Opening Wine Painlessly

Even if you only drink Two Buck Chuck, you need a corkscrew. But should you use a basic model that you swiped from a hotel minibar or invest in a fancy boxed-set lever-style corkscrew?

The so-called waiter’s friend is one of the simplest types of corkscrew. It looks like a long, slim pocketknife. Its funny name comes from the fact that it’s found worldwide in waiters’ pockets because it’s a cheap and light wine-opening tool, but you do have to know how to use one.

Screwpull was one of the first to start selling the lever-style corkscrew back in 1979, which some people recognize as rabbit-style. A lot of us have never known a world without it. The lever works against itself, rather than needing a fulcrum, and makes opening wine nearly effortless. Just clamp, close, lift, et voilĂ —it’s wine time. But Screwpulls and their decent imitators are bigger, bulkier, and generally cost more.

The two most respected brands in each style of corkscrew are Pulltap’s and Screwpull. There are a lot of knockoffs out there, so buy from reliable sources. Don’t, uh, get screwed.

If you have a Screwpull that’s not working like it was back in the day, try a replacement screw before you toss it. They do wear out eventually.

For more than you ever wanted to know about corkscrews, check out the Virtual Corkscrew Museum and its newsletter, the Weekly Screw.

Pulltap’s Corkscrew
By Pulltex, $6.95

The finest of the waiter’s friends, it lets you extract a cork in a completely vertical position, so you’re never in danger of breaking the cork. It’s small and light, so you can slip it in your pocket. A serrated blade flips out for cutting the foil. The Teflon-coated worm (the screw) penetrates corks smoothly. Its notched head is also a bottle opener. At publication time, this product was on sale with free shipping from ABestKitchen.com.

QuickSilver Deluxe Lever Style Corkscrew 4 Piece Gift Set
By Wine Enthusiast, $34.95

The sleek chrome finish and stylish ergonomic design of the QuickSilver make it look more expensive than it really is. It’s also heavy—die-cast and zinc-plated—which gives it better leverage. It comes in a gift box that includes a foil cutter, wax remover, and a display base that doubles as a bottle coaster. (The wax remover is kind of superfluous since most waxed wine bottles can simply be opened as if the wax weren’t there, but it’s a thoughtful gesture.) It’s easy to use, well made, and a bargain at the price.

Trigger Wine Opener Set
By Screwpull, $99.95

The newer lever-style Screwpull is even easier to use than the classic. Slip the screw over the bottle neck, and squeeze the trigger to hold everything in place. There’s still the same easy-to-pull lever and Teflon-coated screw. This Williams-Sonoma exclusive boxed set includes a foil cutter, a wine stopper, a drip ring, and an extra screw. It’s worth noting that an extra screw alone costs about $20.

Lever Action Corkscrew (LM400)
By Screwpull, $149.95

This streamlined addition to the Screwpull family is the easiest of all to use: Simply place it over the bottle neck, hold it in place with one hand, then pull the long curved lever up and over to open in one smooth motion. It’s specially designed to open bottles with all kinds of corks and necks, including synthetic corks and flanged necks. Its straightforward style, versatility, comfortable grip, and effortless action make it worth its price. It comes extravagantly packaged in a leather case and includes a foil cutter.