Opening an old bottle of wine can be tricky. In fact, it can be so tricky that it may require a different device than a standard opener to properly remove the cork.
After all, no one wants bits of cork floating around in a wine they’ve spent time aging. This is where the twin-blade wine opener comes in handy.
This double-pronged contraption, also called an ah-so on the West Coast, looks like a tool out of a horror movie, but it is exceptionally useful for removing corks from wines with age.
When to Use a Twin-Blade Wine Opener
“A twin-blade is great when you are opening old bottles, especially when the cork may be weak or damaged, nothing is better,” says Evan Turner, sommelier and wine director at Krasi Meze and Wine in Boston.
Weakened corks are prominently associated with aged wines because they can dry up if there isn’t enough humidity during storage. The cork can also grow brittle if the bottle isn’t kept on its side while it ages, which helps keep it moist.
However, all natural materials inherently disintegrate overtime, and that goes for cork, too. For aging corks, traditional bottle openers could spell disaster. “When piercing a fragile cork with a screw, the cork might crumble if too damp or break if it’s too dry,” says Maddy Jimerson, Master Sommelier and wine director at Casa Tua in Aspen, Colorado. A twin-blade wine opener helps avoid this fate.
How the Twin-Blade Works
The two blades slip between the cork and the neck of the wine bottle, rather than piercing it. Then you simply twist the handle while pulling up.
“This eliminates the issue of the cork breaking or falling apart,” says Jimerson, who adds that she reaches for a twin-blade when opening any bottle that is older than 15 years, even if it’s been stored in the best conditions. “I’d rather be safe and use a twin-blade when I’m unsure about the condition of the cork.”
After all, whether at home or at a restaurant, opening an old bottle is a celebration. Splitting a cork in half can draw away from the presentation and experience. Using a twin-blade adds to the moment, as you can’t rush an opening with one.
“There’s a romance to them,” says Turner. “Honestly you cannot go fast [and] that is the whole point really.”
“I think it’s a beautiful way to open a bottle for guests, whether it be at home or on a restaurant floor,” adds Jimerson.
Another benefit of a twin-blade corkscrew, she says, is the ability to reinsert the cork in the bottle in case you don’t plan on finishing the wine in one sitting. If you plan to take advantage of this benefit, then be sure to leave the cork between the double blades after opening. This way, you aren’t over handling the cork, which could cause it to crumble.
To reseal a bottle, simply push the gadget downward while twisting the handle. Once the cork is secure, pull up and remove the twin-blade.
Finding the Perfect Twin-Blade Wine Opener
L’Atelier du Vin makes a popular model.
The company even cites a popular legend that their opener is so delicate and discreet, waiters supposedly used to serve themselves a small helping of wine before service and re-cork the bottles without leaving a trace.
Regular Corkscrew or Twin-Blade? It Depends
All this said, you’ll still find both Turner and Jimerson relying on a standard corkscrew. That’s because the majority of bottles they handle are young and a standard opener is sufficient. Jimerson says that the hinged version is easier to use and more convenient, especially for bottles with synthetic corks.
But if there’s any question on the state of a cork, it’s best to be safe and use twin-blade wine opener.