How to Find the Best Wine Openers

If you’ve been using wine openers for a while, you already know what you like. But if you either don’t know what you like or you want to try something new, this page may be quite helpful for you.

In fact, you may be looking to expand your collection of openers, especially if you’re a true oenophile. Besides, every type of wine opener has its place. There’s really nothing wrong with any of them. It just depends on the occasion, the type of wine, and what you like.

History of the Corkscrew

corkscrew

If the corkscrew is one of your kitchen essentials, take a moment to thank your lucky stars, because this prized helix-shaped opener wasn’t always considered so vital. It’s been through some twists and turns the past 300 years or so.

The gun worm

Corkscrews lead to happy endings, but where they came from sure didn’t. They’re actually modeled after gun worms, which were metal claws mounted at the end of wooden ramrods.

They were used to clean bullets from the barrels of muskets after they failed to fire. They had a curled tip, and this shape inspired the shape of the corkscrew. That’s why the helix component of a corkscrew is also called the worm.

You definitely don’t want to mess around with either, or you’ll end up hurting yourself.

Thanks, England

If you often imagine sipping your wine by the sea, there are any number of seas of which you could be thinking. However, sommeliers have traced the corkscrew’s origin closer to the North Sea.

The English began using the corkscrew to open cider and beer, but it was also used for the bottle-aged wine that they so dearly loved and often acquired from Germany or France, which was some of the first to be sealed with corks.

Roman wine was actually sealed with corks much earlier, but they cleverly left a nub above the rim that allowed people to grip the cork and pull it out with their hands.

Not only did the English supposedly invent the corkscrew, but they invented the practice of storing bottles on their sides, which required stoppers with a tighter fit, which could be why the cork grew in popularity so rapidly.

Unknown origins

While the origins of the corkscrew are unknown, it’s highly likely that it was developed alongside the glass bottle manufacturing improvements of the seventeenth century.

The earliest written reference to a corkscrew is in a museum catalog from 1681. It speaks of a “Steel Worme used for the drawing of Corks out of Bottles.” This may imply that the tool was already in common use at the time.

In the 1700s, the term bottlescrew was used a bit more often and was the center of a joke involving a Quaker who kept his Bible and his bottlescrew in the same pocket.

The first time the word corkscrew was used in print was in a poem by Nicholas Amhurst in 1720, but by then, no one could remember who invented it. Nonetheless, he pays homage to the man who invented it.

Numerous patents

Corkscrews aside, there are all kinds of fancy bottle openers. Not only that, but since the corkscrew was invented, there have been so many variations of the tool that you could fill your entire house with all of them, and then some.

The first patent for a corkscrew was filed by an English reverend (go figure) named Samuel Henshall in 1795. His corkscrew variation has a flat metal button on the helix that made it fit on the cork better.

This was the first corkscrew that varied from the original design, but since then, there have been thousands of corkscrew patents, everyone with slight to modern to large variations on the design.

Important innovations to note are the waiter’s friend, invented by Karl Wienke, the winged double lever style, invented by H.S. Heely, and the Teflon-coated Screwpull, invented by Herbert Allen in 1981.

The Screwpull is a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection, because of its stylish design. Check out The Complete Guide to Finding the Best Wine Aerators!

Collecting corkscrews

Believe it or not, there are people out there who are obsessed with the things that open bottles, rather than what’s inside. I know, right? I couldn’t believe it either. In fact, it’s an addiction.

There’s a club called the International Correspondence of Corkscrew Addicts. It’s an elite global group of 50 corkscrew-obsessed enthusiasts. They have an annual meeting and there’s even a corkscrew museum in Romania.

The Swiss Army Knife

swiss army knife

No company in the world has made more corkscrews than Victorinox, the manufacturer of Swiss Army Knives. They pump out upwards of 33,000 knives a day, most of which have a 1.25-inch corkscrew included.

While that’s only about half the length of what an expert recommends you need, it’ll certainly do if you don’t have anything else on you.

The 1897 officer’s knife model was the first Swiss Army Knife that received a patent. While there were other wood-handled soldier’s knives before it, this one was more elaborate and the first to include a corkscrew.

It was also the first model to include fiber composite detailing that paved the way for the distinctive red we know so well today.

Types of Wine Openers

There are way too many types of wine openers to count, but they all fall into a variety of different categories. Here are the most common types, how they work, and when you might use them.

Wine key and waiter’s corkscrew

Wine key and waiter’s corkscrew

The wine key and waiter’s corkscrew is still one of the most popular wine openers simply because it’s small and so easy to use. It’s portable, making it a convenient and versatile choice for almost any occasion.

It folds up compactly, and when it expands, the helix points downward while the fulcrum spreads out into a T shape. All you have to do is screw the helix into the cork and then position the fulcrum on the lip of the bottle.

This allows you to use leverage to pull the cork out by pulling at an angle while the fulcrum uses the lip of the bottle for resistance.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Compact and portable
  • Easy to use
  • Convenient and versatile

Cons:

  • Can be tricky to learn to operate
  • Requires some strength and coordination

Twist and pull corkscrew

twist and pull corkscrew

 

This corkscrew is similar in shape to the waiter’s corkscrew, but it works differently. It’s a T-shaped device, but it doesn’t collapse. It’s always open. You simply twist it into the corkscrew and then pull it out.

While it’s small and simple, it takes an immense amount of strength and control to pull a cork out of a bottle this way. It’s not for everyone, and I can’t think of a single person who prefers this method, although there may be some.

Its design is sleek and simple, and while it may be less popular, it’s affordable and convenient.

Pros:

  • Small and portable
  • Simple to use
  • Sleek and convenient
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of strength

Wing corkscrew

wing corkscrew

Of all of the corkscrews still in use today, this one is one of the oldest. It requires you to apply more downward force, which makes it less popular than other types of modern openers. However, it depends on your strength. Some people prefer it over the waiter’s corkscrew, which can be tricky to get the hang of.

To use it, you screw the helix into the cork using a knob on the top of the device. As you turn it into the cork, the wings raise up into the air. Once you feel resistance in the knob, you can push down on both wings to pull the cork out of the bottle.

To be honest, this is my preferred type of wine opener. I like them the best because I think they’re the easiest to use. They range in price from very affordable to ornate and pricey, but they’re not nearly as pricey as electric openers.

Pros:

  • Old fashioned and stylish
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Comes in a variety of styles

Cons:

  • Can be expensive if they’re ornate
  • Requires some strength

Electric wine opener

electric wine opener

Electric wine openers are great for beginners and those who have limited strength. They make opening wine super easy, but they can be very expensive. Some are battery operated and others have a rechargeable battery that needs to be plugged in.

Electric wine openers are convenient, but can be large and heavy. They also aren’t preferred by professional bartenders or true wine connoisseurs because they’re not traditional and they’re viewed as lazy.

However, if you’re throwing a party and you have a lot of bottles to open, they can really save time and your strength. No one needs to know your secret, either. You can open a lot of bottles quickly with an electric opener and still keep your favorite traditional opener around for the rest of the time.

To use an electric opener, simply position the opener straight above the wine bottle. Grip the wine bottle with one hand and the opener with the other. Press the button on the opener to insert the cork.

The opener will do all of the work for you. Once you’ve removed the cork, simply press the eject button on the opener to remove the cork from the inside of the opener.

One of the primary downsides to this type of wine opener is that on some models, if the opener isn’t positioned straight above the cork, the helix will bump up against the bottle and get stuck. They also are not the idea opener for older corks because they can cause a lot of crumbling.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Requires very little strength
  • Does all of the work for you
  • Removes corks quickly

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • May get stuck if not positioned correctly
  • Will crumble older corks

Air pressure pump

wine air pressure bottle opener

This wine opener uses air pressure to push the cork out of the bottle. Insert the needle into the cork and then pump until the cork is pushed from the bottle. As you pump, it pushes air through the hole into the bottle.

Soon enough, the bottle can’t hold that much air, and the air will force the cork out. It’s a surprisingly simple device that relies on physics rather than arm strength to remove the cork.

They’re not nearly as popular as a lot of the other wine openers, but they’re also not pricey, and they’re readily available, so they’re a great option for those on a budget or for those who don’t want to work at it.

Pros:

  • Requires very little strength
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Not very popular
  • Not stylish

Ah-So cork puller

Ah-So cork puller

This one looks really weird, but it’s been used for decades. It uses a two prong approach to opening the bottle rather than inserting a helix into the middle of the cork. It’s a small tool that’s easy to carry.

Simply insert the two prongs between the cork and bottle, then twist and pull the cork out. While it takes a lot more strength than the other methods, it’s the best method for old corks that may be dry or brittle.

It reduces the risk of your cork crumbling into the bottle, which would cause you to have to strain your wine before drinking. It could even ruin the entire bottle.

Pros:

  • Ideal for old corks
  • Small and portable
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of strength

Durand corkscrew

Durand corkscrew

This corkscrew design is a combination of the Ah-So and the twist and pull. It has two prongs with a helix in the middle. It’s still small and portable, and it’s still perfect for older corks, but it’s one of the most expensive corkscrews on the market.

You can remove the helix from the middle and use it or the twist and pull separately, or you can use them together. It’s a newer corkscrew style that many people who drink older wines really love.

Pros:

  • Best for old corks
  • Very stylish
  • Small and portable

Cons:

  • Incredibly expensive
  • Requires a lot of strength

Tabletop corkscrew

tabletop corkscrew puller

This type of corkscrew is also called a bar or a legacy corkscrew. It’s quite possibly the most expensive corkscrew you can buy, but it is also one of the most popular options among the most serious wine collectors.

It’s really easy to use. All you need to do is put the bottle under the corkscrew, pull the lever down and toward you (which pushes the worm into the cork), and then pull the lever back up to remove the cork.

Some tabletop corkscrews even clamp the bottle in so it doesn’t move while you operate the opener.

It requires very little strength, so, much like the electric opener, it’s another good option for those who may have grown weak. However, it doesn’t need to be charged, so you won’t have to worry about keeping it plugged in.

Unfortunately, due to its price, it will be out of reach for a lot of people.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Requires very little strength
  • Doesn’t require charging

Cons:

  • Very expensive

Lever corkscrew

lever corkscrew

Also commonly referred to as a rabbit corkscrew, this wine opener design resembles a rabbit. Rabbit is actually one of the more well-known manufacturers of the device. The head contains the helix and the lever looks like ears.

It still doesn’t require too much strength to operate but does require some leverage. Simply push down on the lever to insert the helix and then pull it back up. The only downside to this type is that some don’t work on synthetic corks.

Pros:

  • Adorable design
  • Requires little strength
  • Some are very affordable
  • Durable and long-lasting

Cons:

  • May not work with all corks
  • Some can be expensive

FAQ

Question: What is the best type of wine opener?

Answer: This question is a tough one to answer because it depends a lot on your preferences, your style, and how much you can afford to spend. There are small portable versions that are super affordable, but can be difficult to use, and there are large expensive versions that are very easy to use.
You may prefer an electric opener or you pay prefer something vintage or manual. If you drink more older wines, you need something that won’t crumble your cork, but if you have a lot of parties, you need something that will open a lot of bottles quickly.
It really just depends on your needs. What you get will also depend on the brands you like. Oster, Rabbit, and Cuisinart are all very good.

Question: What are wine openers called?

Answer: The traditional name for a wine opener is called a corkscrew. Corkscrews contain a spiral component, called a helix. The common term for the helix is sometimes called a worm. However, there are other wine openers that don’t contain a helix at all, like the Ah-So wine opener.
And, if you’re looking for a specific type of wine opener, you likely won’t refer to it as a corkscrew at all. You’ll call it exactly what you’re looking for so that people will know what you’re talking about.

Question: Are electric wine openers worth it?

Answer: Again, it’s all a matter of perspective. It’s a fantastic option for people who struggle with traditional corkscrews because of the strength they require or because of grip issues. If you’ve never really gotten the hang of using a corkscrew, it’s a really easy alternative.
It can also be useful for synthetic corks that are particularly stubborn, but it is not a good option for older corks that have already dried out and could crumble.

Question: What is the easiest corkscrew?

Answer: Many people prefer the simplicity of the waiter’s corkscrew. You simply twist it in and use the resistance of the bottle to pull it out. While it can take a time or two to get it right, it’s really easy, the cork is portable, and they’re very affordable.
However, many people who don’t have the strength or don’t want to mess with it prefer the ease of an electric opener. Winged corkscrews are also easy to use but require some strength.

Question: How much does a corkscrew cost?

Answer: If you’re into shopping at Walmart, Target, or Amazon, you can find really affordable waiter’s corkscrews under $10. If you’d rather have a Durant corkscrew for your older wines or you’d like to invest in an electric model, you could pay up to $150 or more.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for the right wine opener for you, look at the options and then determine your needs. I am partial to the winged opener because they’re quick, easy, and affordable. They’re also not so big that you can’t take them with you when you go.

My mom, on the other hand, really likes her electric opener because she opens a lot of bottles and doesn’t have the strength to use any of the other kinds. She also doesn’t mind the cost, and it’s compact enough to keep in a drawer.

If you have different needs, get the one that works for you. There’s no shortage of options, they’re all stylish, and for the true wine lover, you may want to collect one of each!

Further Read: 

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