Tools of the Trade
The last thing standing between a bottle of wine and a glass of wine is the cork. Whether they are natural or synthetic, these stoppers form an almost-airtight seal between the wine and the outside world, which helps prevent certain kinds of contamination and spoilage, but adds one more step to the wine-drinking process. Jarran Conger, shop manager at In Fine Spirits in Andersonville, shares his thoughts on some of the tools and techniques commonly used to uncork a bottle.
"That's the most useful out of all the [corkscrews]," Jarran says almost immediately. Named for its seemingly ubiquitous use in restaurants, this foldable implement resembles a pocketknife, but with a long, spiraling metal “worm” that twists into the cork, and either a single- or double-hinged arm that provides leverage. It's a remarkably simple tool, and Jarran loves how much control the user has. "It can bring the cork up so gently," he says, and points out how important it is to gingerly remove brittle corks from older wine bottles.
Identifiable by its signature shape—arms that rise to the side as the screw burrows into the cork—this tool can possibly do more harm than good. Jarran admits that it probably exists in every parent's liquor cabinet, but he says, "I don’t think they allow you to get deep enough into the cork," which means the rigid metal worm doesn't have as solid of a grip. As a result, the worm runs the risk of shredding a cork and leaving small scraps in the wine.
Rabbit or Houdini
Jarran admits that the Rabbit and the Houdini are certainly efficient. After clamping the device around the bottle's neck, a quick lever action drives the worm into the cork and smoothly extracts it, albeit without the control of a waiter's friend. Even more importantly, these high-end corkscrews' size and relatively expensive price tag are a bit of a hindrance. "It's more of a home piece," Jarran says. "You can't really carry it on a picnic."
Tree or Shoe
Necessity is the mother of invention, and there are a handful of techniques for opening a bottle of wine sans corkscrew. One method involves wrapping the base of a bottle in a shirt and firmly thumping the end against a tree or with a shoe. The resulting pressure builds with each hit and eventually forces the cork out just far enough for fingers or a pair of pliers to grab ahold. "I remember thinking, 'Does this work?' and I tried it once," Jarran says, laughing. "It definitely takes a while." All novelty aside, Jarran admits that this technique disturbs the wine far too much to be considered a viable option.
Change is a constant at In Fine Spirits. The Andersonville shop routinely rotates its selection of wines, craft beers, and artisan spirits, either making room to accommodate new finds or old favorites. Tastings on select Fridays and Saturdays allow visitors to sample a handful of the options.