Which Wine Opener Should You Use?
A wine opener can be anything from a simple, utilitarian device to a fancy showpiece that heightens the presentation and service of your fine wines. There are about as many different types as there are wines but they fall into only a handful of general categories. A fine corkscrew is one of the wine accessories that a wine aficionado prides himself or herself on, one that shows off their passion and respect for what is in the bottle.
Here we will briefly introduce you to the different general types of wine openers. If you want more details on how to use various wine openers to open a wine bottle, see our How to Serve Wine section and the How to Open a Wine Bottle page.
- Waiter's Corkscrew - A waiter's corkscrew is the basic folding corkscrew that folds up and can be easily held in your pocket. It is named for the fact that it is the traditional wine opener used by most restaurant servers and Sommeliers (the wine steward at a restaurant). They have a worm (the corkscrew part) which is twisted into the cork and then lever action is used to pull it free. These generally also include a small knife as well which serves to cut the foil off the bottle before pulling the cork. These are handy and easy to use with a little practice. While many of the ones you see around are cheap plastic ones, wine lovers and Sommeliers often enjoy showing off their fancy elegant Waiter's corkscrews which are often decorated with fine woods and engravings.
Many of the finest Waiter's corkscrews, like the one pictured above, come from an area in Provence in the south of France called Laguiole. There are several makers there but the best feature beautiful carved wood handles and engraved metals. I've had the most luck with Chateau Laguiole and La Forge de Laguiole. The wine opener above is from Chateau Laguiole and features olive wood from France. These are truly works of art and a fine way to present and serve your wine. These also make a great gift for a wine lover! I recommend trying to find Waiter's corkscrews with a teflon coated worm as it makes it a lot easier to screw into the cork, particularly for firm corks.
- Ah-so - This is a wine opener which is simply a handle with two metal blades. You basically slide the blades on either side of the cork and then slowly pry it out. These can be frustrating for some and we don't use them regularly, but they do avoid the need to have any knowledge of how to use the lever action of a Waiter's corkscrew. Where I think they do shine is in very old wines with corks which are very decayed. These corks tend to crumble if you try to screw into them so with an Ah-so you can gently pull them out without destroying the cork and ending up with chunks of cork in your wine!
- Butterfly (Winged) Corkscrew - These are a very common type which most people have. They consist of a corkscrew attached to a frame with two long arms which pivot upwards as the cork is screwed in (hence the name butterfly or winged). These are very easy to use and quick.
- Standard Screwpull® - Screwpull® is a particular company which makes many of the wine openers available in fine wine stores these days. Their standard model is a long teflon coated worm with a twist top handle and a separate plastic cage which sits over the top of the bottle neck. The twisting action of the worm in the cork slowly pulls the cork out so that you do not have to pull or lever it out. These are also easy and fast and require little or no practice or prior knowledge to figure out.
- Screwpull Lever Model (The Rabbit) - Several companies market various versions of this lever-pull model wine opener although I believe Screwpull® was the original. This is a larger contraption so it is not as handy and portable as a good Waiter's corkscrew or even the standard Screwpull but it is super easy and really fast. While they are a bit more expensive, stick to the good brands like Screwpull as some of the cheaper versions break relatively easily. Basically, the mechanics of the Screwpull does all the work for you, you simple hold the top of the bottle with a vice and the lever is lowered and then raised gently, screwing into and pulling out the cork in one swift movement. This also makes a good gift for a new wine lover and are quick and easy. On the other hand, if you want a more portable option, look elsewhere.
- Cork Pops (CO2 Injector) - There are several versions of this one as well, but basically it is a handle with a long needle which is inserted down through the cork. Pressurized carbon dioxide is then injected which pushes the cork up from beneath. This is a cool gimmick and always impresses people but doesn't always work easily with all corks. Also, they do require replacement of the carbon dioxide cartridges occasionally, depending on how often you use it.
So Which Wine Opener Should You Choose?Well, that all depends on your personal style and preference. Purists love a good, well made and decorated Waiter's corkscrew like those from Laguoile. The best from there can be the ultimate in wine service and presentation. However, for those who simply want a simple, utilitarian wine opener they can count on, a basic Screwpull or winged corkscrew is more than adequate. For those who want to show off how fast they can pull a cork and want the ultimate in easy (as well as a great display of mechanics at work) cork pulling, the Screwpull lever models will impress. Any can be found in most fine wine shops and most can be found in deluxe, ornamented versions which make you look good while serving wine and make great gifts!
For more information on the details of how to open a wine bottle, see our How to Open a Wine Bottle page.
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