Wine Wednesday: Batteries not included

Contents of box - cork retriever and sleeve Contents of box - cork retriever and sleeve
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Walking around Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market on EastOver weekend, my eyes alighted on a kitchen gadget/supply store… a veritable Ali Baba’s cave of fringe appliances, from strawberry hullers looking like dentist tools to electric mini-pie makers (a true fringe appliance if ever there were one!)

The wine gadget tractor beam locked on to me and I was pulled to the aerators, the wine drip catchers and the corkscrews. Hanging on a dusty hook was a gadget I had not seen before: a thingamabobber to remove corks from inside the bottle!

Regularly $24, reduced to $14, on sale for $12, and down to $8? A bargain I could not pass up.

Cork Retriever by Argyle Wine Accessories

From the box, it looked fairly straightforward: should you accidentally push your cork into your bottle, instead of pulling it out (not sure how that would happen), simply insert this claw-like plunger, grasp the cork, and pull it out!

Cork Remover with arms folded, at rest

Cork remover ready for use

The first problem arose when I tried to use it: I didn’t actually have a wine bottle with a cork floating in it.

Picking a bottle of wine that I knew I did not like, White Zinfandel from California (judging from the Twitter reaction when I Tweeted it, neither does the rest of the Twitterverse), I attempted to shove the cork into the bottle.

The problem with this line of thinking was two-fold:

  1. While corks themselves are porous, the seal between the cork and the bottle is pretty tight. Else they would be slipping out in transit and wine would be leaking all over the place. In addition, the bottom of the cork is usually in contact with wine and wet… cork expands a bit when wet, making the seal that much tighter. It is therefore very difficult to force a cork into a bottle!
  2. A cork is a small object, with a limited surface area. A wine bottle has a narrow neck. Trying to find a tool that will fit into the neck of a bottle on which I could apply enough force was impossible. In addition, corks are soft (that’s why they make great pin board!). The screwdriver just sank into the cork and the corkscrew was designed to take a cork out, not force it.

1st attempt to force cork into bottle with a screw driver

Close, but no success

Thinking myself clever, I grabbed a water bottle and popped the cork into it. My idea was that thr wider mouthed bottle would allow me to float a cork in the water and at least get to test the gadget. I was unsuccessful; the wide neck of the bottle allowed the gadget to drop the cork before removal. Clearly, a wine bottle was needed.

In the end, I settled with breaking the cork in two and forcing part of it back into the bottle. I justified this act by reasoning that this is the most likely scenario. I am far more likely to break a cork than accidently shove the entire thing into the bottle. (Although there is a trick with a classic waiter’s corkscrew for removing broken corks, that is for another post).

Attempt with a broken cork pushed into bottle

No one was more surprised than me when it worked. I opened the umbrella-like claw, inserted it into the bottle, braced the gadget against the lip of the bottle with its cuff, grasped the cork piece and removed it successfully.

Successfully grabbing the broken cork

Starting to remove the cork

Broken cork coming out of bottle

Cork Remover - success!

Like any good toy, this one was fun to play with, did not require batteries, worked well when wet and is dishwasher safe.

The only problem I see with this gadget is its limited use: corks just don’t drop into bottles that often. (And, if they do, you can always decant). On the other hand, who says toys have to be useful?

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Although trained as a sommelier, I pay my bills working as an IT consultant. I love what I do for a living and keep wine as my hobby. As it looks bad if you only drink, I have occasionally been known to eat as well. Growing up on four different continents, I love to cook and appreciate the cuisines of the world. But wine is my passion. With a well-stocked cellar, I am always on the hunt for new wines and love hearing from people about their latest find or interesting pairing. My approach to wine: Drink what you like. Wine reviews need not be stuffy. Numerical ratings are meaningless. If it tastes good, drink it! If you don’t like it, then it’s not the wine for you.