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As strange as it may seem, we get a lot of requests, asking us to explain the best way to open wine bottles. Well for this recipe I have consulted with my friend Jon, he is a butler and opens wines for dignitaries and heads of state (often in front of them) so if he trusts this method to keep him from looking silly, you certainly can for your next casual dinner gathering.

Jon says although some of the new (but bulky) cork pullers on the market are pretty good, particularly the ones with the levers on them that are in and out with a quick push and pull, he still only uses a ‘Waiters Friend’ corkscrew. The Waiters Friend is the one that looks somewhat like a Swiss army knife, in that the 3 main components fold out from the handle. The little knife at the base, the corkscrew in the middle and the little lever at the tip.

    1. If your bottle of wine has a foil cover over the top of the bottle remove it by holding the knife on the top lip of the bottle and apply enough pressure to penetrate the thin foil.
    2. Then simply spin the bottle with the other hand until you have cut all the way around.
    3. If the top of the bottle has a wax bit (about the size of a penny) on top of the cork, you can try and take it off with the little knife or you can simply leave it as the corkscrew will go right through it.
    4. Fold the knife back in and flick out the lever and the corkscrew.
    5. This next step is where it goes wrong for most people, as they try to hold the screw perfectly parallel to the bottle and often end up with it parallel but often not in the centre of the cork.
    6. Instead focus on piercing the centre of the cork with the tip of the screw (you may find that the screw is not at all parallel to the bottle at this stage (see image).

corking wine_step1

    1. Once in the centre you can start turning the screw clockwise, at this stage you can start to ensure the screw goes in parallel; which it will almost do on its own anyhow.
    2. Continue screwing until the screw is well seated into the cork, technically you should stop just before piercing the bottom of the cork but this is really only a concern for older corks.
    3. You will find that the lever on your Waiter’s Friend may have two little notches on it. If so Jon recommends you rest the first notch (the one closer to itís hinge point) on the lip of bottle and hold it there firmly with one hand (if you only have the one notch, simply just use that).
    4. With the other hand slowly pull up on the base of the waiter’s friend.

corking wine_step2

    1. Once you have the cork halfway out of the bottle place the other notch on the lip of the bottle and continue removing it.

corking wine_step3

  1. If you’re drinking a well aged robust red let it breathe a few minutes, pour and enjoy.
  2. If you’re drinking a white or a lighter red such as a Pinot Noir, simply pour and enjoy.
    • If the cork was very old you may find that the cork crumbled upon removal, if this is the case it will require pouring through a fine strainer into a wine decanter.
    • For any wines that may have sediment in them Jon recommends decanting. To do this:
    • Very slowly pour the wine from the bottle into a decanter (preferably through a decanting funnel fitted with a fine straining screen).
    • As you pour the wine try not to disturb the sediment. This slow pouring will ensure that the heavier than wine sediment will collect behind the neck of the bottle as the light wine pours into the decanter.

Paul Hegeman

Paul is a personal Chef to exclusive Sydney clients and is also our most frequently contributing writer. Paul was born in The Netherlands and moved to Canada at a very young age. Experience with traditional European meals at home and the diverse multicultural influence of foods in Canada gave Paul a great appreciation for different culinary styles. Over the years Paul traveled extensively and worked at every level of professional kitchens, from the deep fryer in the local burger joint, to the Head Chef in Five Star Hotels. He now resides full time in Sydney, Australia with his wife and their children. You will find his recipes emphasize natural, uncomplicated flavours and fresh ingredients such as those found in Mediterranean and South East Asian cuisines.

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