The importance of a professional in any trade to have the right tools cannot be underestimated. Just as an auto mechanic purchases thousands of dollars worth of Snap-on brand tools, and the cowboy has a custom saddle constructed just for him, the sommelier or any wine professional needs a solid and reliable wine opening tool. There are a plethora of wine openers on the market ranging from a simple plastic throw away corkscrew costing just a few dollars, to wine keys running well into the hundreds of dollars. One thing is for certain, the right tool can make opening a bottle of wine not just easier, but the perfect tool can make it quite the experience as well. Opening a bottle of wine “an experience?” Yes, you read that correctly.
Today, I am reviewing a Code38 wine key I recently purchased. I chose the Dual model from the line-up as there are three versions currently in production, (the Origine is not being made at the moment) and the new Elite models will be released sometime during the summer of 2015. The Code38 is a wine key developed by Jeff Toering of Australia. He spent 12 years developing this wine tool, which was prompted by seeing a sommelier in a restaurant open a glorious bottle of wine with a cheap corkscrew. He thought there was something wrong with that situation, so he set out to develop what is considered by many to be the finest wine key in existence. The word code comes from “dress code,” and 38 being Jeff’s age when the final design came to be, after many years of development, refinement, and more refinement.
So far I have really enjoyed ownership of my Code38. To the eye, this one isn’t the elegant and shiny instrument that Laguiole produces, but the elegance is in the design here. The hand-feel is second to none, with rigidness that reminds me of my carbon fiber Cervelo bicycle. The fitment and movements of the hinge, knife, and helix are as good as it gets. The Torx screws holding things in place are solid and blend in without detracting from the smooth lines of the body. I opted for the newer conical tapered helix instead of the grooved, and I honestly cannot “feel” the difference between the two styles, as I own another wine key with a grooved helix. The conical tapered helix locks into the cork as you insert it and comes back out cleanly and smoothly.
Here are some key features of the Code38:
- A 316 stainless steel chassis, with optional TiCN coatings (depending on the model) for even more durability and enhanced grip.
- A French made stainless steel helix (spiral) made to the absolute highest standards. A grooved or conical tapered helix is available as an option for your handmade corkscrew.
- Super sharp stainless steel TiCN coated foil knife, which is non-serrated and is designed to be sharpness-maintained easily by the wine key’s owner.
- Optional personalization, including initials and names, available in several different font styles.
What I personally like most about my Code38 is it is literally manufactured to be the last wine opening tool you will ever have to purchase. When a part finally wears out after many years of service, it is easily repaired or replaced under the lifetime warranty. This instrument is not riveted together like some other top end producers in the market; there are tough screws holding things in place, which makes changing or upgrading parts easy as pie. This is important to me, as I prefer to own things that are hand made, and tools that are truly meant to last a lifetime.
Do I recommend this tool? Absolutely! Is it inexpensive and made for the casual wine drinker? Not at all. The Code38 is an investment in the sommelier’s repertoire, and is a must have for professionals that open thousands of bottles on a yearly basis. I recently broke a $150 corkscrew after only a thousand bottles or so, which is quite disappointing. I am happy to have a Code38 in my arsenal and have now moved it to my everyday wine key spot. I trust it will genuinely offer a lifetime of wine service.