Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Don’t buy this bottle of wine-plastic corks

pics113009 007My Thanksgiving dinner got pared down to three people…another friend plus her husband who recently came home from the hospital.

I prepared some food which I brought to her house and while it was heating, two of us were going to have a glass of wine.


We could not open the damn wine bottle with the plastic cork.

The first attempt broke her plastic rabbit ear corkscrew. I myself have broken several metal rabbit ear corkscrews trying to open plastic corkscrews.  For all I know this is a corkscrew conspiracy so people, chumps like me, will buy more corkscrews more often. Every bottle that has a plastic cork should have a warning label on it.

Warning: You must have the upper body strength of Jack LaLanne in order to open me.

Then she took out her restaurant version corkscrew and that didn’t work either. I was holding the bottle while she tried to do her magic and the second corkscrew wouldn’t budge.

Her husband heard us cursing and came into the kitchen to try to help.

Finally, he took out this monster corkscrew and directed us how to use it. This subversive instrument  (see photo) looks like something you might see in an operating room or under the hood of your car. From the photograph you can see that we were neither successful enough to pull the plastic cork out or to disengage it from the corkscrew.

I’m not a wine snob. I don’t care if a bottle of wine has a plastic cork or a screw top. My goal is simply to open the bottle and consume the wine. Since we were having roast chicken, I felt a pinot grigio would be the perfect pairing.

Fortunately, my friend had another bottle of wine…a bottle with a regular cork. I don’t recall the label but it was a malbec from the Mendoza region in Argentina.

I browsed around on the Web to see if only us estrogen-deprived weaklings couldn’t open the wine with a plastic cork or if others have similar challenges.  We are not alone. One commenter says, “I can’t tell you how many corkscrews I’ve trashed (up to the $50 Rabbit) because these tough old bastards refuse to be uncorked………..creating waste in a landfill near me…and endless frustration to me.”   Amen!

While there seems to be advantages to plastic corks, the inability to open the bottle and drink the wine is not one of them.

How many Trader Joe’s employees does it take to unscrew a corkscrew from a bottle with a plastic cork?

I took the bottle with the corkscrew stuck in it and these Joes behind the counter were humorless. The younger of the two tried to open it on the counter but then put it on the floor so I couldn’t see what he was doing but when he disengaged it, his normally tan face was quite flushed.

He said, “Here you go.”  Yeah, right. Like I’m going to walk around the store drinking a bottle of wine. I clarified that I bought the bottle for Thanksgiving and wanted my money back. There is never a problem returning products to Trader Joe’s.

Then I asked if there was any way to tell what kind of cork was used because I never wanted to buy wine with a plastic cork again. They said no and smarty pants said that he never had a problem opening a bottle with a plastic cork. If that’s the case, how come your face turned pink? Did I mention he had muscles and buns of steel?

I inquired as to how often this happens and they said never. I find that hard to believe.

I must remember to inquire not only about what wine to pair with what food but what material the cork is made from.

If you’re a winemaker reading this, please choose the screw top over the plastic cork because there’s a whole nation of baby boomer women who have no upper body strength but have food blogs and big mouths.

  1. Oh my! I’m sorry you had such a hard time with that cork but at least you got a laugh out of it, somewhere…

    I’m afraid I’ve never had that experience with a synthetic cork but it sounds like that’s more luck than anything. I do understand the benefits (having had a cork-cork disintegrate when it met my corkscrew, the 2-arm metal screw type) but I generally dislike them on principle–they’re not as aesthetically pleasing and they don’t go back into the bottle easily.

    Still, I’d rather fight with a cork than down-grade to screw-top. Granted, it’s mostly an experiential thing but I prefer my wines with corks, just as I prefer them in bottles as opposed to vacu-sealed pouches in a box.

  2. Good on you for this post — useful as well as funny! I wouldn’t restrict the problem to baby boomer women, though. Obviously Mr. Buns of Steel wasn’t able to open the wine easily either. And if the usual style opener doesn’t help, well that’s the fault of the cork, not the potential uncorker!

  3. Could you let me know what kind of wine that was? I work in the industry and am curious about what kind of cork it was. Thanks!

    1. Kathy
      It was a plastic cork. I should’ve written down the name of the wine. I thought the photo would pick that up by my photography skills need improvement. I think the wine was Contadina from Italy but I could be wrong. Next time I am in Trader Joe’s I will check.

  4. remember when we were in Oregon & I broke my corkscrew & we had to borrow one from the B&B owner? I don’t remember if it was plastic or cork, however. Do you?

  5. I have had this happen twice–both were those synthetic corks. I don’t remember what wine but one was from Tj’S. One bottle, actually started to break off shards of glass from the top of the bottle neck as the professional corkescrew dug into the bottle on the side that leverages, it took several people trying and finally it came out. Another time, the corkscrew got stuck in the cork and was almost impossible to get it out. Again after many tries one of the guys got it out but not without quite a struggle.

  6. That is FUNNY stuff.
    And you are not alone.

    There is a million-dollar opportunity for the next person to invent and patent the next Kork Killer.

    I’ve almost always been able to finally defeat these Plastic Pissers, so far. But I’ve also broken off the arms of the “little man,” chipped glass, and very nearly thrown the entire bottle against the wall.

    There are wines we won’t buy any more, for this reason.


  7. I am showing my age. I used to think Jack LaLanne was old but now he’s ancient but he can probably still touch his toes which I have never been able to do.

    I told the plastic wine cork story to Yvonne at Catavinos Wines in Tucson – http://www.catavinoswines.com

    and this is what she had to say:

    Hello Karyn,
    I can’t tell you how many stories I hear about the plastic cork, I agree. There is another alternative and that is the zork. I love it, it give the emotion of popping a cork yet doesn’t require a corkscrew. From what I’ve learned it was also developed by the Australians who developed the screw top (stelvin closure). It is the best of both worlds. Oh well, guess we’ll just have to see where all of this goes.

  8. Hi Karyn,

    Funny story and how ironic to think that the source of this frustration was a desire to relax. One possible solution next time is buy wine in a pop top can. I was recently fishing and the boat owner took out a delicious can of Merlot and beef jerky for his lunch. I could almost hear Jeff Foxworthy saying, “You might be a redneck if you’ve ever had a can of wine with your beef jerky.”

    The wine was from South America and was actually quite good and very easy to open. But then again, vacationing in northern MN makes everything taste good.

  9. Karyn,

    I am impressed that you had enough restraint to not break the bottle over Mr. Buns of Steel’s head. It had to be tempting. It is funny now but I am sure you were very frustrated at the time. I guess I am a cork snob somewhat. If I can tell the bottle has a plastic cork I avoid it. I will choose cork or even a twist off over a
    plastic cork.
    I have not seen wine in a pop top but that could be convenient, no corkscrew to worry about and in smaller sizes. ( checked out the coppola web site and read about minis- what a great idea)

Leave a Reply