Ma Maison: Le Tire-Bouchon

In a season of popping corks, it’s good to also know about the tire-bouchon—cork screw—which is both collectible and very giftable in France. Not every party will call for Champagne. Naturally, in a country where the wine is so prized, there is an element of both style and status when it comes to what you open the wine bottle with. Enter the tire-bouchon, which dates back almost 300 years and has lived through assorted incarnations and demi-innovations, some successful, some, uh, flat or simply tasteless. Before the 8th century, bottles were a rarity so corkscrews were not invented until after that date. Wine became commercially available in bottles in France in the 1720’s—so-called industrial bottles were first produced in England. The curly part of a tire-bouchon is often called a “worm” in English and elementary examples of corkscrews include just the worm and a handle. In French, the three parts of a tire-bouchon are the manche (handle), tige (neck) and meche ou vis (worm). The part that fits over the bottle—which is only on a certain style of corkscrew, is called a “bell” in English and a cage (cage) in French. The handles are, of course, a decorative art—often decorated or curved to provide better fit and grasp in the hand. It’s said in French legend that the worm was inspired by the curls of the vine itself. The sous sol (basement) level of Galeries Lafayette is the best place to look for a tire bouchon—for yourself or a gift. There’s a wide selection of styles and artists spread out in many different departs of the floor, ranging from A to V. Italian designer Alessi has boutique space that sells his corkscrews—they look like Christmas tree angels with wings that pull up to retrieve the cork. L’Atelier du Vin has many styles of corkscrews, as well as other wine objects—such as the Stop Gouttes– a small devise that keeps wine from dripping on the tablecloth when it is poured. The selection is so large they are displayed in a vitrine, almost as if you were in a museum. The choices range from Museum of Modern Art moderne to stylish and chic to things that could be frightening if you didn’t know what they were. The W.M.F. boutique sells a complete ‘Sommelier Set’, which has five pieces, including a good corkscrew. Should you require fancy as well as good, look at the examples sold by Saint Hilaire in silver plate. Etains du Manoir offers silver plate or pewter. The beauty of a good tire-bouchon is that it simply doesn’t wear out; it is truly a gift that keeps giving pleasure for years. Naturally, anyone who wants to complete the gift can walk next door to the flagship Galeries Lafayette and go up one flight to Lafayette Gourmet, where there is a large selection of wine on which to test the tire-bouchon.   Copyright (c) Suzy Gershman
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