Every few months, one corner of the Internet or another buzzes with the news that you can open a bottle of wine by cradling it in a shoe and pounding it against a wall. Most recently, in reaction to a viral video produced by Mirabeau Wine, NPR’s The Salt explained the physics behind the parlor trick and concluded that uncorking wine this way is rarely as easy as it looks on YouTube.
But attempting to open wine this way isn’t just difficult—it’s dangerous. Glance at the comments section under any of the hundreds of blog posts and homemade videos about this method, and you’ll read horror stories about shattered glass and emergency room visits. A sampling:
A good friend of mine absolutely shredded his hand a few years ago when this went wrong. He did it the same way we had done it dozens of times before and the bottle broke while momentum drove his hand down onto the shards. After surgery, he had no use of his right hand for six months and today has no feeling in his pinky. I haven’t done the trick ever since and it makes me cringe to see so many people sharing this article. –Keith Burgie, The Salt
DON’T DO THIS!!!!!!! I know someone who did this…the shoe fell off mid swing and he smashed the bottle against the wall. It shattered, and glass become lodged in his wrist…he damaged his tendons and needed multiple surgeries, still has limited mobility of his hand. Sorry to rain on your parade, but this is a BAD idea!! –Josh Giunta, Mirabeau Wine
My classmate did this, and was way too forceful. The bottle shattered in his hand and cut him pretty deeply. –neisseria, io9
This does work, however, seriously just cover the bottle with a sweater or something, when the bottle does break (it happens) you end up cutting your hand and I know someone who lost the use of his hand temporarily because of it. –mishugana, Reddit
I would not recommend trying the method shown, my friend tried a similar method on a beach in Brazil, the bottle shattered and he lacerated his hand/wrist very badly, lost a lot of blood and nearly died. –megablast, the Telegraph
You may notice that all of these examples are secondhand, which might be because the victims themselves are no longer able to type. But there’s no reason to doubt the veracity of these claims: There are YouTube videos, too (don’t worry—these two are high on suspense but low on gore):
And to find another victim of this method, I had to look no further than over the wall of my cubicle: My colleague Forrest Wickman once broke a bottle of wine by smashing it against a wall in a shoe. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt, though he did get wine all over himself and glass all over his roof.
I corresponded with others who had hurt themselves personally. Miguel, a Spaniard who preferred that I not use his last name, tried the trick during a friend’s birthday party. He got the cork out of one bottle successfully, and then tried again with a second bottle. “After hitting the wall, I saw in slow motion how the bottle was breaking before my eyes, and remember I thought: fuck,” he told me in an email. His friends took him to the hospital, where he got a few stitches and doctors told him he was lucky not to have cut a tendon. Miguel still has scars (he sent me pictures) and lingering sensitivity in his right palm. Another victim I heard from didn’t hurt himself quite so badly as to require stitches, though the bottle did cut into his hand in several places.
Of course, absent a well-designed study, there’s no way to know what percentage of people who try the shoe trick end up breaking the bottle. And everyone has their own comfort threshold when weighing potential risks against potential rewards. I, personally, will never try the shoe trick because the possibility of cutting a nerve, bleeding copiously, and/or losing feeling in my fingers does not seem remotely worth it for a few glasses of wine. But whether or not you’re willing to take the risk, it’s good to remember that just because something looks easy and effective in a viral video doesn’t mean it always turns out that way in real life.