open a wine bottle with a corkscrew, that you’ll need to find a knife to cut the foil. And you won’t need to angle the tip of the corkscrew before screwing it in. They’re designed to be placed directly on top of the wine bottle from the get-go.
But wait, what if you’ve got no corkscrew? All good.
How to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew
You’re trying to open a wine bottle without a bottle opener, wine opener, or corkscrew. You’re not alone. It’s an oft-searched topic on the internet. And, the internet being the internet, there are lots of solutions out there. Here are the most fool-proof.
How to Open a Wine Bottle with a Lighter
This is our favorite way to open a wine bottle without a wine opener. But please be careful. It involves fire.
First, remove the foil or wax to expose the cork. Then use a lighter and apply the flame on the neck of the bottle, just beneath where the cork is. The idea is to heat the air beneath the cork. This causes the air to expand and push the cork upward.
Rotate the placement of the lighter around the bottle’s neck to make sure you’re heating all the air. In a minute or two, you’ll see the cork creeping upwards and out.
This is our preferred method because there’s no risk in breaking the cork and it's nothing something you learn about wine from a book.
How to Open a Wine Bottle with a Key
Another way to open a bottle of wine without a bottle opener is with a standard house key. This way is far less elegant than using a lighter. And it excels with synthetic corks versus wooden corks.
Grab a towel and a key. Point your key at a 45-degree angle and insert the tip into the cork. Just off one of the sides and pointing toward the center of the cork. The goal is to skewer the cork at an angle, crossing the center. Once the key is inserted, grab the towel and place it over the key so you can press the key down forcefully. Do so until the key’s teeth are almost entirely in the cork.
Then, key firmly in place, try to move it circularly while lifting a bit. Do this repeatedly until the cork begins moving slowly upward. Be sure not to lift the key too aggressively, or you’ll just pull it out of the cork. Or make the cork crumble into the wine. Tannins in wine is one thing, but cork in wine is another thing entirely.
How to Open a Wine Bottle with a Knife
Here’s how to open a bottle without a wine bottle opener in a very similar way to the key method above.
You’ll take a relatively sharp steak knife (a butter knife won’t work as well, and you should avoid a folding knife for safety reasons). The goal is to skewer the middle of the cork downward and at an angle. So insert the knife just off the edge of the cork, angled toward the center. Push it down about an inch. Then you’ll have a good enough grip on the cork to start pushing or pulling it circularly.
Eventually, the cork will loosen and come up a bit. It’s basically the key method but with a knife.
There are a few considerations to make based on more unique styles of wine, however.
How to Open a Wine Bottle with a Shoe
And finally, the masterpiece. The most epic and artful way to open a wine bottle without a wine key. With a shoe.
It’s a little known fact that every sommelier learns how to open up a wine bottle with a shoe during their certifications. Just in case.
That’s not true. Sorry.
Let’s just get into it. Place the wine bottle into the shoe, its base upright where your heel would usually rest. Find a hard surface, a brick wall ideally, and hit the bottom of the shoe’s heel on it repeatedly. After a few strikes, the cork should have moved up slightly. At that point you can wrestle it out with your hand.
And, trust us, there is nothing more charming than opening a bottle of wine with a shoe and pouring it directly into a nice wine decanter. Here’s a great resource about how to decant wine if you’re intrigued. You can also learn how to clean a decanter so your crystal can shine bright.
How to Open a Sparkling Wine Bottle
The process is different if you’re trying to figure out how to open a Roscato wine bottle. Or any other screw-capped or pressurized sparkling wine bottle.
First, always keep the bottle pointed away from guests and keep a thumb or hand on the cork at all times. Then remove the foil by either pulling on the tab or cutting it cleanly at the bottom of the cage. Untwist the wire cage and loosen it for removal. Tighten your grip on the cork and, holding the bottle at a 45-degree angle, twist the bottle (not the cork). Do so until the cork is released and let the CO2 rush quiet.
Two things should be re-emphasized here. The wire cage shouldn’t be removed until after the cork is released from the bottle. And the bottle should be twisted, not the cork.
How to Open a Waxed Wine Bottle
If you’ve got a wax-sealed wine bottle, you may be tempted to cut through the wax as if it were foil. You should follow that temptation. Because that is the correct thing to do.
There may be a pull-tab on the wax, too. If so, great. Pull that and you’ll be able to remove the wax easily. But if not, just cut the wax cleanly with your corkscrew’s knife around the bottle’s neck. Then you’ll be able to lift off the top of the wax like foil. Then it’s business as usual.
That’s How to Get a Wine Bottle Open!
Ideally, you have a good wine bottle opener. If not, hopefully you’ve got a nice, firm shoe. And, bottle opened, you’ll be ready to begin the next step of wine service: pouring wine.