You say Laguiole, I say Lah-yole

Laguiole If you’ve caught the wine bug hard, the need to purchase a Laguiole corkscrew may have set in. You may already own one. Simply put, they’re the most elegant (and expensive) way to open a bottle of wine. And now that the reality-based wine community is clamoring for the end of cork in favor of screwcaps, why not make the best of this dying tradition? There’s definitely not a small amount of confusion surrounding Laguiole corkscrews. For one thing, there’s the pronunciation. Officially, it’s pronounced [lah-yole] by the locals but most French speakers will say [la-gwee-ole]. Perhaps a little like the way Houston Street is pronounced [how-ston] in New York City. However, most of the confusion – and commercial chicanery – arises from the fact that Laguiole is not actually a brand name but simply a town in the south of France known for its high quality cutlery, knives and corkscrews. Unfortunately for them, the name was not trademarked so there's no restriction on its use, which means a Laguiole corkscrew can come from anywhere in France (or China or Pakistan for that matter!). The most important part of buying a Laguiole is finding the real deal. We’ll take a detailed look at the two most famous Laguiole corkscrews, Château Laguiole and Forge de Laguiole as well as a low end Laguiole product. First a short history, and the key word here is short. Although there’s a long tradition of Laguiole knife making dating back to the early 19th century, the designs of the classic Laguiole corkscrews we covet aren’t even 20 years old! The folding knife that made Laguiole famous first appeared in 1829 and was produced by blacksmiths for the local rural population. As popularity grew, mass production became necessary, with manufacture shifting 100 miles northwest to the larger town of Theirs. Laguiole resisted industrialization so that by 1981, all production of their famous knives was done in Theirs. Around this time some local businessmen set up an initiative to bring production back to its namesake town. In 1988, two forging mills were built – La Coutellerie de Laguiole and Forge de Laguiole – in Laguiole (La Coutellerie’s corkscrews aren’t widely available, so I don’t cover them here). Château Laguiole Laguiole A year before either mill was set up; sommelier Guy Vialis introduced his famous Château Laguiole corkscrew. It was and still is produced in Theirs; a classic design with the recognizable markings of traditional Laguiole cutlery, including the traditional bee. Some say that the bee is actually a fly, signifying the bane of local shepherds, as the surrounding area is known for its cows. Naturally, this version of the story is not popular locally. The official explanation is that Napoleon Bonaparte's imperial seal – the bee – was offered to the town of Laguiole as a token of his gratitude for their soldier’s courage in numerous battles. Some also insist that since the Château Laguiole is not made in the town of Laguiole, it’s not authentic. The reality is that most authentic Laguiole products have been made in Theirs for a very long time. The Château Laguiole is the one you’ll see at most sommelier competitions as they produce editions of their corkscrew commemorating winners of the World’s Best Sommelier Award given by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale. The one pictured here is an update on the original called the Grand Cru. $109 Forge de Laguiole Laguiole This is the only corkscrew made entirely in the town of Laguiole in a very stylish factory designed by Philippe Starck. The Forge de Laguiole corkscrew introduced in 1995 and is also very stylish and sleek (although not designed by Stark). It’s nearly devoid of any of the traditional markings except for a small cross on one side of the casing. Early Laguiole knives also had this marking; with the blade stuck in a piece of bread, the cross formed a makeshift chapel for the local shepherds. It feels more solid and smooth in the hand than the Château Laguiole and its boot lever is finely integrated into the overall design. It looks more expensive and is. $137.50 Low-end Laguiole Laguiole Also know as Forgery de Laguiole or Shanty Laguiole, this is one to avoid. I purchased one in a regrettable Ebay moment (woo-hoo! a $40 Laguiole). Like most things that seem to be too good to be true it was. Two small chunks of wood are slapped on both sides of a cheap metal corscrew in a desperate attempt to make it look fancy. So instead of a bargain, it’s a rather expensive piece of junk. The name Laguiole here is no indication of quality. $40 Comparison
  Foil Cutter Corkscrew Bee Bottle Opener If I were a car. . .
Château Laguiole serrated knife grooved for easy insertion classic part of boot lever classic Mercedes Benz
Forge de Laguiole serrated and radiused grooved for easy insertion minimalist part of the foil cutter new Aston Martin
Cheap Laguiole serrated knife grooved for easy insertion deformed part of bent boot lever Ford Pinto
So which one is better? Obviously not the junky one, but they all do a decent job opening a bottle of wine; the determining factor here is not function but style. The final decision comes down to which design you prefer: the classic and traditional Château Laguiole or the sleek and stylish Forge de Laguiole. Either would make a perfect Father’s Day present for a wine obsessed dad.Buying a Laguiole corkscrew: After you’ve made a decision on the style you like, the most important part is finding a reputable dealer, which is the only way to insure that you’re not buying a cheap counterfeit. Your trusted local wine shop may even stock them. Otherwise, here’s a list of trustworthy online merchants: USA and Canada Wine Appreciation Guild Forge de Laguiole only Custom Curling Château Laguiole only in a wide variety of handle materials. also does customizations Finely Corked Canadian wine accessory firm offers both brands United Kingdom Wine Ware UK wine accessory firm also offers both brands
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22 Comments

Becky Johnson
Becky Johnson

June 16, 2014

Dear Mr. DeLong -
I truly enjoy your newsletters. The nicely detailed information you provide helps me as both a wine lover and in selling wine. Thank you!

Fred Frank
Fred Frank

June 16, 2014

This is a beautiful and long overdo post. You should be congratulated for shedding light on this overlooked oenological area.

… and speaking of which,

Where’s mine? I think it got left in Elsted and was supposed to wend its way o’er the Atlantic. It remains missing and is missed.

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Christopher, a book was published in France in 1996 called “La Laguiole” by Daniel Crozes that may shed some light on the subject. Unfortunately, it’s now out of print.

Marcus
Marcus

June 16, 2014

I had a Cépage Laguiole recently break on me. It was a very cold bottle and cork was really tough. The screw just snapped while I was inserting it into the cork (which was still in the bottle obviously!)

I salvaged the wine but now I am confused. I heard any Laguiole was guaranteed for life as long as it was authentic (as I believe this one was), but now the retailer, where this Cépage Laguiole was bought for me as a gift, says that they don’t stock it or deal with the manufacturer anymore. I would have to pursue them on my own.

Any idea of whether I’m wasting my time with this Cépage Laguiole?

Christopher
Christopher

June 16, 2014

While trying to sort out the producers of Laguiole knives, I have definately noticed the distinctive logos, and while the name Laguiole doesn’t mean much, I assume the logos do. A bull, the distinctive L of Forge de Laguiole, etc. Do you know anyone who has assembled a list of these? Who used what, and when? A list of the top craftsmen?
Regards from a collector

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Thanks, Fred and Becky!

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Thanks, John. Where’s the new wine bar?

John Ferra
John Ferra

June 16, 2014

Mr. De Long, your posts are informative and enjoyable. I am just entering this business with the opening of a new wine bar that will specialize in both classic and hard-to-find bottles in combination with an exclusive line of gourmet and own-brand chocolates. While I am not a novice to drinking wine—and certainly know how to find what I like—I am a novice in the finer details and in knowledge sufficient to educate my future customer base. Thanks to people like you, I’m learning more and more every day. Keep up the good work! :-)

Marcus
Marcus

June 16, 2014

Brilliant. Steve your services come through yet again. I will reveal details as I receive them.

Steve De Long
Steve De Long

June 16, 2014

Hi Marcus, sorry to hear the sad tale. It definitely illustrates the problem with Laguiole. Laguiole isn’t a brand but Cépage Laguiole, Château Laguiole, Forge de Laguiole, etc. all are separate brands. Cépage Laguiole looks like a knock-off of the Château Laguiole and judging from a few quick searches google searches (that you’ve probably done yourself) I can’t find any manufacturer’s info. They are sold by the huge wine accessories wholesaler Franmara who may have sold it to your retailer and may be able to help: http://www.franmara.com/RequestInfo/

Get Thee A Laguiole « Vin Collections
Get Thee A Laguiole « Vin Collections

June 16, 2014

[…] veracity and origin of Laguiole knives, the various points of which can be similarly applied to the corkscrews. However, much of this information is still unverifiable and tenuous at best. For example, only one […]

emilie
emilie

June 16, 2014

There are a lot of imitations sold everywhere onto the internet.
To be sure to buy a genuine Laguiole, the best way is to order directly through http://www.laguiole.com
I placed an order with them andi it was really wonderfull. They give the best service. They answered all my questions by email immediately…and the product received was won-der-full !!
Moreover, they give a life time guarantee when we buy directly from them.

Jerod
Jerod

June 16, 2014

In case you’re wondering, the above post by Majid Rafique epitomizes the sort of “Laguiole” you don’t want…I pulled up the website just to see what sort of crap they were peddling, and the anti-virus software on my computer went nuts!

I have had excellent experiences with Forge de Laguiole knives…they are truly beautiful, and can be heavily customized for what I consider to be a great price. I can only assume their corkscrews would be equally impressive…

lisa
lisa

June 16, 2014

Just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you recommendation for where to purchase Laguoile. I just purchased a corkscrew for my husband for our 24th anniversary. I purchased it online from customcurling.com. I cannot begin to tell you how extremely helpful Fred was and it was so convenient. Their website has online live help. Using that, Fred and I figured out exactly the wood that I wanted and he helped me to personalize the corkscrew with special engravings. My husband absolutely loves it. Custom Curling gave me the most personalized service from a marchant that I have received in many years. Plus Fred engraved the item and had it sent by 8:00 a.m. the next morning. They are the best!!!

lisa
lisa

June 16, 2014

do you recommend the Château Laguiole orForge de Laguiole I am getting this as a gift for my husband and want to make sure I get the best!

Java jane
Java jane

June 16, 2014

I purchased my forge de Luguiole corkscrew in a very nice gift shop in Cape May NJ called American West. It has proven to be a winner. I open a lot of wine as I am a bartender. High quality tool makes my job easier.

David Williams
David Williams

June 16, 2014

After breaking my third Screwpull Original Twist Style Corkscrew I did some research on the Internet and decided to purchase a high end waiter’s corkscrew. I had tried cheap versions in the past and felt they were really clunky compared to the Screwpull, which works like a charm nearly every time. But being largely plastic, with the screw itself being pot metal, it is somewhat fragile. My son, who in another life worked as a waiter in Manhattan for a year after graduating from college, insisted the waiter’s corkscrew was the way to go. And so I discovered the Chateau Laguiole corkscrew and wound up purchasing an ebony handled version from Fred at Custom Curling. The service was great and my corkscrew arrived in just two days. I looked at several YouTube videos demonstrating how to use it and each person made it seem so easy. So I tried it out. My first attempt was a disaster but I did manage to get the mangled cork out of the bottle. My second, and third attempts were not much better. I began to think I had made a huge mistake and was about to send it back. But I knew I was not getting the screw straight through the cork, and that’s the trick. It was sort of like learning how to ride a bike and my fourth attempt was right on the money. The cork came out so easily it surprised me. My next attempt was equally successful. In fact the cork made a popping sound as it was freed of the bottle. It was a very sensual experience. So I am sold, and have confidence, and look forward to a long relationship with my Chateau Laguiole corkscrew. I just need help on the pronunciation. In the meantime I’m going downstairs to open a bottle of 2009 J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon.

mike
mike

June 16, 2014

Why no mention of en aubrac. I understand it is outside of Laguiole, but is this not on the same tier?

Robert
Robert

June 16, 2014

Sorry, but I don’t believe any frenchman or frenchwoman would ever say la-GWEE-ole. La-GEE-ole with the hard G mostly swallowed is what gives you the (to a non-French speaker) sound of Lah-yole.

No Ordinary Corkscrew: The Simple Origins of the Beloved Laguiole | IWA Wine Blog
No Ordinary Corkscrew: The Simple Origins of the Beloved Laguiole | IWA Wine Blog

June 16, 2014

[…] the design of the Laguiole knife is more than 170 years old, the design of the coveted modern Laguiole corkscrewsis only 20 years old. Today the Laguiole name and signature bee adorns folding knives, corkscrews, […]

Amy
Amy

June 16, 2014

Gosh it is not easy to find original Laguiole! What about this site? Can anyone vouch for them? ANy other alternatives for buying original laguiole cutlery? http://www.couteau-laguiole.com

Do Not Try This At Home | The Wonderful World of Sabering | The Thirsty Kitten
Do Not Try This At Home | The Wonderful World of Sabering | The Thirsty Kitten

June 16, 2014

[…] use. (For those who’d like to know more about Laguiole history and tradition, there’s a great primer on the subject at the blog of a company called De Long which we love for its very handy wine grape varietal […]

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