Sure, Winston Zeddemore wasn’t talking about corkscrews when he said that in Ghostbusters, but having the right tools for the job is just as important in enjoying fine wine, and perhaps the knowledge of what you like and why.
Corkscrews and wine openers come in a plethora of styles and types, and it seems nearly every day something new appears. From power-drill style openers (appealing to the tool hound?) to finnicky syringe and compressed air contraptions, there are innumerable ways to spend your money or fill your kitchen’s junk drawer. Below are some of the most common openers that don’t require cartridges, batteries or anything but a little talent (and maybe some elbow grease).
T-Handle or pocket Corkscrew
What is it? It’s that corkscrew you often find at motels, campsites, and out of the way liquor stores for a couple of dollars. At its most basic, it’s a corkscrew worm with a “T” shaped handle. Twist the worm into the cork, and pull. Since a cork takes up to about 40 kgs of force to extract and there’s no mechanical advantage, one hand is needed to keep a firm grip on the bottle and the other provides all the pulling force. Better go to the gym!
So does it work? It does, but in the way that spoons can also be used to dig under the wall to escape from prison. Who should have it? Masochists or people who enjoy pulling a muscle while pulling corks. But on the plus side, they’re often free. Free is a good price.
What is it? Like the name implies, waiters use these. They are small, simple to use and not too expensive. Compact, it stows easily in a glovebox or pocket, and a good one can last a lifetime. Most will have a small knife or foil cutter, and many have a beer cap opener. The best models have a “two step” lever, which allows the first to handle the initial pull, and the second to reduce the likelihood of breaking the cork.
Does it work? Like a hammer in your toolbox, a decent one will last forever and never let you down. Who should have it? Everyone. With a little practice, this is the way to go. Just like with the lever pull, better brands will have noticeably better quality. Look to spend about $15-25 minimum or look for brands like Pulltap’s (around $25-40+) or Laguiole ($100+) if you want a corkscrew to hand down to your children.
What is it? The crème de la crème for well-heeled wine connoisseurs or those that take their wine very seriously. While some of them might resemble a rabbit and others might be called a screw pull rather than a lever pull, the premise is pretty much the same. There’s a mechanism to grip the bottle securely in the device, and then with a quick turn of the lever, the corkscrew goes into the cork. Reverse the lever, and the cork is quickly and effortlessly drawn out.
Does it work? They can be a bit finnicky when they get older, but there’s no denying that opening wine with one of these is a pleasure. Who should have it? Anyone who opens a lot of wine, or those that might find traditional corkscrews hard on the wrists or hands. Cheap ones don’t last, expect to pay about $70-120 for most styles. Quality brands like Le Creuset are worth looking at.
What is it? This “corkscrew” goes by several different names, often called a waiter’s friend, butler’s friend or “Ah-so.” This opener has two slightly different length arms placed about a cork’s width apart. The longer arm is inserted between the cork and the bottleneck, followed by the shorter arm. The two arms are gradually “walked-down” to the bottom, and then with a pull and a twist, the cork is removed in one piece. The story goes that since the cork isn’t damaged (in theory) during extraction, the gentleman’s butler could pull the cork, drink the bottle and refill it with cheaper wine. With the relative paucity of household servants these days, you’d probably plan on opening and drinking wine yourself, but it’s a handy tool for old or sticky corks.
Does it work? With a little practice, it can save the day when cork problems emerge. Who should have it? Everyone, especially those that enjoy older wines such as port. Gets a lot of action at my house. Normally about $10-40
Winged or Butterfly Corkscrew
What is it? The corkscrew that almost no one ever buys but nearly everyone has. This nearly unbreakable device works by twisting the fob in the top to insert the screw into the cork. As this happens, the two arms rise in jubilant anticipation for the good times a-comin’. Then, by pressing down on the two arms, the cork comes out in a jiff – in theory. It can be a bit of a pain getting the worm in straight, and broken corks are fairly common. On the bright side, these corkscrews last forever.
Does it work? Sure, but it’s rarely pretty to see in action. Who should have it? Well…you already have one — don’t you? Generally about $10-20, unless you want a fancy one.