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 Filed as : Wine TipsEntertaining

A Short History of the Corkscrew

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  • Publish Date: Feb 19, 2010

A Twisted Tale of Innovation and Wine

For the cork and corkscrew—the question of “chicken and egg” is an easy one. Exactly when or by whom the corkscrew was invented is unknown. But as corks became a more common way to cap containers, our beer or wine guzzling forefathers clearly needed a way to access the goods they had so wonderfully learned to seal.

The earliest reference to a corkscrew comes in 1681 where it is called a “steel worm used for the drawing of corks out of bottles.” The term “steel worm” was derived by gunsmiths, likely the first producers of corkscrews, who had crafted similar tools by the same name for cleaning the barrel of a musket.

It was not until the early 18th century, however, that corks were used for wine in the way in which we are currently accustomed. After some major technology breakthroughs in the glass blowing industry, craftsmen were able to shape bottles with long straight sides and skinny necks—a design that allowed later-day vintners to seal, and thus age, a bottle of wine.

While its task and form are simple, artisans have found many ways to decorate and shape the corkscrew throughout the millennia. Some disguise it, some keep it simple, and others pay tribute to various other hobbies or cultures. Have a look at this beautiful collection of antique corkscrews—all of which served the same purpose they do today (except they’re not made of cheap plastic).

Have a favorite corkscrew, antique or modern? Share it below.

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Aussie Wine Adventure
A Wine Cyberstar

Mar 12, 2010
Great article! After my days of working as a waitress I'm a stickler for the waiter's corkscrew.

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Feb 19, 2010
Great acticle! I recently had the chance to attend an event at CIA Greystone, where Brother Timothy's entire opener collection is on permanent display. There are some incredible openers in that collection, I had no idea there were so many throughout history! Cheers!

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Feb 19, 2010
I've seen that collection as well and spent a while
looking at it. Some awesome pieces.
Feb 19, 2010
I've always been a fan of the simple pull corkscrew made of antler. This one is nice:

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Feb 19, 2010
I've always liked the Laguioles corkscrews--beautifully crafted classic design.

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What happens when you rack wine?