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SUNDAY SERENDIPITY
12/05/2010
Sunday Serendipity
In Appreciation of the Cork Puller

By Charles Olken

In order to appreciate the cork puller, one needs to appreciate the cork. If not, then go worship the screwcap, the glass stopper that really seals with a layer of plastic or the plastic plugs that look like corks but are, well, plastic. They too can be withdrawn from a bottle with a cork puller, but it hurts our sensitive feelings to call them corks. Cork is a natural produce. It grows as the bark of a tree. Plastic is not a natural produce, and while it could legitimately be called a “closure”, a “plug” or a “hunk of stuff”, it is not cork and thus is also not a cork.

We prefer to pull cork with our cork pullers, and while we could go on and on about the raging debate over the use of cork as the wine closure of choice, suffice it to say that cork remains our favorite closure. And in the three decades plus of pulling corks out of bottles, we have developed a very healthy, indeed, a profound respect for the cork puller as well. What we have been less than respectful of are the individual cork pullers we have employed in the process of pulling what now numbers well over 100,000 corks pulled and counting.

In the beginning, we were not very sophisticated about cork pullers. We used whatever was at hand, and most of them were odd shaped things designed more to amuse or to sell for next to nothing. If you searched around the kitchen, chances are that you would still find some of them. We soon graduated to the shape that is known as the waiter’s pick. After all, it is good enough for restaurants everywhere, it had to be good enough for us. But the trusty waiter’s pick, which is still the cork puller of choice for restaurants, has real drawbacks and ultimately, we went through a series of items from the Screwpull with its Teflon-coated, narrow and long wire (not to bad, but slow) to the Ah-So which we still use at times but is also slow. We are pretty good at not knocking the cork into the bottle with the Ah-So, which is a major drawback until you have plenty of practice. We next tried various versions of the levered cork puller of which The Rabbit is the most famous. We tired of those devices because we were wearing them out, and even before we would abandon one and go get a new one, they were slowing down and becoming difficult. Today, the manufacturer of the most expensive of them promises that they will not fall apart, but, we have moved on.

Today our favorite cork puller is the old standard, the waiters’ pick—but in an updated version that makes getting the cork out almost effortless. Today, several manufacturers make waiter’s pick with a graduated lever so that the cork can be pulled out half way with one level and then a second lower level gets rested against the bottle top, and its improved angle gets the cork out the rest of the way with little effort. These pullers are quick, efficient and have become our cork pullers of choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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