Have you ever been to a party or a restaurant where wine was being served, and just marveled at the cork-popping prowess of the person opening the bottle? Well, you can have the same opening skills as any experience oenophile with the right tools and a little bit of practice. Read on for our guide: How to Open Wine Like a Pro in five easy steps, and you’ll be the one smoothly and effortlessly opening a bottle of wine and impressing friends and family at your next dinner party.
#1 Gather The Essential Tools
- Foil Cutter or Knife
Many great wine openers come with a little fold out knife attached – use it to cut the foil on the top of the bottle in two clean half-circle cuts just above the lip, and remove the clean disc of foil from the top with the edge of the knife. Otherwise a handy foil cutter made just for this purpose really makes for a seamless edge on the bottle.
A waiter’s wine key is the perfect option here for an effortless wine opening experience. These openers have two “steps” to them, one that you rest on the bottles edge to get the cork part way out of the bottle, and a second step to pop it fully out of the bottle. There are many great types of wine openers on the market and this is just something that takes a little experimentation to choose which opener is your favorite.
A small tea towel comes in handy for wiping off the bottle’s rim, and wrapping around chilled bottles to absorb any condensation, or wetness from being on ice in a chiller. Wipe the top of the cork before opening the bottle to avoid any dust or foil trimmings falling in the wine.
#2 Present the Wine
- Remember: label side towards the host! If opening a bottle table-side, a fun way to add a little flair is to present the wine to the person about to enjoy it – whether that’s a guest at your house, or the person hosting you at a dinner. You can show off a particular vintage or well known winery. Try to keep the label facing guests at all times throughout the opening process from removing the cork to pouring.
#3 Make the Cork “Pop!”
- Insert the corkscrew slightly off center into the cork, so the corkscrew itself ends up perfectly centered in the cork. If off center, corks are more likely to break. Twist the corkscrew in, but leave about one and a half spirals out of the cork – to ensure that the bottom does not poke through. Then, place the first step of the wine key firmly on the edge of the bottle, and lever the cork up as far as you can. Place the second step on the edge of the bottle, and smoothly remove the cork.
- Make it a little more fun with this tip: Loosen the cork until it’s just about out of the bottle, leaving about a quarter inch. Then, readjust your hand on the opener, and pull the cork straight up from the bottle. This will result in a satisfying “Pop!” as the cork comes free from the neck of the bottle. Remove the cork from the corkscrew and place on the table for the host to inspect.
- No cork? Even twist-off wine deserves a little showmanship! While twist off caps used to be only used for less expensive wines, they’ve quickly become a viable option for many higher end brands of wine. Opening these wines doesn’t have to be boring though! To make it more fun, crack the seal on the cap, then, holding the bottle with your right arm, position the wine bottle’s cap just below your elbow on your left arm, and slide it down your arm quickly spinning off the cap, and possibly sending it flying out into your audience. Ta-da!
#4 Offer a Taste
- If you’ve ever had a sommelier or waiter present you with a small taste of wine and wait for you to taste it, but weren’t quite sure why, this isn’t so they can judge whether you like the wine you’ve ordered. The taste is just to check to make sure the wine is not “corked” or otherwise off in flavor, which seldom happens, but could occur in a very small percentage of bottles. If a wine is corked, it will smell and taste like a moldy basement or wet dog, and should be returned.
#5 Pour (or Decant!)
- Pour the wine for the table, ending with the host. Make sure not to pour too much so each person has enough room in their glass for swirling! And plan ahead, pour a little less in each glass than you think – you can always add a little more as you go around, but if you run out before you reach the last glass, things will get a little awkward. In general, five 5-ounce glasses can be poured from one bottle of wine. If you can, check how much 5 ounces of wine (about 2/3 cup) looks in your glass before guests arrive using water, and shoot for a little below that mark as you pour.
- Decanting is usually most effective with younger red wines – pouring into a decanter (especially one with an aerator) helps to oxygenate the wine and bring forward more flavors, helping to “open up” the wine. Let the wine sit for about 20 minutes before enjoying. For older wines, slowly pouring from the bottle into the decanter helps separate the wine form the sediment present at the bottom of the bottle, improving the mouthfeel and general presentation of the wine. Decant older wines immediately before serving to avoid over-exposing it to oxygen, which can ruin the flavor.
Comment Below: Have you ever had a major wine opening mishap? I may know someone who tried to open a screw-top bottle with a wine key – it was at a movie in the park and it was dark. The good news is – they were eventually successful!