What was once a simple knife used by French farmers is now one of the most sought-after corkscrews in the world, preferred by professional sommeliers.
The name Laguiole (pronounced lah-yole), comes from a village in the middle of the Aveyron region of France, where the original knives were first made in 1829 by Jean-Pierre Calmels. The handy and versatile tool was the go-to knife for many farmers. Originally used to cut bread and wood, a poinçon, or piercer, was incorporated later so farmers could make holes in harnesses or pierce the stomachs of bloated animals suffering from colic.
As needs changed, so did the knife. In 1880, as poor farmers emigrated to nearby Paris to open restaurants and bars, a corkscrew was added.
The signature bee
One trademark of a true Laguiole knife is an insect forged on the spring. Many believe it represents the flies or horseflies commonly seen in the Aveyron region because of the cattle bred there. The catch on a Laguiole knife is often referred to as la mouche or the fly.
But locals prefer another, more glamorous story suggesting that the insect is a bee — an imperial symbol bestowed by Napoleon himself to the town of Laguiole in thanks for the bravery of its soldiers.
But beware: Since the bee and the name were never trademarked, a bee on the spring or bolster doesn’t guarantee the authenticity of the corkscrew. Ask for a certificate of authenticity and if the seller claims it has been lost, try to do as much research as possible to ensure you aren’t purchasing an imitation. Look for “Made in France,” not “Important for France.” In this case, imported means the components were made elsewhere and were brought to France for final assembly.
Beware of cheap imitations
The Laguiole name and signature bee cause a lot of confusion. Laguiole is not a single company that produces these knives and corkscrews — it is really just a generic name for a folding pocket knife.
Many inexpensive, low-quality knock-offs have flooded the market. Many of these low quality, machine-made knives and corkscrews are made in China or Pakistan. Even French manufacturers produce varying levels of quality, from inexpensive, mostly machine-made items to high-end, fully hand-made and engraved products (with a high price tag to match).
Laguiole catches on
Over the years, demand grew, production increased, and the manufacturers expanded their operation 100 miles northwest to the town of Thiers. By 1981, all of these famous knives were produced in Thiers. In 1988, the town of Laguiole built two forges to once again produce its namesake products, but most authentic Laguiole products are still produced in Thiers.
While 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, table cutlery and cigar cutters. To experience the craftsmanship that goes into hand-assembling a Forge de Laguiole corkscrew, watch the video below. The Laguioles we sell are more affordably priced, but we still found the process interesting.
Your own piece of French history
The Laguiole En Aubrac corkscrews we offer strike a nice balance between quality and affordability. These genuine Laguiole corkscrews are made in France by master craftsmen.
They’re handcrafted with extra-long, five-turn stainless steel grooved spirals and serrated blade foil cutters, and packaged in an ebony wood gift box. Each comes with a certificate of authenticity and a lifetime warranty. Available with a buffalo horn handle, olive wood handle, brown horn handle or juniper handle, our Laguiole products are beautiful, functional and durable. Not only should you get one for yourself, they make excellent gifts for the wine aficionados in your life, too.