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A corkscrew is a tool for drawing stopping corks from wine bottles. Generally, it consists of a pointed metallic helix (often called the "worm") attached to a handle. The user grips the handle and screws the metal point through the cork, entwining the cork and corkscrew so that moving one moves the other. Corkscrews are necessary because corks themselves, being small and smooth, are difficult to grip and remove, particularly when inserted fully into an inflexible glass bottle. The handle of the corkscrew, often a horizontal bar of wood attached to the screw, allows for a commanding grip to ease removal of the stopper. Corkscrew handles may incorporate levers that further increase the amount of force that can be applied outwards upon the cork.

The Ancient Romans stored wine in cylindrical bottles and ceramic amphorae, and used bottles for serving wine at the table.[1] These containers were sealed with bungs made from the wood of the cork oak.[1]

Shaft and globe wine bottle, c. 1750

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire the use of corks appears to have been lost, and prior to the 17th century wine was stored in barrels, animal hides, or earthenware jars.[1] In around 1630 the modern wine bottle was invented by Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-65), who also reintroduced the use of corks. Corked bottles of wine last longer than wine in the barrels which were previously used, and proved extremely popular.[1] However, Digby's shaft and globe bottle design, with a wide body and long tapering neck, made it difficult to remove the cork from the neck of the bottle.[2] Bottles were sealed with tapered corks wrapped in waxed linen, which helped to keep the bottle airtight and also provided a handhold for pulling out the cork. The cork with its wrapping of waxed linen was bound to the bottle with cord to hold it in place.[2]

To enable horizontal stacking of wine bottles the traditional short, wide, shaft and globe wine bottle was soon redesigned into the modern slim cylindrical wine bottle with a long, parallel neck.[2] With bottles stored horizontally, corks needed to fit tightly and the traditional arrangement of a tapered cork wrapped in waxed linen was unusable.[2] Instead, corks were compressed in clamps and inserted into the bottle necks. This made the cork far more secure, but also harder to extract.[2]

The "bottle screw", as it was known, was developed in the late 17th century, and was based on the "worm", or screw-shaped ramrod used to clean early firearm barrels.[2][note 1]



  1. ^ An 18th century corkscrew patent describes it as "like the screw or worm to load or clean a cannon".[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Perry, Evan (1980). Corkscrews and Bottle Openers (2nd (1995) ed.). Botley, Oxfordshire: Shire Publications. p. 3. ISBN 9780747802815. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Perry, p. 4

External links[edit]

Category:Food utensils Category:Wine accessories Category:Bartending equipment Category:British inventions

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