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without stabbing or drowning anyone

The first step in opening your wine is screwing off the cap . . . and then throwing that bottle in the trash. If you're wrestling with a cap or a spigot, you're not opening a bottle of wine. Forget about it if you're not confronted with a cork - you'll only embarrass yourself. If you are dealing with a cork, you're probably also going to have to deal with a metal wrapping around that cork. Once upon a time, this metal used to be lead, designed to protect the cork. Unfortunately, lead kills human beings. So, we've switched to other alloys now and occasionally, gasp!, plastic. Whatever it is, you'll want to remove it. For this, you can use any sharp knife, including the one handily provided on many waiter's bottle openers - this kind of opener is known as a "waiter's pull." Using the knife, slice the metal wrapper below the protrusion at the top of the bottle's neck. This involves taking off about a half-inch band of metal. But you'll want to make sure that there is no metal left near the lip of the bottle, because if the wine touches metal when you're pouring the liquid, the combination can oxidize your precious fluid. So be safe and keep it away.

There are three major devices for removing the cork. The easiest, though perhaps least suave, is the "winglever." Invented for the ergonomically challenged, these bad boys will get the job done with a minimum of fuss. Simply line up the corkscrew with center of the cork and poke it in. Then, holding the neck of the bottle and the barrel of the opener together, start twisting the key at the top. The levers on the side will rise as you twist the key. When they have gone as high as the can, secure the bottle on a table or, if you are seated, between your knees. Then push down on the levers and voila!, watch the cork rise easily out of the bottle.

A second opening device is the previously mentioned "waiter's pull." This gizmo requires more skill, so please practice before trying to impress your date - on your first try, you're almost guaranteed to either spill the bottle or gouge someone. Again, place the corkscrew into the center of the cork. Then level out the rest of the "pull" perpendicular to the screw and begin twisting it, driving the screw into the cork. After the metal screw has entered the cork to the depth of about an inch, pivot the pull so that the metal hook rests against the lip of the bottle. Use that metal hook as a pivot, and lever the cork out of the bottle. Again, this requires some skill.

The final device is known as the "dishonest butler" because it can remove a cork from a bottle without damaging the cork. Presumably naughty British valets would steal a tipple from their master's cellar and replace the cork with the guvn'r none the wiser. Insert the longer blade of this device into the gap between the cork and the lip of the bottle. Then insert the shorter blade in the other side. Wiggle the device from side to side, forcing it deeper into the neck of the bottle. When it has descended about an inch or so, pull the cork out with a slow twist of your wrist. Again, no one will be very successful at this maneuver the first time around, so practice before your date shows up. And for God's sake, don't wear anything white.


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