UN-Screw that!

Whats the best wine opener? How to figure out the best corkscrew for you.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say to me that they have a hard time opening a bottle of wine. Many of my trainees over the years would confess, with a shameful look, that they avoided offering wine to customers because they were afraid of making a mistake while opening the bottle.

Well, making sure you have the proper tool for the job is half the work.

There are numerous types of corkscrews on the market. Finding one that works for you can be quite a daunting task.

From modern looking, technology forward gadgets to “old school” man-powered models, there’s a perfect corkscrew for everybody. And for that reason, I’ll give you a quick glimpse into what’s available out there so you can make an informed decision.

For the wine enthusiast

The first question you should ask yourself is “what do I want it for?” There’s more than just aking the cork out of the bottle. At home, functionality can give way or merge itself with style and design. You can allow your tools to be part of your décor, like many other kitchen wares, make a statement of your lifestyle.

Wing corkscrews: very “old school”, the deeper the screw goes into the cork, the wider the “wings” open. Then to pull the cork out you hold each “wing” with your hands and push them down as the cogs pull the screw upwards removing the cork. Their only downside is, sometimes with older bottles, the cork gets stuck and in pushing down the bottle tips and falls. It’s a funny looking thing and I find it a little clumsy, but it’s definitely effective and easy to use.

Twist corkscrews: the evolution of the above mentioned “wing”. Is as easy as finding the center of the cork and twisting until the cork is pulled out. Very practical although it does require a little more force than it’s predecessor.

Rabbit corkscrews: they’re a feat of engineering and ingenuity. Good looking and safe, although they might require some “getting used” to it. The side handles will hold the bottle in place while you grip those with your weak hand, the top handle drives the screw into the cork and pulls it back removing it. They also look great like a sculpture on a mantle sitting atop your bar. The name comes from their characteristic shape, resembling a running rabbit.

Electric corkscrews: for the gadget lover, they are usually a pricier option. If you are a little on the lazy side or suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or strength loss these are perfect. Position the tip of the screw in the center of the cork and press a button, it does the rest.

For professionals

They are tools of the trade. Absolutely needed, they must be light, easy to use and easy to hide. There are two main types that I recommend:

Sommelier’s corkscrew, a.k.a. “server’s friend” (two-step corkscrew): they are my choice, even at home. It’s an all in one tool because they have a little knife to cut the capsule attached to its body. To use It properly may take a couple of tries, but it’s easy to adapt. Aim the screw in the center of the cork and twist until the end. Position the middle (or first step) on the bottle lip and with your left hand hold it in place by wrapping your fingers around the bottleneck and corkscrew at the same time. With your right hand pull the handle vertically until it reaches its limit. Then position the second step (or beveled tip) on the bottle’s lip and pull the rest of the cork out. It sounds more complicated than it is. This is actually the quickest method once you’re used to it.

Two-pronged cork puller: little known and gets you a raised eyebrow every time. This is a special model for vintage bottles on which the corks may be brittle/condemned by age. Instead of penetrating the corks with a screw, this model has two steel “prongs” that are inserted between the cork and the glass. With a twisting motion you release the cork and with a rocking motion, the cork is removed from the bottle. It’s very easy to use, but on younger wines, especially on synthetic corks, it can happen that the cork gets pushed down into the bottle.

There are other styles of wine openers, like air pressure ones, which I don’t really recommend. But to be fair, as always, I encourage you to go and try them all out until you find the one that fits you better.


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