How to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew

It happens to the best of us: You’ve set up camp in the woods or unpacked your gear in a barebones hotel and it dawns on you — no corkscrew. The bottle of wine you wanted to enjoy is now mocking your forgetful ways.

If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that there’s a hack for everything. Turns out, the wine world is full of MacGyvers. Crafty imbibers employ everything from bike pumps to shoes to extract pesky corks.

how to open a wine bottle without corkscrew key v2

Wine is becoming increasingly portable and lower-brow, as screw caps, boxed versions, and the canned movement all suggest, but the majority of wine still comes in the traditional format, especially the really good stuff. Besides, these methods are so fun you’re going to want to try them out whether you’re in a jam or not.

Not since sabering has opening a bottle felt so triumphant. Here are a few of the best ways to address that bottle when you’re in a bind.

Below, we’ll examine four methods. They are:

  • Poke-Through
  • Bike Pump
  • Shoe
  • Port Tongs

Each offers a different level of tools, difficulty, and showmanship, so you might want to learn all four just in case.

With the Poke-Through Method

It’s caveman-esque but generally effective. The poke-through involves hammering a blunt object into the cork so that it falls into the wine itself. You’re left with a bobbing — and sometimes crumbled — cork that partially clogs the neck, but it’s arguably the quickest way to get to drinking. And you’re probably camping so presentation isn’t exactly on your list of priorities.

A sturdy stick bashed by a rock will do the trick but an actual hammer or something similar is best. Be forceful but careful not to strike the glass. A cooler version involves a serrated knife, should you have one. Push the knife into the cork, allowing the teeth of the blade to latch on. Pull and twist and you should be able to extract the cork, in a decidedly badass fashion.

With a Bike Pump

Pressure is your friend. With this method, poke a small hole completely through the cork with a nail, screw, or the like. Put your bike pump needle in the hole and pump until the cork is pushed out. Too much pressure will result in some wine loss, so start easy and up the ante as needed. Once the cork is pushed out enough to get a hold on it (with your hands or pliers), you should be able to pull the rest of it out of the bottle.

With a Shoe

Reliable in that you’re almost always in the company of shoes, this method is a little messy. This is also probably the most-attempted method out there, per a deep well of internet videos. The best take is from the folks at Provence label Mirabeu.

The heel of most shoes creates a nice padded nest to cup the base of the bottle. This will protect the wine as you savagely beat it against a wall, trunk of a tree, or sheer rock face. It’s best to let the wine rest for a short while before pulling out the protruding cork. That way, the pressure will subside and you won’t lose any precious juice.

With Port Tongs

Sommelier Caleb Ganzer subscribes to a method perfect for older, more valuable bottles of wine. It’s more involved, but it will preserve the wine that resides beneath a tired old cork. Opened the traditional way, these aged gems are prone to deteriorate old cork bits.

The wine director and managing partner of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Manhattan calls on heated tongs to get the job done. Wonderfully showy, this method is as much a party trick as it is a way to get at a wine without the conventional tools at hand.

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