Corks were used occasionally by the ancient Romans to stop up wine containers, and were common jar and bottle stoppers by the early 1600s.
We don’t know who invented the corkscrew, but we do know that it didn’t appear much before the year 1700. Then how did people before that get the corks out of their bottles?
The answer is that they didn’t need corkscrews to remove corks, they used their hands. Corks were used mostly to keep dust and dirt out of containers, and not to make them airtight, as they are used today.
Stoppers were set very loosely in most bottles; the thinner end of the cork was pushed into the bottleneck, and the thicker end was used as a grip for the person opening the bottle. Corks weren’t pushed tightly into bottlenecks until the invention of the corkscrew, probably by wine or ale makers, making it possible to remove such corks.
The cork oak tree from which corks are made lives from 300 to 400 years, but never grows more than 50 feet tall!