How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Corkscrew

This goes out to anyone who’s ever broken a cork.

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April 11, 2023

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Close up of the removal of a cork from a wine bottle. The opener is the type which lifts the cork in two stages.

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Close up of the removal of a cork from a wine bottle. The opener is the type which lifts the cork in two stages.

Photo by: lucentius/Getty Images

lucentius/Getty Images

By Dana Beninati for Food Network Kitchen

Dana is a host, chef and sommelier.

If you’ve ever broken a cork while opening a bottle, you might not have been opening it correctly. That’s why I put together this detailed step-by-step guide on how to open a wine bottle, whether you have a fancy winged opener or a simple wine key. Plus, how to open a bottle of sparkling wine or bottle with a glass enclosure.

How to Open a Wine Bottle: Step by Step Guide

How you remove the cork may depend on the style of bottle opener you have, but as most openers have a corkscrew, otherwise known as a "worm;” we will focus on it.

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Photo by: Glasshouse Images/Getty Images

Glasshouse Images/Getty Images

1: Cut the Foil

The first step when opening a bottle of wine is removing the foil that covers the cork. You don’t need to remove all of it, but just the area that covers the top of the bottle. Use a small blade (hopefully your bottle opener has one) to score the foil by pressing the blade again the lip of the bottle neck. Peel off the top foil and discard to reveal the cork. If your cork happens to be covered in wax, not foil, there’s no need to remove it – you can insert the corkscrew into it.

A young woman opening a bottle of wine with dinner

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A young woman opening a bottle of wine with dinner

Photo by: PeopleImages/Getty Images

PeopleImages/Getty Images

2: Press the Worm Into the Cork

Press the tip of the worm into the cork, aiming for the center. If you press it in off center, you risk splintering the cork.

White wine photography.

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White wine photography.

Photo by: Instants/Getty Images

Instants/Getty Images

3: Twist the Worm Down

Stop when the last curve is buried.

Opening a wine bottle with a corkscrew in a restaurant

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Opening a wine bottle with a corkscrew in a restaurant

Photo by: poplasen/Getty Images

poplasen/Getty Images

4: Lift Up the Corkscrew

Lift upwards on the levers of the wine opener to slowly pull the cork out of the bottle. If you’re using a wine key, you’ll need to hinge down the notched metal lever. It’ll have one or two notches; press whichever one is closest to the lip of the wine bottle onto it. Grasp the handle and push it forward and upwards. The notched edge will act as a fulcrum and the cork will pull out. If the corkscrew has a second notch, you can reposition to it halfway through in order to get more leverage.

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5: Wipe the Rim of the Bottle

If wine splashed while you pulled out the cork, wipe the rim of the bottle neck with a clean cloth. Be sure to save the cork in case you need to reseal the bottle. If the cork expands in volume so much that you can’t fit it back into the bottle, there are alternative methods to resealing, which we will touch on later.

Red wine being poured into a stem glass at the table.

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Red wine being poured into a stem glass at the table.

Photo by: debyaho/Getty Images

debyaho/Getty Images

6: Pour the Wine

Now for the fun part it’s time to taste the wine. When pouring wine, avoid resting the neck of the bottle on the rim of the glass. Having some distance between the bottle and the glass allows the wine to aerate as it leaves the bottle, giving it better flavor. Here's a pro tip to prevent the wine from dripping onto your tablecloth - when done pouring, give the bottle a slight twist of the wrist as you lift upwards to ensure that final drop of wine stays in the bottle neck. Always keep a clean cloth nearby, in case you need to wipe the bottle.

How to Open a Bottle without a Corkscrew

At some point, you may find yourself in the desperate situation of having plenty of wine, but no bottle opener to be found. No fear – we’ve got a solve for that. In fact, we’ve got a long list of how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. But if you don’t have lots of tools handy, my favorite method is to push the cork into the bottle, using steady pressure on the handle of a wooden spoon. If the cork stays in one piece, which it should with a wine less than 5 years of age, it will simply float on the wine's surface as you pour the wine out of the bottle.

How to Uncork Sparkling Wine

Popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly is always cause for celebration. One of the best parts of sparkling wine is that no opener is needed to open them.

  1. Remove the foil. Just as with a still wine, you start by removing the foil that covers the cork. Most will have a small tab to help you rip the foil.
  2. Loosen the metal cage that encases the cork. Twist the cage’s handle six times to do so and pull it off and discard. Once the cage is removed, it is important to keep your thumb over the cork so it doesn’t unexpectedly release.
  3. Remove the cork. Slowly twist the bottle from the bottom, while holding onto the cork until it pops. For more detail, check our guide to opening any bottle of champagne.

What to Know about Alternative Wine Bottle Enclosures

Technological improvements in the wine world have led to new types of bottle enclosures that are better for the wine and don't require bottle openers. Despite being historically popular, corks (both natural and synthetic) are porous. At times, they can fail to protect a wine against oxygen exposure – which is what it means when a bottle of wine is described as “corked” or flawed. Beyond this, cork is a natural product made from the cork tree, an endless supply of which does not exist. Enter screw caps and glass enclosures. Both protect wine more effectively than cork because they create a stronger seal. Screw caps couldn’t be easier to open, but I prefer glass enclosures, as they create the strongest seal and are better for the environment. You may notice that screw caps are more common than glass enclosures, as they are cheaper to manufacture. Most importantly, don’t listen to rumors that alternative enclosures indicate a lower quality of wine. It is simply not true.

How Long Does Open Wine Last?

Have you ever opened a bottle of wine for a recipe, like this Chicken Piccata, and had quite a bit left at the end of the night? We’ve all been there. It is important to keep in mind that once a bottle is open, the wine is being exposed to its enemies – air, heat and light. The longer the bottle is open, the more the quality of the wine declines. To prevent this, reseal the bottle with its cork and keep it in the refrigerator. Yes, even your open bottles of red wine should be stored in the fridge. Otherwise, they are at risk of becoming oxidized. How do you know if a wine has become oxidized? The color will be dull, and at worst, brown. The smell will also be off. White wine will start to smell like bruised apples and red wine will smell of vinegar. While oxidized wine will not make anyone sick, the flavor is not pleasant. When properly sealed and refrigerated, open bottles of wine can last 3 to 5 days. To maximize their shelf life, reseal them with an vacuum pump to remove as much air as possible and create an airtight seal. If you don’t have one, some plastic wrap secured around the cork with a rubber band will do, but not for long.

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