I have a great affinity for corkscrews, in every shape, size and form. I have them all over the place; in my kitchen, my bedroom, my car, at work, even in my gym bag (?). For me corkscrews are a source of great joy, since they allow access to my favourite beverage, wine, but many times it also becomes a source of endless frustration. Either the corkscrew breaks the cork or even worse yet, get lost. Nothing is worse than being on a romantic sunset date on top of Table Mountain with a stunner of a wine (and girl) and you can’t find the *#%#$ corkscrew. Here is an interesting site on how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. Crude, yet effective…
It is difficult to track down who and when the first corkscrew was invented. A portrait in The State Museum of Berlin, named The Wine Miracle of St Bertin of St. Marmion which was painted in 1495, show the use of an instrument that looks very similar to a corkscrew to bore a hole in a barrel to gain access to the wine, (or could this be the early wine thief?). There are also numerous sources that tell of how early hand-blown bottles had tapered corks and were tied with a cord that made it easy for the cork to be removed. Later when producers realised that bottled wine traveled better than barrels of wine and the development of moulded bottles, more compact corks were used to ensure the bottles were better enclosed (and could be stored on their side, to save space and keep the cork moist). Since the bottles had a tighter seal a tool had to be developed to remove the corks from the bottles.
According to the Oxford Companion of Wine, the corkscrew was developed from the “gun worm” that was used in the military during the 1600’s. A gun worm was an instrument that were used by riflemen to remove bullets from the barrel. This instrument had a helix which made it easier for the bullet to be retrieved. The earliest patent of the corkscrew was in 1795 by an Englishman, Reverend Samuel Henshall.
Today, corkscrews come in so many different shapes and sizes to meet the needs of the consumer, might it be gas operated, with gears, levers, wings or prongs but with the development of the screwcap, there were some concerns that corks (and ultimately the corkscrew) would become obsolete. Well, I for one can safely say that corks, might it be natural or synthetic, will still be used and so the corkscrew will live forth!