Reviewed: Campagnolo’s (very) Big Corkscrew
Legend has it – at least according to Campagnolo’s mythos – that in 1966, after hurting his hand trying to open a bottle of wine, Tullio Campagnolo designed a new, improved corkscrew.
Tullio seemed to work best with injured hands, having previously made his mark on the world with the invention of the quick-release skewer, a design sparked having suffered from cold hands trying to undo a wheel nut.
Apparently, it took Campagnolo mere minutes to design a new corkscrew, and thus Il Cavatappi (The Big Corkscrew) was born. In a testament to Tullio’s original design, Campagnolo’s corkscrew has not changed in the fifty-five years since, save for a few variations to the external finish. The corkscrew is still 100% manufactured in Italy.
Complete with 1970s-era Super Record chainring bolts and emblazoned with a vintage Campagnolo logo, the Big Corkscrew scores highly for aesthetics and has become something of a cult object and collectors’ item. Year after year, the Campagnolo Big Corkscrew appears on Christmas gift lists for cyclists.
This year, just in time for Babbo Natale to do his rounds, Campagnolo has released a titanium version of the Big Corkscrew. While not actually fashioned from titanium, the new corkscrew gets a titanium finish, and I got one to review. So is it actually any good?
Campagnolo’s big corkscrew is big
Although I had tried to justify buying the corkscrew every year for the past decade or so, I had never actually seen one in the metal. So when it arrived at the door, I was excited about many aspects of the Big Corkscrew, but most particularly, I was excited to see just how big it was.
I can confirm it is, indeed, big – maybe even very big. It’s more than 30cm tall, with a wingspan wider than Adam Hansen’s handlebars. It is also heavy – over half a kilogram compared to my old weight-weenies style corkscrew at 120g. While its sheer size provides the corkscrew its name and is its main attraction, all that bulk makes finding a home for it in your kitchen a bit of a challenge.
Now obviously, I would be more than happy to keep it in the presentation box, on the dinner table, forever, although my wife might have other ideas.
To the test
While I continued to ponder where the corkscrew will eventually settle down to live, I set about testing it. Unsurprisingly, the Big Corkscrew is only compatible with press-fit style bottle corks and is completely redundant when it comes to threaded fit bottles. So by necessity my first port of call was the off-license to get some testing equipment.
Campagnolo had identified centring of the screw and cork perforation as the two main issues with rival corkscrews. The Big corkscrew, or Big Bottle Tool (BBT) as I like to call it, has a self-centring telescopic bell which perfectly positions the screw in the centre of the cork.
A confidence-inspiring thumb shifter (aka handle) actuates the screw which is designed to be the perfect length to match wine bottle corks. This eliminates the risk of screwing through the bottom of the cork, peppering your wine with bits of cork. That’s a major issue for wine lovers, but not so much of a problem for me during my college days when we opened wine bottles with the blunt end of a butter knife.
The corkscrew handles shifting effortlessly. The dual-engagement, ergonomically shaped lever arms have a long lever throw which effortlessly shifts the cork from the lower to upper position without hesitation. While press-fit systems are known for squeaking, the pop that follows the squeaking cork is delightful. I was impressed by how the corkscrew completely removes the cork from the bottle, eliminating the need to wrestle the cork or shake the bottle.
While the corkscrew works well in removing stubborn press fits with less than precise cork and bottle manufacturing tolerances, it did leave me with limited connection and feeling for how the cork was holding up. While not necessarily an issue for the wines I had, I am left wondering whether this could present an issue for vintage bottles with ageing corks. If anyone wishes for me to test the corkscrew on a truly vintage bottle, I’ll begrudgingly accept any and all test bottles sent to Ronan Mc Laughlin, PO box … …
It has often been said that Campagnolo groupsets work best after an initial breaking-in period. While Campagnolo gave no details of a breaking-in period for the corkscrew, I am sure it performed better with every bottle I opened. However, there could be another explanation for this, and again, further testing is required to eliminate all possible variables.
Priced at €209 (other international prices TBC) the Big Corkscrew does not come cheap. While I always fancied a Big Corkscrew I never could quite justify the spend. In some good news for others trying to justify it, the corkscrew is a bargain when compared to the £30,500 Officina Alessi Anna Etoile Corkscrew.
While I have survived my whole wine-drinking life with butter knives and traditional corkscrews, there is something special about the Big Corkscrew. It is in fact something of an heirloom item. Of all the cycling memorabilia and jerseys of sentimental value that I have collected down through the years, the corkscrew will perhaps become the only item that is handed down through generations to come. I daren’t consider, however, what passing down a bottle opener from generation to generation says about a family.