Embarrassing moments in bottle opening – The Rabbit and Benito’s blog

Ben Carter writes a wine blog from Memphis known as Benito’s wine reviews. In the same spirit as our impossible food wine pairings, his series “Benito vs. ___”, he takes on such crazy foods as cactus or an MRE. Check them out! And while you’re there, you can check out his kind words about my book A Year of Wine–as well as a few words from me since we did a Q&A.

therabbit corkscrew One of the questions he asked me was about a time when I had trouble opening a bottle. Being smoother than Rico Suave with corkscrew, I could only think of crumbly corks as difficult-to-open situations.

But later, Mrs. Vino reminded me of The Rabbit!

I haven’t ever confessed this to you, but The Rabbit and I are not friends. We once brought a celebratory bottle of red over to some friends at their new home. New as in brand new. And freshly painted. They presented me with The Rabbit to open the bottle and I confidently pushed down on the lever in such a manner as to thrust the cork into the bottle and force a geyser of red wine up to the ceiling. Whoops! Fortunately the painter was due back soon. But still, not one of my finer bottle opening moments.

What about you? Do you have any embarrassing moments in bottle opening that you’d like to share?

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28 Responses to “Embarrassing moments in bottle opening – The Rabbit and Benito’s blog”


  1. You should put a warning that I’m going to laugh that hard, Tyler. Fortunately, I can say that I haven’t had any bottle opening issues on par with your story. Any of them are pretty dull, crumbly corks as you put it, but thanks for sharing yours.


  2. Thanks for the mention!

    On my nightmare bottle, I broke two corkscrews getting it open, and the wine wasn’t even that great. It was a prosecco with a weird cork that I’ve never seen before or since, solid like a Champagne cork but without a “mushroom cap” to grip and no obvious way to get it out. First an old wing corkscrew fell apart, then with a rabbit I managed to get it out but in the process I bent the screw and cracked a crucial part, destroying it as well.

    And of course, this all occurred on the second date with the girl I was seeing at the time.


  3. Your experience has happened to me several times with both genuine and faux Rabbits. I can’t stand the darn things! I use a table-style Screwpull that has worked without fail on all kinds of corks. A lot easier to store and travel with too.


  4. Tyler,
    In my view the Rabbit is one of the worst wine products (among many to choose from) I have ever encountered. I’ve broken several of them over the years; and finally just gave up trying them. But there’s little doubt that the most difficult cork pulling experiences in my life come when someone has slathered their weapon-grade wine bottle with a pound or two of faux wax. You need a chainsaw to drill through some of these things. It is not helpful to embark on what is supposed to be a thoughtful review of someone’s wine with blood all over the corkscrew, the bottle, the glass and the writer. Perhaps you will join me in an effort to dissuade wineries from using this stuff?


  5. A winery I particularly enjoy seals some of their bottles with a plastic-like substance that seems to be attached with superglue. You have to chisel it off bit by bit – at no point does the rest of it peel away. I don’t know if that’s faux wax or just a close relative of it, but it is very annoying. If it’s a bottle I’m sharing with friends, I attack the stuff before they come so as not to have an audience.


  6. Yes. Many years ago, when I didn’t drink and knew NOTHING about wine, I was invited up to dinner at a girl’s apartment that I had just started dating. Long black hair, extremely fit body, and an attractive face in a rough pioneer-woman kind of way.

    For what I was hoping would turn into a romantic dinner (hint-hint), I brought a rose (I can’t remember the brand: it is in one of those “flower-pot” colored rotund bottles. We’ve all seen them.). The only corkscrew she had was a solid wooden-handled one with the screw sticking out perpendicular from the center (like a letter “T”). No levers or gears. All raw strength. Just screw and pull.

    I was in her kitchen, she looking on both comely and curious, and I felt it was time to open the bottle. I screwed the corkscrew in and attempted to yank the cork (any sexual interpretation here is not totally unwarranted). Initially the cork didn’t budge. Not a bit. Then suddenly the cork popped forth and the bottle flew from my grasp, spiralling in the air and then rolled around her entire kitchen floor spewing its pale pink contents.

    Once our wineless dinner had ended (great bluefish w’ too many bones), I was politely told that she was tired, wanted to be alone, and that we really didn’t have all that much in common anyway.

    I’m sure it was not the wine incident that ended the affair, but it didn’t help. Thank goodness it wasn’t a first-growth bordeaux!


  7. “Kill the Wabbit! Kill the Wabbit” – E. Fudd

    I always carry a double-action pulltap’s in my pocket, just in case someone asks me to use a Rabbit.

    But recently, my and my pulltap’s were confronted with an odd (I think Italian) bottle that someone had given me – one of those “OK let’s see what this is” moments. Don’t remember what the wine was, was from an unusual region.

    I stood in the center of our kitchen and pulled the cork, which was unusually short and popped out unexpectedly. That surprise was followed a couple milliseconds later by the second surprise: carbonated red wine spewing out of the bottle and all over the stove etc. as I lunged for the sink….


  8. How dare you malign the rabbit. It’s my best friend when it comes to younger bottles. If they would only make them in a more portable size.

    As for embarrassing moments, I once shot a girl in the backside with a champagne cork on New Year’s Eve. I’d like to tell you that it was an accident but I can’t honestly remember it. I was cut off well before midnight that night.


  9. 1884 Yquem. Yes that’s right 1884 Chateau d’Yquem.

    2001, at our first wine event at Clos Pepe, we busted this gem out for the faithful. Lead capsule, hand blown glass, under the shoulder fill–some serious ullage–NEVER topped up.

    The cork was almost 120 years old and crumbled at the first hint of a corkscrew. two MS’s were in attendance (I’ll keep them anonymous), and they went to work with ah sos. fFive minutes later the neck of the bottle was broken and we hastily decanted it and poured it around.

    It was smoky and apricot-y and earthy and molasses-like for about 90 seconds, then it tasted like flat mud.

    But the joke is still told at the Clos: How many MS’s does it take to open an 1886 Yquem?


  10. I’m pretty sure it was 1886, there’s two vintages in the original post.


  11. Well, I got to say that the first time I opened a bottle of wine… half of the wine ended up in the ceiling, walls, floor, my favourite shirt and yes, grandma’s face.


  12. I was 24, the girl was 32. She took me to a housewarming party at a friend’s house. I was presented with the “Rabbit” and proceeded to jam the cork into the bottle covering the kitchen cabinets in red wine. Needless to say, the relationship didn’t last long, but luckily it didn’t discourage me from my career in the wine business waging war against the “Rabbit.” I can still have nightmares of the evil “Rabbit” mocking me.


  13. The unintentional opening:

    Vaccuuming in my house one afternoon, I found a large puddle of, (presumably), water in the kitchen. There was no obvious source but it appeared to be a patterned spray. After a little more sluething (and taking into account the well over 98 degree Virginia summer temps), I found an open bottle of Champagne in the wine rack on the counter and the cork and the cage clear across the room! Embarrassing mostly because I left a nice bottle in high enough temperatures to create a rocket.

    Because I never touched the bottle to open it, we have since refered to it as the immaculate ejection.


  14. I once popped a cork out of a cold bottle of sparkling that had enough force to knock a really nice crystal vase off its shelf and fall to its death on the counter. I’m still wincing thinking about it.


  15. I never thought I would be saying this, but Dr. Vino is a cork dork.


  16. Every time I use a prong puller I end up with the cork in the bottle. Too bad because it passes TSA so I can take it in my carry-on.


  17. My wife and i were celebrating and we put a bottle of champagne in the freezer to chill. My 3yr old son who liked to see the cork fly. stood up on a chair to watch as i unwrapped the foil and it immediately exploded and drench him in icey foamy slush. We were horrifed and thought he would burst into tears instead he shouted
    “thats the best thing that that ever happened to me”


  18. In my winelabel saving days, I was having trouble soaking off some labels I really wanted to keep (some higher end malbec brought back from a trip to Argentina), so I thought I’d try the pot of boiling water trick. The only problem was that the bottles got too hot to hold, so I transfered them back to the sink. Well, one still had a broken off cork stuck in the top… I jumped a mile when the bottle detonated in the sink!! ‘Happily’, the glass stayed mostly in the water, and not in my eyes or hands; needless to say, I don’t soak bottles with corks in them anymore.


  19. I can’t look at a Rabbit without thinking ‘over engineered’.

    It a very cumbersome solution to a rather simple problem.


  20. I remember soon after we opened the store we sold a bottle of NZ sauvignon blanc to a customer who proudly rushed off home to drink it. Fifteen minutes later I received a phone call from the customer informing me that the wine was ‘bad’. When asked why he thought so he explained that he had pierced the top foil with his corkscrew pushed down on the rabbit lever, but found no cork! Obviously the wine was defective and he wanted to return it. I told him that the bottle was a screw cap – no cork. He hasn’t been back!


  21. i have to say i love the rabbit for young wines and have never had a problem with it other than you need to change the screw once the teflon starts to wear off. I have seen other people do the push the cork into the bottle routine but that was because of user error not because of a flaw in the product design.


  22. I guess I expect a corkscrew whose marketing is based on ease of use – especially one as pricey as a Rabbit – to not be that subject to user error.


  23. [...] one commenter who wasn’t laughing was Paul Gregutt, wine columnist for the Seattle Times. He had this to say: there’s little doubt that the most difficult cork pulling experiences in my life come when [...]


  24. My wife and I were in a hotel and decided we would have a glass of wine in the room before going to dinner. I had one of those corkscrews that you take apart and slide the cover on the screw into a hole above the screw to form a “T”. The bottle had one of those fake corks. I screwed in the “screw” and pulled and pulled – put the bottle between my knees and pulled some more – finally it gave. Not the cork, but the corkscrew! It happened very suddenly, and left a 6″ gash in the underside of my forearm. Instead of dinner, we took a trip to the drug store and applied several bandages instead of having a casual glass of wine beforehand. Now I use one of those lever type pullers that the waiters use – they never fail, and are much safer! I gave up on the Rabbits a long time ago.


  25. Faux rabbits?


  26. Great post, these are some funny stories. In my college years I pushed many corks into the bottle. My worst/best story is trying to open a bottle outside at a party one night and I was pushing the corkscrew in and the bottle slipped out of my hand and shattered on the patio and splashed wine over everyone’s shoes.


  27. I am a pro with a prong opener, but one time over the holidays there was one cork that did not want to budge, and all of my efforts resulted in the top of the bottle shearing off, which freaked out everyone who was watching me open the bottle. Fortunately I was not injured, and it was a clean break, so we were able to enjoy the wine. Can’t remember what it was though.


  28. Back in the 70’s me and a buddy were in the Bahamas attempting to get the cork to go into the Mateus bottle. I’d done it before by putting a small pocket knife, folded up on the cork and pushing it through. This one wouldn’t budge so I hit it with my cowboy boot and the bottle shattered. A piece of glass took off a good chunk of my toe and I ended up in the ER.
    A good way to deal with the faux wax is to freeze it for a few minutes. It falls apart!


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