A gear essential that won’t leave you screwed

Jeanne McGovern
No IPTC Header found

In honor of the Food & Wine Magazine Classic at Aspen, we’ve decided to change our bent a little. And, to be honest, who says a corkscrew isn’t “gear”? It’s a gadget, it’s mechanical, and, at least in my experience, it’s an integral part of any good outdoor experience.Let’s begin with the picnic. Whether spreading your blanket outside the Music Tent or taking a late-afternoon hike in the Hunter Creek Valley, wine is an important part of any open-air repast. For these outings, I usually bring with me a simple waiter’s corkscrew. With a basic foil cutter, worm (the spiral) and single-leverage handle that fold into a streamlined tool, it’s easy to carry and easy to use – once you get the hang of it. Mine was pilfered from some liquor store or restaurant, but you can buy one for just a few bucks. Of course you get what you pay for; top-of-the-line Laguiole models can run upward of $150 and are smooth as silk when it comes to popping a cork.If that hike through Hunter Creek involves an overnight stay, and your backpack is already busting at the seams, you’ll probably want to pare down your load. To avoid carrying more than one “tool,” simply use the corkscrew most Swiss Army knives feature. They work fine but require a little more muscle to get the job done as there’s no leverage handle. And, truth be told, they often crack the cork. (Of course, you can always leave the wine bottles behind – either decant your wine in a Nalgene bottle or just pull the bag out of a box of wine and go. We know, we know … wine in a box is so uncouth, but even Master Sommelier Andrea Immer admits it’s not so bad: ” For years, wine lovers in Europe have been enjoying wine in alternative packages, and it’s time for Americans to move past the stigma surrounding boxed wine,” she says.)Of course, if you’re car camping – and you have a big car – the sky’s the limit. In addition to your ultra-comfy air mattress, down pillows and favorite slippers, why not pack a deluxe Rabbit corkscrew by Metrokane or a similar screw-pull model?Our knockoff Rabbit was purchased by my kitchen-gadget-obsessed husband and is a fairly basic model. It features plastic and metal handles, comes with a matching foil-cutter and has its own stand. It’s a bit bulky, but even my 5-year-old daughter could open a bottle of vino with it – all you have to do twist the foil-cutter, grip the bottle in the corkscrew’s wraparound handles, and make an arcing motion with the lever (Rabbit’s motto is “faster than a speeding bunny,” after all). We got ours on sale for less than $50; a titanium gold-plated model Rabbit can set you back a couple hundred.And if you’re still not convinced that a corkscrew is, in fact, “gear,” remember this: There are about as many corkscrews on the market as there are hiking boots, tents and camp stoves ( has hundreds of models for sale), and some are even more expensive than the latest, greatest mountain bike (a vintage brass-and-steel corkscrew, circa 1862, sold on eBay for $13,550 a few years back). Cheers!Jeanne McGovern’s e-mail address is