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Cork. Screwed!

For years, Oregano and I have had a drinking problem. We’ve kept it a secret from most people because it is a bit embarrassing.

The problem is that we rarely drink wine.  It’s not that we don’t like it; we just have no idea which one to drink. Neither one of us can tell the difference between a merlot and a shiraz.  Going into a liquor store to buy wine is like visiting a foreign country without a translator. I read the wine descriptions, but they don’t help. Words like woody and full-bodied make me think of a lumberjack, not wine.

Even if we did know which wine to purchase, we’d still have a problem because we have not mastered the use of a corkscrew. We had the traditional two-pronged kind for years and I never once opened a bottle by myself. More than one of my friends has demonstrated the proper technique, but it was no use.  I blamed my inability on my lack of height, claiming I didn’t have enough leverage to properly pull the cork from the bottle. Oregano is slightly more successful with his cork removal techniques although he has resorted to using pliers on several occasions.

We never did learn how to use this…

One night, after much of our inept fumbling, our traditional corkscrew committed suicide. It could no longer tolerate living such an unfulfilled life sitting virtually unused in a kitchen drawer. It did not go in peace. Before it gave up completely, it exacted revenge by puncturing the meaty part of my thumb.

Needing a new wine bottle opener, we sought guidance from our more experienced friends, the ones who usually wind up opening the bottle for us. They suggested a different type of corkscrew and assured us it would be much easier to operate. We bought it then stashed it in the kitchen drawer where it sat unused for almost a year until the day I wanted to try a new recipe that called for wine.

Oregano volunteered to go to the liquor store, but since they don’t have a brand called “Dry White Wine,” he had to enlist the help of the sales clerk who didn’t even look old enough to drink legally. The next night, I lined up the ingredients to prepare dinner and hesitantly grabbed the bottle of wine. I didn’t have much confidence since I couldn’t remember a time when I opened a bottle of wine that didn’t end in my blood or the wine being spilled.

The first problem I encountered was the foil.  Using an assortment of sharp implements, I worked carefully. Eventually, the foil came loose and I wasn’t bleeding. That was a promising beginning!  As I began unwinding the foil from the bottle, I hoped there would be a screw top waiting for me as a reward for my effort. I looked down and much to my dismay, there sat my nemesis – a cork. Damn!

Feeling cautiously optimistic after my triumph over the foil, I rummaged through the kitchen drawers until I located our easy –to-use cork extraction contraption.  I remembered the tutorials my friends had given me and managed to get the screw into the cork without causing a puncture wound. I thought this was a good sign until I attempted to remove the cork.  I miss the days of real cork. At least I could count on eventually breaking it and having it fall into the bottle to be strained out later. No such luck, the cork in this bottle was made of some type of rubbery material. I twisted. I yanked. I pried. I cursed. I gave up.

The "easy-to-use" corkscrew that we didn't find so easy to use.

The “easy-to-use” corkscrew that we didn’t find so easy to use.

By the time Oregano arrived home, I was frustrated and hungry.

“Can you please open this bottle of wine? I tried, but decided I should stop before I did something that would end with me requiring stitches,” I said handing him the bottle.

“I’ll give it a try, but before I do this, do we really need to use the wine in this recipe?” he asked, not sounding at all confident that he would have any more luck with the cork than I did.

“I’ve never made this dish before, but it seems like it will be fairly bland without the wine,” I said.

Using his analytical mind, he surveyed the bottle and the dreaded instrument he was supposed to use.  Then he sat down like a man with a mission. As I was chopping and sautéing, I could hear grunts coming from behind me. Oregano’s battle with the bottle was not going well.  After 10 minutes of prying and pulling, his hands were aching and sweat dripped off his nose. He had managed to get about a quarter inch of the cork above the rim of the bottle. At this rate, we were going to be having this meal for breakfast the next morning.

He wiped the sweat from his brow and offered a suggestion, “I know the wine is a key ingredient. Why don’t I go to the liquor store and just buy another bottle of wine with a screw top?”

“How are you going to know the bottle has a screw top? You can’t exactly go into the liquor store and ask for a dry, white wine with an easy open bottle. You could come home with another bottle with a cork and then we’ll be no better off than we are now.”

He agreed then sat back down to continue his odious task. After another 10 minutes of shimmying (the cork, not Oregano) I heard the telltale pop.  Victoriously, Oregano held the cork above his head and passed me the bottle.

As he massaged his aching hands he said, “Too bad that’s cooking wine. We could both use a drink after all that.”

**Oregano and I didn’t think to look for this helpful (and amusing) video from the professionals at Wine Spectator BEFORE we tried to use our corkscrew.**

Click this link to enjoy the video.

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences. Good Humored is my first blog.

42 responses »

  1. Glad we aren’t the only ones who can kill off a corkscrew. Hubby caused one to expode into many pieces just a couple of night ago!

    Reply
  2. Sounds like your bottle has a built-in field sobriety test. If you can’t open it, you’re already too drunk to drink the contents.

    Reply
    • Sadly, we’re inept at opening a bottle when we are stone-cold sober. Next time, maybe we should try drinking mixed drinks before we attempt to open a bottle of wine. We might be better off when we’re drunk.

      Reply
  3. Love the images! I can practically taste the dry wine and see the dry wit!

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  4. That’ll teach you to drink martinis instead of wine. But it won’t help in recipes that call for wine…

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  5. With the amount of wine I drink you’d think I’d know the difference between Shiraz and Merlot. But not so much!
    “What kind of wine do you prefer?” “The kind that’s in my wine glass.” ;)
    I also get a little nervous when I have to bring out the corkscrew. If it’s just my husband and I it’s not such a big deal. But I always wonder what my friends think of my crazy grunting, very labored cork removal technique.

    Reply
  6. Your – and Oregano’s – labored breathing came thru loud and clear. Next time, go for the regular wine and savor some after you’ve extracted the cork from the bottle. (You could always switch to apple juice to avoid all that.)

    Liked the video. I’ve also seen one where a pro – don’t try this at home kids – used his shoe to extract the cork. It looks easier than it probably is and I read comments where it didn’t turn out well. Thanks for the giggles, Paprika.

    Reply
    • I’m glad our hardship made you giggle. If we could tell the difference between wines, we might be able to select one that we could use for cooking and for drinking.

      The video made us laugh. We looked on YouTube to see what other videos were there and found several that showed how to open a wine bottle with a saber. Really? I wonder how you “practice” that skill and still live to master it.

      Reply
  7. This gizmo is a little pricey, but it changed my life. Completely idiot proof! Worth every penny. Best purchase EVER!

    http://www.brookstone.com/Connoisseurs-Compact-Wine-Opener?bkiid=SearchResults|CategoryProductList|511030p

    Reply
  8. Practice, practice, practice! The two of you might have to enjoy dozens of bottles of wine before you master the cork screw! I’ve been practicing for many years! ;) Fun post!

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  9. You had me at “Words like woody and full-bodied make me think of a lumberjack, not wine.”

    Reply
    • The words used in descriptions of wine don’t help me at all. When I was writing this post I was looking at a glossary of wine terms. Someone is going to have to explain to me how a liquid can be “crunchy” and “sharp-edged.”

      Reply
  10. I sit here reading your post nodding in total agreement. We, too, are not drinkers of just about any liquor. So when I have to use some kind of alcohol for a recipe, my anxiety levels rise. I had to buy rum, went to the local liquor – happy in the knowledge I even knew where one was – and proceeded to wander aimlessly about looking for rum. Then I remembered the Bacardi commercials and confidently headed back to the aisle I saw Bacardi in. Meanwhile the clerk was watching me carefully, not sure if I was a customer or a potential thief. I’m going to have to buy some creme d’menthe soon. I should alert the local police. Thanks for the memories!

    Reply
    • I’m glad you could commiserate with my tale. I wander aimlessly through liquor stores desperately trying not to break bottles. That’s not such an easy feat with a clumsiness track record like mine.

      Good luck buying the crème d’menthe!

      Reply
  11. Opening wine is so troublesome ( and eventually I feel desperate enough to just whack off the top of the bottle on the counter – darn the glass shards….but people take such a dim view of that….)
    Wine comes in boxes the high school kids tell me.
    But I like the bottles…they are pretty – and the labels are artistic.
    As you can tell, not an expert. But Kirkland/Costco has a nice Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Just invite someone else over to open them, not me.
    Funny funny post

    Reply
    • I never realized how many people struggle with corkscrews. My friends make it look so easy that I thought we were the only ones who couldn’t do it.

      I’ve never been frustrated enough to whack the bottle on the counter, but I have broken it inadvertently more than once.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Cheers!

      Reply
  12. Enjoy your day off! I never drank wine until mixed drinks started making me sick (real sick). Then it started being a daily ritual and now it’s a routine (hmmm…). Seriously, if you’re looking to try wines but don’t want to invest. Barefoot makes a very good cabernet (dry red wine) and very, very cheap. Also, some people swear by Charles Shaw wines sold in Trader Joes ($2.99 really). Sandy and I stick to bottles under $10 (Bolla is another good one) for our during the week wine. When we celebrate we may splurge and spend $15! Now that you know I possibly have a drinking problem, again, enjoy your snow day. I hope you didn’t have too much trouble getting home yesterday. We are going up to see Benjamin again sometime in February (weather up there permitting). It’s hard to keep away. And, I actually miss Jenny and Waffle! Paula

    On Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 7:54 AM, Good Humored

    Reply
    • Given the fact that the air temperature is in the single digits with a wind chill that has “warmed up” to -10, I’m quite happy to have the day off today. The ride home yesterday was treacherous, but everyone was safe and sound before it got dark out and that’s what matters.

      Thanks for the wine suggestions. We’ll have to try some of them out and give ourselves practice using the corkscrew. Practice makes perfect.

      Hopefully the weather will cooperate for your trip up here. This polar vortex is supposed to be hanging around here until early February. Ugh!

      Reply
  13. LOL – I’ve never mastered that type of corkscrew! It’s just painful and hard to manage, I don’t care how easy everyone else makes it look!

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    • I’m glad to know we’re not alone in our ineptitude. I guess the lesson to be learned here is that we’re going to be serving wine at a party, we should be sure to invite someone who knows how to operate the corkscrew.

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  14. I have gotten much better over the years at opening wine bottles but I’m not a wine drinker either so I hate to open a bottle for a cup of wine to put in recipes. I buy those little 4 pack bottles of wine. You can get them in fairly good varieties although it wouldn’t matter. They ALWAYS have screw tops and in the long run, if you don’t finish off a large bottle, they are cheaper.

    Reply
    • I never thought of getting the 4 pack bottles of wine. I can’t tell one type from another and I don’t know if those are dry and white. If we don’t eventually master this new corkscrew, we’re going to have to consider the small 4 pack bottles and their easy open screw tops.

      Reply
  15. After the drive home last night, I hope your newly acquired uncorking skill allowed you to enjoy a glass or two without too much delay. And speaking of corks….when my daughter was living and working in California as a graphic designer, one of her clients was a new wine company. They were seeking to establish their brand and, to do so, wanted to have a unique cork for their wine–one with the image of a naked woman pictured on it (for their full-bodied varietal???). My fatherly concern was obvious–whose body would soon appear on thousands of corks. I was quickly reassured that it was not hers. I was very much relieved for two reasons…the second being that I did not think I could master the art of uncorking a wine bottle while blindfolded.

    Reply
    • I definitely could have used a drink after the nearly two hour ride home in the snow yesterday. I’m glad I made it home safely and without incident, but there was no wine waiting for me when I got here. I had to settle for a cup of tea.

      I had no idea they put graphics on the corks. I guess I’ve been so focused on getting the damn thing out that I never looked at it once it was out. I found the cork from this post and there is a graphic on it, albeit not one of a naked woman.

      Reply
  16. Ohh! I have found kindred spirits! I feel exactly the same about wine and bottles… we have one of those two-pronged corkscrews, and I have yet to make it work for me. Brilliant video, by the way… are you and Oregano going to practice the various steps? :-)

    Reply
    • According to the research we did after the fact, that two-pronged corkscrew is called the “two armed bandit” by those in the know. Apparently they have a reputation to break often and be difficult to use. So, you see, it’s not us. It’s the equipment :)

      I suppose we should invest some time practicing our bottle opening skills. The question is what to do with all those open bottles of wine? :)

      Reply
  17. As a wine drinker, I do know that you have to invest in a good corkscrew or band-aids.

    But don’t feel bad about not knowing anything about wine. When I lived in Switzerland/France, I could go into any store in France and choose a bad bottle of wine. Every single time. It’s a gift I have.

    Reply
    • Now we’ve got the good corkscrew and plenty of band-aids. Hopefully, we’ll get more use out of the corkscrew than the band-aids.

      Thanks for letting me know about your wine selection skills. I’ll be sure not to come to you for advice on which wines to choose :)

      Reply
  18. That rubber cork was really tough to get out of there. My hands hurt for the next 2 days after working on that bottle. I told everyone I had “cork-screw elbow” even though the pain was in my hands. I’m starting to see the benefits of boxed wines (I know, the sacrilege!).

    Reply
  19. Well done! We laughed and learned!!
    Brava, Paprika! Fun start to our day…without wine!! xoxo

    Reply

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