6 Wine Openers Put to the Test

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The drill, double-hinged, red-winged, easy-twist, black pull-tap, rabbit ears, ah-so, & the professional all sound a bit like tools of the trade for a torture chamber, but in fact they are all names of common day corkscrews that you can find in any wine store. To help the bold and not so bold navigate through the ins-and-outs of buying the correct accoutrement, it is nice to know that you are not alone.

You know the scene: Mom and Dad busily make dinner in anticipation for friends to arrive. Earlier that day, they dutifully walk into the local wine store with nervous trepidation. Unsure of what to buy, the snooty attendant leads to a nice bottle of 2009 Grey Stack Cellars Pinot Noir from Bennet Valley in Sonoma (Nose of grassy herbaceousness, smoke and cinnamon. Complex and interesting with a lush mouthful of rich fruits and spices. Only 100 cases produced. $39. Yummy!!) The attendant uttered to them, “Uncork the bottle 30 minutes before guests arrive to let it breathe.” Later that evening, Dad tells Mom, “It’s almost time. Open that wine!” She dives into her kitchen gadgets drawer, trying to find a shiny rabbit-ears corkscrew she had gotten as a wedding gift. As she pulls the corkscrew out, never used, she wonders how to use the dang thing. Obviously the “worm” or corkscrew goes into the cork, but how? She made several attempts, all to failure. Fretting, she grabs her smart phone and types in a keyword search: How-to-open-a-bottle-of-wine. Up comes a Youtube.com video entitled “How to open a wine bottle with your shoe.” She thought, this has got to be easier than using what I’ve got. She watches the video, studies it, then takes off her shoe…

If you haven’t seen the video, take a look, and if you want to try it, let us know if it works. We would love to hear! Be sure to use a cheap shoes and wine! If using your shoe makes you a little wary, read on! Listed below are the most common corkscrews available on the market today and how to use them.

The Waiter’s Corkscrew or “wine key”

Found at any wine bar, restaurant, or tasting room, these are the easiest to use with practice. Make sure it comes with a small non-serrated knife, not a built in foil cutter. Use the knife to cut away the foil. With your pointer finger on top of the worm, aim the point of the worm right to the center of the cork, pushing and angling downwards into the cork. Turn the corkscrew 3 times or until 2/3 of the worm is in the cork. Place the level or hinge on the lip of the bottle and slowly leverage the cork out.

The Ah-so or Butler’s Friend

Shaped like a large key with a square-oval handle and two thin metal strips. The ah-so looks like it could never pull a cork out of a bottle. However, after seeing it in use and how simple it is, you may be left saying, “Ah, I see…” or ah so, in German where it originated. With the two thin metal strips, gently descend them along the side of the cork all the way until the bottom part of the handle (which happens to look like a wedge) is wedged into the cork. Then, start slowly twisting the handle. These are best used for older vintages as corks can be too brittle for the worm.

Butterfly or Rabbit Ears

This is probably the most commonly purchased corkscrew. The trick to this is to make sure the worm goes all the way into the bottle and that the two handles move up as far as they can go. Once the handles are at their max, slowly push the handles back down until the cork comes out. Be careful, as corks break easily with this tool.

Rechargeable Corkscrew

These just don’t work…

Lever Corkscrew Set

Commonly found under the Christmas tree. These typically come in a pretty box with a foil cutter and wine stopper. These, for the most part, do the job. But the parts tend to wear out and are hard to replace. If you are opening up one bottle per week, it will work. Beyond that, move on.

Antique Corkscrews

A trend at tasting rooms and wine retails stores. Bronzed and quite interesting, these antique corkscrews appear to be a collector’s item. Marketed as usable, but probably look better as decoration on a shelf collecting dust.

3 Total Comments

  1. Jeff Cope

    Thanks for an interesting article. I used the Lever style for years until I read great things about the ScrewPull with red ball (not discussed here), but have found the Waiter’s double hinge corkscrew is the easiest. It’s funny that the simplest things are best, much like a manual can opener is much better than an electric one.

  2. Monique

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Jeff! Waiter’s double hinge is my favorite too! Have a wonderful New Year! Monique:)

  3. Lindsey

    HI Jeff- just want to thank you as well for commenting. At our tasting room, we seemed to have tried them all, but always come back to the tried and true. We do find that the knives dull on the waiter’s corkscrew over time and they have to be replaced, but easier and cheaper to do so than the rest. Have a great New Year and hope to hear from you again. Lindsey!

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PUBLISHED DATE: December 23rd, 2011 | WINE CATEGORY: Wine Education
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