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Opening a bottle of wine can be a breeze, as long as you have the right tool — you know, a wine bottle opener. For many industry pros, the go-to is a classic “waiter’s friend” corkscrew, commonly known as a wine key — this is a perfect tool for any setting if you’re comfortable enough (and physically able) to use it. If not, there are plenty of other options to explore based on your needs and personal taste. Whether you’re considering upgrading to a better wine key or looking for a solid, themed wine gift, there are lots of choices to consider.
“Today, the most popular types are the staple waiter’s corkscrew, lever corkscrew and, more recently, the electric corkscrew. In the 1980s, the most common style was the at-home winged corkscrew created in the 1930s,” explained Ana Fabiano, Rioja expert and author of “The Wine Region of Rioja.” Currently, the electric wine opener is becoming widely embraced. But to Fabiano, it’s just another gadget. “Some people love gadgets, others do not,” she added. When it comes to wine bottle openers, levers tend to be one of the more expensive styles, Fabiano noted, but are easy and efficient to use, making for an excellent option for large gatherings or any other instance in which one might be opening multiple bottles constantly. “With that said, hospitality professionals, regardless of the number of bottles, will always use a waiter’s corkscrew — we have grit, and this is what we do.” Whether you’re a wine pro or not, we consulted experts on how to find the best wine opener for your wine needs: Here are some of the best wine bottle openers available.
I open between 1,000 to 2,000 bottles a year at home and open 99 percent of them with a simple, single-hinged waiter’s corkscrew.
Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Critic
Fabiano is not alone in her penchant for waiter’s corkscrews. This is a unanimous pick amongst all of the experts we consulted. “In my opinion, the only wine opener you need is the basic waiter’s wine key,” says Elise Terlato, an associate marketing manager for Terlato Wines. Wine critic Jeb Dunnuck agrees: “Unquestionably, my favorite is the waiter's corkscrew. This is a simple, easy-to-use design with the best being long-lived as well. I open between 1,000 to 2,000 bottles a year at home and open 99 percent of them with a simple, single-hinged waiter’s corkscrew.” This model, a patented spring-loaded key by Coutale Sommelier, has two steps for added leverage, but can also be used as a single lever, depending on your preference. The wine key is designed by a French winemaker and is available in either stainless steel or three different types of wood, each style featuring a stainless steel grooved worm, a serrated knife for easy foil removal and a lifetime guarantee.
When it comes to using a waiter’s friend, Dunnuck has a few tips for novices:
- Make sure the corkscrew goes into the center of the cork “and penetrates far enough” to include as much of the cork as possible. “This will help with more fragile, older corks,” he added.
- Secondly, pull the cork straight up and don't torque the cork to one side or another. “A double-hinged waiter's corkscrew will help with this, Dunnuck noted, “but it can easily be done with a single hinged corkscrew with just a little practice.”
Lever systems are a great option for effortless cork removal, too, though be aware that they take up much more room than a wine key, which can easily slip inside any pocket or drawer. Le Creuset’s model uses a “patented rotation and lever-driven technology” to remove any natural cork (it’s designed to effectively pull older and more fragile corks, too) — it also comes with a foil cutter for easy and clean foil removal, and the duo is packaged in its own sleek storage case. With this lever system, you’ll be pulling out your corks in one smooth, fluid motion.
Air pump wine openers are another useful option for those with limited mobility. This particular model, the HOST AirPOP, operates via a compressed inert gas system — it essentially does all the work for you with the touch of a button.
- To use, remove the bottle’s foil and insert the needle into the cork (make sure it’s dead center)
- Then push the button at the top to remove the cork.
- To remove the cork from the opener once it’s been pulled from the bottle, just twist the mechanism at the bottom of the device.
If you’re looking to splurge on a fancy wine key, French knife brand Laguiole is an excellent and well-respected option to consider. “When entertaining, I will bring out my Laguiole wine keys,” said Terlato. “I received them as a gift and they have been a great table conversation piece.” These stunning pieces are costly — they’re of exceptional quality and make for excellent wine gifts. This particular model features a turquoise handle and stainless steel hardware.
If you lose the cork, your experience is not lost — it can be saved … We have all saved many corks in our tenure.
Ana Fabiano, Rioja Expert and Author
Another good wine bottle opener for those with limited mobility or general discomfort using manual corkscrews, an electric wine opener is a great option. Rabbit lays claim to designing the first automatic model, and it’s a reliable one — this rechargeable corkscrew is simple, sleek and removes any kind of cork (natural or synthetic) with the simple touch of a button.
“You don't have to spend a lot of money when shopping for a corkscrew, and some of the most straightforward designs are the easiest to use,” said Dunnuck. “A solid double-hinged Pulltap will give years of reliable use. And for the price of a single fancy corkscrew, you can buy a pack of 12 instead. There's nothing wrong with splurging on a beautiful Laguiole or Code38 (which I own and love), but just realize you're paying mainly for aesthetics and not function.”
Fabiano offers up a few pro tips of her own for working with wine keys:
- Place the bottle on a sturdy surface, cut the foil at the top of the lip and always be perpendicular to the bottle to avoid losing the cork (breaking it or having it go inside the bottle).
- If you lose the cork, your experience is not lost — it can be saved. Pour the wine through a tea strainer to catch any cork debris or place the entire bottle in a decanter.
- If the cork broke mid-way through opening the bottle, try again, going all the way down with the five spirals on the corkscrew and pull up gently.
“We have all saved many corks in our tenure,” Fabiano added.
7. The Durand
While any kind of quality wine opener will generally work well for a younger bottle of wine, Altamarea Group’s Hristo Zisovski recommends having something special on hand for older wines. “For opening older bottles 20+ years of age with softer, more delicate corks, I recommend purchasing a bottle opener called a Durand,” Zisovski said. Dunnuck also uses this tool, which he described as “a combination of a standard screwpull and an Ah So.”
It works by screwing the stabilizer bar’s worm into the cork on its own at first, then carefully placing the handle’s two blades (first the long, then the short) between the cork and the bottle neck before gently pushing it down while rocking the bar from side to side in your hand until the stabilizer bar and handle meet. Finally, you grasp the two pieces together and slowly twist and pull upward to remove the cork.
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