How to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew, and 6 other wine hacks

Until recently, the word “hack” was negative. It meant a mediocre writer, to sever with heavy blows or the evil genius who broke into your computer and stole your identity.

Lately “hack” has taken on a good meaning, as a clever technique for doing something useful, from using toothpaste to clear the foggy headlights on your car to storing spaghetti in Pringles cans.

Well, in my decades of writing about wine, I’ve come across a hack or two for the fermented juice of the grape. See if you can get some use out of the following:

— Refrigerator wine swap: Twenty minutes before dinner is served, take the white wine out of the fridge and put in the red wine. Both will come to proper serving temperatures by the time you eat.

— Opening a bottle of wine without a corkscrew:

Method one: Tear off the capsule with your thumbnails. Take off a shoe, position the bottle inside the heel and tap the heel gently against a sturdy wall. The cork will slide out maybe one-eighth of an inch with each tap. Google a video of this before trying. And don’t blame me if you shoot wine across the room.

Method two: Remove the top of the capsule and force the tip of a house key into the cork at an angle. Use the key as a lever to turn the cork in the bottle until it comes out. You can Google this too.

— Zap-a-wine: If the leftover wine in your fridge is too cold to drink, pour it into a microwave-safe glass — maybe a measuring cup — and zap it in five-to-eight-second intervals until it’s ready. Never, EVER put a whole bottle in the micro, especially if it still has its cork or metallic capsule, for explosively obvious reasons. Oh, and this is only for modest wines — don’t zap a Chateau Margaux. (Also, please don’t tell my wine snob friends I recommended this.)

— Don’t put your bottle of chardonnay or other rich white wine back into the ice bucket after pouring the first round. Chardonnay is best served at 50 to 60 degrees; the ice bucket will take it closer to 32.

— If you’re cooking with wine and use only part of the bottle, you can freeze the rest in an ice cube tray and keep it for a month or two. Measure it before freezing so you know how many cubes to thaw out for that future dish.

— To save leftover wine for a week or so, drop small marbles into the bottle to raise the level of the wine to the top, to avoid oxygen. Careful not to drink the agates. And if you have wine left over too often, you need a better class of friends.

— Finally, take this life-hack advice from a grizzled wine vet to aspiring young hedonists. Early in your career, make friends with someone who has a fabulous wine cellar. And a boat.


(Fred Tasker has retired from the Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at