How To Open A Bottle Of Wine Without A Corkscrew

Don't give up on that vino just yet.

pouring rose into a wine glass

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Ahhhh, that blissful moment when you’ve returned to your Airbnb after an afternoon of sightseeing and shopping, excited to unwind with that delectable Cabernet Sauvignon you bought at the local market. But as you begin to frantically search the contents of each drawer in the kitchen, your worst nightmare is confirmed: Your hosts have somehow managed to think of everything except a corkscrew.

And while your initial instinct may be to leave a scathing review (and let’s face it, they deserve it), take a deep breath. There are a few ways you can get that bottle opened and get back to the relaxing evening you deserve.

The answer? All you need is a shoe, and there’s no way you’re traveling without one (or hopefully two) of those!

This simple hack has made the rounds on the Internet, and most recently TikTok, for years, and there’s one reason it’s stood the test of time: It really works!

Now, the sturdier the shoe, the less risky this task is to accomplish, so ideally you’ve got a boot, men’s dress shoe, a tennis shoe, or even a pair of loafers to work with (read: flip-flops and stilettos won’t do). 

The more cushion the shoe has, the better, because this method is not without risk. There’s a chance you could inadvertently break the bottle and end up with a shoe full of wine and glass shards, so we don’t recommend trying this with a special bottle (or a special shoe, for that matter). 

How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Shoe

  1. Remove the wine bottle’s capsule (the foil), so that the cork is exposed and won’t have an additional obstacle to contend with.
  2. Place the bottle upright in a sturdy shoe, so that the bottom of the bottle is sitting inside your shoe, where your heel would go. 
  3. Now, identify a sturdy, vertical object you can strike your shoe with, like an outdoor brick or cement wall or a large tree. You do not want to use an indoor wall because you could damage it. And you can’t use a flat surface like a table or the floor/ground because gravity will be working against you.
  4. Wrap one hand tightly around the neck of the wine bottle to hold it in place, and use your other hand to cup the toe of your shoe in your palm (the back of your hand will be facing the wall/tree). Make sure your grip on each hand is secure.
  5. Now, start banging the heel of your shoe against the tree/wall. You’ll want to strike the delicate balance of not too hard and not too soft. Err on the side of caution with your first few blows until you get a feel for the force needed. It could take up to 10 bangs for the cork to begin loosening, so trust the process. 
  6. Once the cork begins to rise, grab it with your fingers and twist it out of the bottle. If it’s too hard to grasp, look for a pair of pliers or something rubbery (like dish gloves) to create traction.

This is one of the safest and most reliable methods. But here are two back-up ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew.

How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Lighter

Let’s say you only brought flip-flops on your vacation, and the tried-and-true shoe trick isn’t going to work. Have no fear! Zachary Morris, owner of Bloomsday wine pub in Philadelphia, says to just grab a lighter.

First, remove the entire capsule (again, that's the foil at top). Then, heat the air underneath the cork by placing the lighter’s flame to the glass on the neck and rotating the bottle to heat the glass all the way around. It might take a minute or more, but eventually the cork begins to rise as the air inside the bottle heats and expands. 

“Since you’re heating the air via the glass at the top, the wine isn’t in much range of degrading,” he says. “I certainly wouldn’t do this to a prized bottle of rare, expensive wine. But otherwise, it’s pretty low risk. And if you’re in a desperate situation and you need your happy hour to commence but don’t have a corkscrew, it’s worth it!”

How to Open a Wine Bottle With a Sharp Object

So you’ve somehow found yourself in a position with no shoes and no lighter? Well, you’ve got one last shot at getting the party started, and all you’ll need is a sharp object. Honestly, most any skinny object will do—like a kitchen utensil or a ballpoint pen—so get creative. 

Before you begin, one word of caution: “Removing wine corks with non-traditional methods always makes me a bit nervous for folks' safety,” says Michelle Foletta Bella, head winemaker at City Winery Nashville, a one-of-a-kind restaurant and intimate music venue featuring a fully operational winery. “I highly advise keeping scissors and hammers away from bottles.”

First, remove that pesky capsule. Then, use a pen or other kitchen utensil to push the cork inward. Once you’ve achieved success, you may find it’s a bit hard to pour, as the cork keeps getting in the way of the flow—just hold the backend of a spoon inside to keep that opening clear.

And there you have it. Three surefire ways to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. Phew, crisis averted.

And now that you’re a whiz at MacGyver-ing your way through any "emergency" situation, feel free to play around with opening a can without a can opener just in case you need this skill down the road. You never know when another poorly stocked Airbnb kitchen will strike again!

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