Sommelier's are replacing the evergreen corkscrew with a wine key and it's difficult not to think of the way short shorts transformed into hot pants. Well, it's not quite the same, but I can't resist the analogy. Must be the Solstice.
I call this one of my favorite devices, a corkscrew. Yet, wine key used instead of a corkscrew, has become trending. If you listen up, you'll hear it parsed everywhere there is a white cloth. It's in evolution and unless nipped in the bud, it will become the somm of its generation. (remember when it was sommelier?). Our wine lexicon is changing with the speed of the carbon footprint.
But I forgot that I wanted to write about it until last week.
Shortly after my arrival in Bouilland,
contemplating the 2006 disgorged Selosse in the sink,
Russell, poking a braised leg of something on the burner said, "What is this bloody thing about wine keys. Whatever happened to corkscrew?"
Russell was disgusted. He ( like me) is guilty of strong opinions, (he wasn't sold on the Selosse, I on the other hand....) and that might be why I love Mr. Hone so much. I just don't feel so alone. Someone out there resonates with me. I am grateful to him because he reminded me of this wine key thing. A few nights later I got on the job, when perfectly sweet Alex from DB Bistro confirmed that he too uses the term. "Because it unlocks a treasure."
I immediately understood Russell's spume; treasure? Aren't we supposed to be over this fetishizing? Wine for the people, hip hip and all of that? Is a wine key only to be used on rare gargles? Only on expensive, bank-heist worthy bordeaux? Only on Houillon/ Overnoy?
I did a little unofficial survey. I always excused Pascaline calling her tool a wine key, but I decided to ask her why. She said, in fact, that wine key was the first words she ever heard of to describe this thing that pulls a cork from the bottle. But, I thought, you know that Clef du Vin, which of course is the French translation of wine key? This device supposedly pre-ages your wine to drinking perfection in your glass. A concept that bugs me, often to an excess of hyperbolic vitriolics. Wouldn't sommelier's want to avoid the unfortunate association? Then there is the Laguoile top of the line model, which is called Cle de Vin, even though it is under corkscrews. Perhaps this is the device referred to but, it is creeping into other styles and models of "waiter's friend."
Next, I emailed adorable Jordan Salcito who wrote back enthusiastically, "Wine key! I prefer the idea of "unlocking" what's inside the bottle."
Levi Dalton was a big surprise. "Wine key, " he wrote.
He seems like such a corkscrew kind of guy to me. It just goes to show you. And I am sure I never heard him use the term, I think. No, I'm sure, but still he continued thoughtfully.
"Probably it was something I picked up working at DANIEL. I do specifically remember one of the other sommeliers there asking me if I had a wine key and not understanding what they were saying. This same experience happened in reverse 2 weeks ago when I went to a wine store and the young clerk didn't know what I was referring to. I think I use the term because the ready alternative, corkscrew, can imply something much simpler than I am looking to use or purchase. Like a corkscrew could mean just a worm with a T bar handle, or a worm attached to a Swiss Army knife, and I wouldn't be interested in using either of those."
A hedging his bets response was handed over by Michael Madrigale (in the employ of DANIEL), he takes the whatever it takes, approach. "Wine key in my opinion is an industry term. I think "key" denotes that it opens more things than just a bottle of wine (beers, etc). Corkscrew is a tried and true term for everyone. More populist. I use the term "corkscrew" mostly but sometimes when I'm feeling like a badass I'll call it my "steel""
Matt Reiser up in Massachussets, was with Jordan and PP, wine key!
Then, the strangest thing happend. I was positive Joe Campanale was going to tell me wine key. But what did he write to me?
"I still call it a corkscrew but everyone calls it a wine key."
When you think of the thing that removes a cork, the words always seem so blantantly sexual. Tool, screw, pull, Ah-So! Pulling a cork out of a bottle is exactly that, sexual. It comes (see?) out with a sigh.
When over mint tea and pastry at Bague de Kenza in Paris last week (yes, rubbing it in) I asked Linda Milagros Violago, sommelier to the stars, now in Paris, next stop the moon she said, "What's the matter, are people afraid of using the word screw?"
Where do you stand?
(thanks to Mark Goldberger, or @Vinformative for this somewhat tweaked post title.)