UK auctions: Corkscrews up for sale

UK auctions: Corkscrews up for sale News Wine News
  • Wednesday 13 December 2000

In the era of the screw cap, is the corkscrew becoming an endangered species?

Possibly so, if the latest example of one Napa Valley producer in bottling part of its premium 1997 Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon with screw caps is anything to go by.

If the corkscrew is to become extinct, scarcity may well enhance the value of antique screws such as those up for auction at Sotheby's South on Thursday 14 December, at Billingshurst, West Sussex. A lifetime collection of an anonymous Londoner goes under the hammer with estimates ranging from £50 (US$70) to £3,000 (US$4,200).

Sotheby's suggests that the first corkscrew dates from the 18th century, but, with all due deference, the earliest reference to a corkscrew, according to the Oxford Companion to Wine, is in 1681 labelled 'A steel worm used for the Drawing of Corks out of Bottles'.

This coincided with the creation of the mould-made cylindrical bottle, which could be binned horizontally and therefore required a driven cylindrical cork. Hence the invention of the corkscrew, and with it, the concept of laying down fine wines for ageing.

One highlight from the collection, which dates around the 19th century, isa novelty American Horace Bridgwater combination Prohibition corkscrew in the form of a corpse in its coffin, estimated to fetch £150 - £250 (US$225 - US$375).

An English patented 1864 Charles Hull Royal Club single lever roller-type corkscrew is estimated at £1,500 - £2,500 ($2,250 - $3,750) and a late 19th century German corkscrew modelled as a woman's legs with green and cream-striped celluloid stockings estimated at £200 - £300 ($300 - $450). Not quite as simple as the screw cap then, but no shortage of character.

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