|Where do you keep your corkscrew? Chances are that it is tucked away in a drawer in the kitchen. Corkscrews are tools designed to perform a specific task and as such they are utilitarian and not particularly attractive.|
A new opener, La Flute, is intended to change all that. Designed for aesthetic appeal this opener is meant to be proudly kept on show using its box as a display stand.
David Lee, a young businessman from Portland, Oregon, is the brains behind La Flute. His start-up company raised capital to put La Flute into production via the crowd-funding site Kickstarter.com and quickly attracted over one hundred investors whose pledges exceeded the funding goal.
When I was in Portland I met David Lee who showed me La Flute and let me play with it.
Its packaging, a solidly made polished golden-brown hinged wooden box, is attractive. When opened its two halves lay flat. I was intrigued by two wooden blocks inside. David demonstrated that they would flip up to be used to display La Flute at an angle on one half and a bottle of wine on the other.
La Flute looks like a tall narrow wine glass. It is made from stainless steel, polished to a sheen in a range of shimmery bright candy colours.
To open a bottle you invert La Flute and push down the ‘bowl’ of the wine glass over the neck of the bottle. Then you grip the foot of the glass and twist clockwise. As you do so two internal blades cut the foil and the screw drives into the cork.
When the stem of the ‘glass’ has driven fully down, you move one hand to grip the bowl of the ‘glass’ and the other the bottle. Now by twisting clockwise again the cork is lifted easliy out of the neck of the bottle.
David was keen to stress that the screw doesn’t go all the way through the cork ensuring that no cork bits fall into the wine. This has not been a problem for me, but David told me that it was based on feedback from his focus groups.
Taking La Flute apart I saw how short the screw part is, little more than one inch. To my mind that cause difficulties extracting two inch long corks from fine ageable wines. But much more serious to me was the fact that the part of the device that is crucial to extracting the cork is not a helix. Instead it’s an Archimedean screw, a solid spike with a blade spiralling around it like a helter-skelter.
Such screws are notorious for pulling out a core from the centre of the cork. They don’t give enough grip on dry, stubborn or soft old corks and just tear out the middle leaving the cork in place. And I think it is this design which pushed though bits of corks into the wine in prototypes thus causing the redesign to a shorter extractor.
David said La Flute had been tested on many different bottles including ten-year old wines and had worked perfectly.
I asked for a sample so that I could test La Flute on various bottles at home, but there were none to spare. Instead David had brought a couple of bottles of wine that we opened, and the device worked well. However both bottles had short artificial corks made from plastic. Although these closures can be difficult to extract, being tough plastic they give a better grip to the Archimedes screw than a long natural cork or an aggregate cork closure.
I prefer a long helix screw. David said he had tried helix designs and couldn’t get them to work in the La Flute mechanism.
La Flute looks attractive, although the candy colours of its metallic sheen are not to my personal taste, and its packaging is classy. I am certain the product will find many purchasers and if David can get it into winery gift shops and general distribution it could be very successful.
But the first duty of a corkscrew is to remove corks and Archimedean screws are, in my experience, such poor extractors that I cannot recommend La Flute as your sole corkscrew.
If you want an attractive looking opener that will be a talking point and that you can put on display then La Flute (retailing at around $30) is worth looking at.
La Flute website is at www.laflute.com
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David Lee holding La Flute
La Flute and wine bottle on display
The Archimedes screw used in La Flute