What Price Corkscrew?

Code 38 Stealth corkscrew

Among wine neophytes, the issue of how to remove the cork from the bottle has always been one of life’s toughest dilemmas. Today you can buy a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc if you’re uncoordinated or lazy, but sooner or later you’ll have to confront the challenge of cork removal.

Beginners tend to fall back on the winged corkscrew, the twisting pull or the two-pronged (or “Ah-So”). For those who like to have the latest gadgets, there’s the air pump. Lever corkscrews come in all shapes and designs, and some of them are quite elaborate. For the purist, though, there’s only one corkscrew to use—the waiter’s friend. It’s slim, portable and very easy to use operate once you get used to it.

For quite some time, the gold standard in waiter’s corkscrews has been the Lagioule, manufactured in Southern France. Lagioule started out as a knife producer, added a corkscrew to some of their models, and discovered a hidden market. The various models of the Lagioule corkscrew are priced from $189 to $229. They are not only functional but also quite beautiful, and feature inlays of olive, briar or rose wood.

I own several Lagioules that were given to me as gifts, and have never actually used them. The reasons? Cheap corkscrews do the job just as well, and I prefer to keep them in mint condition in case I have to regift them someday. Now it suddenly appears that the Lagioule’s position atop the corkscrew pyramid may have been eclipsed by the Code 38.

The Code 38 was invented by Jeffrey Toering, who “always thought there was something fundamentally wrong about a sommelier uncorking a bottle of premium wine with a cheap waiter’s friend.” The five models of his sleek and modern corkscrews range from $225 to $410. The top of the line, the Code 38 Stealth, features a textured titanium blackened chassis and a grooved precision French spiral. Due to a recent article in the New York Times, it so popular that you can’t even buy it at the moment.

To me, there’s only one thing wrong with Mr. Toering’s thesis—the wine tastes the same no matter what gadget you employ to open it. That being the case, I’d rather use a $10 corkscrew and put the rest of the money toward a great bottle of Burgundy.

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