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Corkscrew as a Star

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I have written several times about Piedmont wines, smaller and bigger wineries in the Langhe and Roero. However, this time I will concentrate on corkscrews. You may think – a kitchen utensil like many others, what is there to write about? Well, let’s just have a look…

colorful, optimistic, a real piece of art
colorful, optimistic, a real piece of art

The history of the corkscrew is quite mysterious, as sources that confirm when exactly the idea came up are unsure. We only know that in the middle of the 17th century, a tool for opening bottles sealed with a cork already existed. However it wasn’t used with wine, but perfumes, medicines or ink kept in glass vials. Contemporary corkscrews were available in different shapes and sizes – interestingly, even in pocket version… The aristocracy and rich people used to order them from the best goldsmiths, that’s why they were made of silver, gold, mother pearl or ivory.

some version with a brush
some version with a brush

The first registered patent for a corkscrew dates back to 1795 and belongs to the British Reverend Samuel Henshall. But how did the idea of its construction originate, and what is interesting, until today hasn't changed? Apparently a tool to remove unused bullets was the inspiration…

T-shaped corkscrews
T-shaped corkscrews

The construction of a corkscrew is based on two elements: a spirally twisted rod and an attached perpendicular handle, in this way it resembles the letter T. Since the beginning, the handle was made of wood, gold, aluminum, ebony and other precious materials. Still today, the biggest auction houses attract collections from all over the world, bidding unique pieces made by CartierTiffany or some more modern pieces of Gucci or Hermes.

made of precious materials
made of precious materials

No wonder in places where there's a culture of drinking wine there are museums dedicated to corkscrews. One of them is Museo dei Cavatappi in famous Barolo in Piedmont. It’s hosted in an old building in the center of the town with a characteristic sign of a huge corkscrew.

It's impossible to miss the Corkscrew Museum in Barolo
It's impossible to miss the Corkscrew Museum in Barolo

The Corkscrew Museum has 600 corkscrews on display, also an ancient one used to open glass vials, made of precious materials. During the tour we can admire the most basic T-shaped ones, but also ones with a lever, pocket-size, or a special one used once to open champagne bottles.

The first corkscrews in the shape of a person was made in the 20th century by Italian Carlo Gemelli.
The first corkscrews in the shape of a person was made in the 20th century by Italian Carlo Gemelli.

One of the most characteristic ones is in caricature of congressman Andrew John Volstead shape. In the United States in the 1920s, there was a collection of corkscrews dedicated to the progenitor of the hated prohibition law of 1919, know also as a “Volstead act”.

caricature of congressman Andrew John Volstead
caricature of congressman Andrew John Volstead

and another version of caricature of congressman Andrew John Volstead …

Andrew John Volstead

Find more information about the museum on: http://www.museodeicavatappi.it/en/

Ultima modifica: Martedì, 12 Gennaio 2016 14:21
Monika Nowak

I’m Polish blogger and freelance journalist tasting “la dolce vita” by traveling around Piedmont. As Italia is my passion since the childhood I’m happy having the chance to discover  the kingdom of  great cuisine and probably the best wines in the world, but also charming little towns and interesting history. My blog  Bel Piemonte (available also in Polish and in Italian) was born to show the beauty of this region and to encourage others to discover this part of the Apennine Peninsula. 

Website: www.belpiemonte.com/en/
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