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7 Ways to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew or Wine Key

In our series, (Un)Preparedness Hacks 101, we walk you through the beer, liquor and wine-related circumstances that come up in the course of drinking.

A Sommelier holding a wine bottle and two wine glasses with no way to open the bottle
Thinking ... Where did I put that corkscrew?

Things like how to chug or shotgun a beer, what to do when alcohol gives you a headache, and, of course, how to open wine bottles without conventional tools.

With a little elbow grease and some old school DIY hustle, you can apply a few of these “ingenious” methods to get to your coveted vino. Success and you’ll feel like MacGyver. Break the bottle or cork up the wine, and you may end up feeling more like MacGruber.

Before we start, never attempt this with your favorite wine unless you’ve exhausted your search for your standard wine key. That said, we recognize that the whole purpose of this is to give you DIY options when the unexpected arises.

Also, these methods work for specialty corked beers and ciders as well, though there are some differences in how you open a beer bottle without an opener.

Common Scenarios Where You Need To Open a Bottle with No Corkscrew

  • Being on a boat
  • Camping
  • College Football Tailgate
  • Staying in a hotel room
  • Summer BBQ
  • Weddings

Household Alternative Items That Will Open a Bottle of Wine

These household items, at least most of them, are common enough to have on hand in case your sans corkscrew.

Casual drinkers as well as wine lovers will one day be faced with this scenario. What method of opening a bottle of wine you choose will come down to two things: the equipment at your disposal and your willingness to try a method.

Last, we realize that some of these items aren’t exactly common. For instance, a blowtorch. We also advise you to be as safe as possible when attempting to open a wine bottle with non-traditional items, especially a blowtorch.

In fact, don’t use a blowtorch. We don’t recommend using fire for safety purposes. We’re just highlighting the fact that you could use these items to open a wine bottle.

  • Bike Pump
  • Blowtorch
  • Champagne Knife (or dare we say, Sword)
  • Hammer
  • Lighter
  • Long Screw
  • Pair of Pliers
  • Pair of Scissors
  • Pocket Knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Serrated Knife
  • Shoe
  • Straightener
  • Strainer
  • Towel
  • Wire Hanger
  • Wooden Spoon

Opening a Wine Bottle with a Screw and Screwdriver

The screw/screwdriver method is straightforward. Using the screwdriver, drive a screw into the middle of the cork. Leave enough of the screw sticking out of the cork to be able to the use the claw of a hammer or a pair of pliers to remove it. If screwed in properly, this should remove the cork from the bottle.

To note, you can use your hand to drive the screw into the top of the cork.

What You Need

  • Screw
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer or Pair of Pliers

Opening a Wine Bottle with a Key

The best way to open a wine bottle using a metal key is to give it a 45-degree angle and drive it into the side of the cork at the lip of the bottle. The key should look like it would come out at the bottle’s collar on the other side if you drove it all of the way through. If you need to for grip or because it hurts, wrap a facecloth or dish towel around the top of the key. A paper towel folded several times will give you the same results.

After it has been firmly and sufficiently inserted into the cork, you’re going to rotate the key in a 360-degree fashion around the bottle. Your choice on direction.

As you’re rotating the key, slowly apply pressure to drive the cork up and out of the bottle. The goal is to get enough of the cork out of the bottle to be able to pull it out using your hands.

To note, synthetic corks have a higher success rate using the key method.

What You Need

  • Key
  • Towel

Opening a Wine Bottle with a Knife

Similar to a key, you want to work the blade into the cork at a 45-degree angle. Rotate the knife in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion. This will help to break the seal on the bottle. Try not to wiggle the knife too much or you may begin to cut up the cork.

Be careful when handling sharp objects such as knives. Despite the knife method being one of the ingenious ways you can open a wine bottle without a corkscrew, it’s not without it’s safety hazards.

What You Need

  • Knife (Pocket, Serrated, Steak, etc.)

Opening a Wine Bottle with a Wooden Spoon

This is more of a reverse opening. It’s less removing the cork and more pushing the cork down. If you’re ok with it - and why shouldn’t you be - you can use a wooden spoon, or other long, thin item, to press the cork into the bottom of the bottle.

It works on a few levels. The first is that the wine has already touched the cork, so it’s not like you’re adding anything new to the wine. The second is that the top of the wine, which is the only part that could really be exposed, has more than likely been covered up from the Vineyard to your hands. The likelihood that it isn’t sanitary is fairly low.

What we like about the Wooden Spoon Method is that it’s straightforward, doesn’t break the bottle (broken glass scares us more than cork), and commonly available as 99% of the world has a Wooden Spoon or similarly shaped item in the utensil drawer - like a metal straw.

What You Need

  • Wooden Spoon

Opening a Wine Bottle with a Towel

The towel method is handy for hotel rooms. Carefully wrap the bottom of the bottle with a towel. Find a flat surface, preferably a wall. Gently hit the towel-wrapped base of the bottle against the wall. Remember to do it gently as breaking the bottle means wine night is over. Grab the cork with your hands once the cork starts to exit the bottle.

One thing to consider here is the size of the bottle, as a magnum might be too heavy for some to flip on it's side and repeatedly hit against the wall.

What You Need

  • Towel

Opening a Wine Bottle with a Shoe

The shoe method is very similar to the towel method, as the impact applies air pressure to drive the cork out of the neck of the wine bottle. Place the wine bottle in the shoe firmly and gently ram the shoe against a wall or flat surface. We realize that “ram” doesn’t really suggest being gentle, but once again, a broken wine bottle means that no one is drinking the wine.

What You Need

  • Shoe

Buy Screw-top Wine Bottles (Bonus)

Seems like a no-brainer, right? Why bring a corkscrew into the equation when you can just buy a bottle of white or red wine that can just be unscrewed? Winemakers traditionally eschewed the screw-top for perceived quality reasons, but it seems like times are changing.

If you’re staying in a hotel or heading to a wedding, plan ahead and buy screw-top wine bottles. You’ll thank us later.

Wrapping Up

These are just some of the ways to improvise your next wine uncorking. Remember, you want to be hailed as MacGuyver, not MacGruber, so be successful, but more importantly, be safe.

Not interested in DIY wine bottle opening? Try an electric wine bottle opener!