Trouble uncorking your wine? You might want to change your corkscrew. Twist and pull corkscrews are hard to use—they require brute force. Winged corkscrews work well for synthetic corks, but not for natural ones, especially if the cork is old.
For vintage wines (with corks that have become brittle and crumbly) the pros often recommend a tool called an ah-so: a two-pronged opener that grabs the outside of the cork instead of puncturing it. On the other hand, young wines with poor quality corks—also tough to remove intact—are easier to tackle with a “two-step” corkscrew, says Lesley Provost of B.C.’s Fort Berens Estate Winery. “The ‘steps’ are the metal parts of the corkscrew that rest on the lip of the bottle to give you leverage as you pull on the cork,” she explains. A single step corkscrew “causes quite a lot of bending in the cork,” which can lead to the cork breaking entirely in half. Rats.
Can’t get the cork out no matter which opener you try? There are lots of tricks: drive in a screw and pull the cork out with a claw hammer; use a thin, flat knife around the edge of the cork; run the neck of the wine bottle under hot water to get the glass to expand. But simplest? Try pushing the cork into the bottle and then pouring the wine through a coffee filter to remove any bits of broken cork.