The Campagnolo Corkscrew
Wine goes with cycling. Like fine tubulars, vino is aged for perfection. Like great rides, it is savored. Like great stories, it is shared with friends. Like great equipment, there is often a quest associated with finding the right bottle. Wine makes a great complement to a meal, and the compliment only grows when there is an appetite grown by a long ride. Ask any European-based racer, and they’ll tell you the truth; even a weak meal is made right by a bottle of red. Any bottle, even table wine.
Knowing all of this, and realizing they could add their distinctive style to the pursuit of fermented grape product, Campagnolo created a corkscrew in the 1966. It wasn’t something they jobbed out to a corkscrew factory down the street or off in Asia, Il Cavatappi was produced at their own factory in Vincenza, and most of the parts were forged, just like their components. It was designed and built the way you’d expect a Campagnolo product to be. Functional, attractive, strong, with smooth action. Long lasting, and with the added feature of being repairable. Campagnolo considered the corkscrew a novelty item for the Si Parla Campagnolo crowd. It was produced alongside a nutcracker, car wheels, motorcycle wheels, and a Campagnolo tennis racquet.
Of course, of all their novelty items, the corkscrew is the only one still being produced. Still manufactured by Campagnolo in Italy. And it has sufficient market power that it is produced in bronze, antiqued bronze, satin nickel, resin (several different colors over the years), and gold. We tested out the Bronzato, the antiqued bronze finish.
With wine, a factor in the experience is presentation. The corkscrew comes in its own 32x14.5cm wood case, protected from the bumps of travel with hay. A jute twine handle protrudes for easy carrying. When they say it is big, it’s not “big,” but big. At 31cm tall, it’s only a bit shorter than a wine bottle. The wormscrew itself has a 10cm wide handle, stamped with the distinctive “Brev Int. Campagnolo” and with an icon of the early era of Campagnolo products, for easy turning, and the arms are 17cm from pivot to end, making lifting the cork easy work for a child. the arms are attached to the body with two chainring bolts. And these are older bolts as well—stamped with “Brev Campagnolo” they are designed for 5mm Allen keys at both ends. The body, or bell, has the early cursive “Campagnolo”atop a likeness of the earth and “Made in Italy” underneath. The bell itself is a spring-loaded centering device, pulling it down ensures that the screw will grab the cork properly the first time every time.
The corkscrew is easy to set up and use. Start by taking off the foil above the cork. Place the corkscrew over the top of the bottle. Pull the spring-loaded bell down to the point where the bottle starts to get wider. This will center the screw. Use the arms to position the screw just on top of the cork. Let go of the arms. Start twisting the screw in clockwise. The screw was designed to go through the cork, but never pierce the bottom. When you can’t screw any more, the arms should be pretty wide apart. Push down on both arms. The cork will easily come out, with nothing left behind.
To remove the cork, you place the arms in the down position and start twisting the screw counter-clockwise. The two fins inside the top of the bell will hold the cork steady enough so it gets worked out by the counter-clockwise motion. If there is a weak spot in the entire enterprise, it’s that the top of the cork often gets a bit chewed. However, a cork should never be placed back in a bottle, so this drawback is only a concern for those who make corkboards out of used cork.
A funny thing about wine. There aren’t many necessary accessories, even peripherally, for the hobbyist tippler or professional sommelier. For most oenophiles, wine accessories begin and end with the wine refrigerator. Il Cavatappi isn’t necessary, but gift corkscrews, to oneself or to a friend who enjoys a good bottle, are a fine thing. The cheap, stamped $3.99 corkscrew is not only ugly, but has sloppy action and works poorly. The expensive Rabbit is a little too high tech for its own good. Campy’s offering is elegant in its simplicity and function, and is designed for generations of use.
We approached a cycling sommelier and asked her about corkscrews. She told us that most pros go with a simple, folding corkscrew because it fits in a pocket or apron. The corkscrew of sommeliers is generally “The Waiters Friend,” a knife in one end, corkscrew on the other and folds. It does the least amount of damage to the cork. The difficulty is that it takes a fair amount of strength to pull out the cork without looking graceless. Still, she gets corkscrews as gifts, and enjoys looking at the ones that are hard to work, but loves the ones that are functional as well as attractive.
Attractive, definitely. In addition to opening up several bottles before, during, and after Thanksgiving, where the audience of a few appreciated both the looks and function, we took it on the road. Cyclists are wine-drinkers and il cavatappi made an appearance at a party where cyclists made up the majority of the crowd. It was a good conversation-starter, a fine prop, and a pleasure to operate. We don't know if the road show aspect is in the corkscrew's future, but it made opening bottles more fun, even joyful, in the way that feeling a smooth shift on ergopower gives pleasure. Drink up.