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.
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.
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.**