Cork-screws, Wine Bottle Openers and Foil Cutters oh-my!

"The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity." - Walt Whitman

Simplicity is the key when it comes to uncorking a bottle of wine. I know for most folks who are new to wine, you may be surprised to find that you'll actually need some tools to get into most wine bottles. Of course, most of the wine from Australia, for example, comes with quick snap screw-caps, as well as a majority of the wines of New Zealand, but the majority of bottles have a natural cork closures. Even most of your favorite top-shelf spirits merely require a firm grip and a snap of the wrist to gain access, but not so with most wines today.

Now you're faced with the real dilemma of how to get that cork out of the bottle and, preferably without looking like a complete novice. After all, you'd just like to enjoy a great bottle of wine, which you may have spent considerable time picking out online or in your favorite local wine-shop.

So now what do you now? Read on dear vino-sapiens, read-on. Because I've put together an accessible list of must-have items for wanna-be wino, that will have you popping corks like a  sommelier-on-speed.

To get into your favorite bottle of wine, you're going to need some not so serious hardware. Of course, you could just live on screw-cap closures and boxed-wines to get by, but you know that's not practical. So let's be honest, if you really want to get serious about wine, then you'll need to invest in a few tools of the trade.

These 'tools' don't have to be expensive, but you could spend near a kings-ransom to acquire some of what amounts to a basic tool. Taking a quick spin around the Internet via places like Amazon, Beverage Factory, and Wine-Enthusiast websites, you'll find a plethora of different options. But don't sweat it, with today's review of 'openers,' I will try to shed some light on the essential tools I think every vino-sapiens should have in their arsenal, gizmos that will get the job done right and with little fuss or muss. Of course at prices that fall into what I call the reasonable range, as I'm often fond of saying, "you can pay more, but seldom do you get more."

1. The Heavy Wing Cork-Screw: This one is perhaps my absolute favorite. I've had the same one for years, and it has popped many corks [oh-my]. The heavy wing cork-screws are heavy-duty, lean, mean bottle opening machines. Picking it up in your hand, you can feel the well-made construction and heavy gauge steel, this puppy is built to last. All you have to do is place it on top of the bottle, give the head a few twists, the arms come up, you push down, and Voilà it is open. You can even use top of it for opening that occasional bottle of beer, chilling in the fridge. Also great for busting through wine-bottles covered in waxy plastic-like substance instead of the traditional foil capsule. Those bottles do have a certain curb-appeal to them from a marketing stand-point, but in reality are just a pain in the tuchas.

Another excellent feature is that it allows you to bust right through the foil if you don't want to use or don't have a foil-cutter. They do have one draw-back though if the cork you're trying to extract happens to crack and break-off, you could be in a world of hurt, unless you have the next piece of equipment, the waiters-friend. This is the one I use most often Wine Series Winged Corkscrew, and it sells for $12, you can pay more, but won't get more. A word of caution though stay away from the plastic angel-winged corkscrews and keep your thumbs well away from the area where it sits on the bottle-top of the bottle.

2. The Waiters-Friend: This is perhaps one the very best pieces of equipment you will find on the wine market today, it's so small and compact, and some have a built-in expandable foil-cutter. While others have a small knife to help dispense with the foil, so don't leave this in your carry or may end up donating it to the TSA. It's effortless to carry one with you at all times, something you will see on a regular basis if you dine-out enough. Or maybe you were given one by your favorite winery as a gift, as you see from some of those I've collected over the years pictured below.

Like I mentioned above, these cork-screws are perfect for getting that broken cork out of the bottle, it works every-time I use it. The prices on these can range anywhere from ridiculous [$200] to reasonable [$8]. Oh-boyI do have a number of these hanging around the house. But my favorite one is called the "Boomerang" [$18] and has a unique feature that many others don't have which is the expandable four-wheel "foil-cut" which efficiently removes the top of capsule exposing the cork and removes the possibility of cutting your finger on the knife-like foil cutters on similar corkscrews.

3. Foil Cutters: Okay these are pretty useless unless you happen to be one of those cork-dorks like me, who likes to keep the top of capsule-like they are small pieces of art. I mean honestly I have foil cutter myself, but if you have either of the corks screws I mentioned above, you won't need this piece of equipment. Now if you happen to buy one of the"rabbit" lever style openers, then you'll still need a good foil cutter.

Because the one that comes with the rabbit opener is easily foiled at cutting foils. So if you really want one, that works great, I would recommend the one that I have which is called the "Screwpull" and sells for $10. It makes short, simple work of any and all foil no matter how big a mouth that bottle-top may have and leaves the capsule top in pristine collector condition.

4. Lever-Style: Ah yes the lever style wine-opener, this one has become an immense favorite for many of the wine-swirling and slurping masses, which of course come in types of shapes, sizes, colors, and prices. I do of course own two of them myself and for a while used it all the time, but after a while the worm or the auger as they are called became dull, making it difficult to pierce the cork all the way.

It's a great idea and works much better than the other two I mentioned above; however, its weak-link is the worm itself, is so thin and not very sharp it needs to be replaced too often. Making its negatives out-weigh the positives. They can be purchased in a variety of price ranges, from $23 to more than $123, folks if you really want one the find something in the middle range, as they are all about the same.

5. Cordless Wine-Opener: Last but not least, is the newest [relatively speaking] wiz-bang tool on the market today, the electric, cordless cork-remover. I know many folks enjoy these immensely and have great success with them. But I'm not one of those folks; I don't have one and frankly don't see the need to add it to my wine tool chest, it just seems superfluous. I've used them before and seen other folks using them, they're pretty straightforward, but they're not something I'd recommend.

The price ranges on these can be a reasonable $32 or a silly $140, depending upon how talented you may want to look while removing a cork, but on the frugal side of the equation for $19 you can get one that works like a champ. This product is especially recommended for anyone that may lack hand or wrist strength to pop that cork out. 

Possible Draw-Backs: Honestly folks, I'm not sure how often you have to replace the worm or how long the rechargeable battery will last. But those are both considerations for not getting this product in my opinion, unless hand strength is an issue for you.

The top two cork-screws are essentially my everyday go-to, and both are relatively inexpensive. Yet both are dependable, versatile and ever so easy to use, that even a cave-man like me can to do it. So like the commercial from the now-defunct Mervyns, where folks had their faces pressed against the glass, chanting open, open, open you too can get those wine bottles opened with the greatest of ease. So until next time folks remember, sip long and prosper cheers!


Benito said…
Having gone through most of the corkscrew styles over the years (except for the electric), I've got to say that I really love wines with screwcaps. ;)

I finally settled on the waiter's friend as my favorite. It's small, it's cheap (I've received a bunch for free), and I've never had one break on me. I like the rabbit style if I have to open a dozen bottles in a row and can't encourage newbies that they need some practice uncorking wines. But I've had two fall apart on me, and like you said, the worm is a longer term problem.
Will Eyer said…
The waiter's friend is always a good choice and really can't fault it as a great all around choice and like you I've received many for free, but for me my go-to is the wing-corkscrew [hands-down]=D
winemaster said…
You omitted my favorite. The 2-stage all in one. Foil cutting blade, screw and 2-stage pull (not the one stage kind). These are easy to pull corks with, work for long corks, fit in the pocket (unlike those bulky wingy things) and range in price from $10 to several hundred $ depending on their manufacturer. The best of the best.
Will Eyer said…
oh, I thought I covered that under the waiter's friend with link luv to the boomerang, which sounds stunningly similar to one you described.

But the larger point is that you right, that cork-screw you describe is fantastic for folks on the go.

Honestly, I really think it's best to have both number one and two, as they compliment each other very nicely. The waiter's friend is a must-have I would recommend storing in all potentially checked-baggage. Ya never know, when you may wanna pop some corks!
Lisa said…
Great post! Our cheap lever style wine-opener just broke (it never really worked that well to begin with)and we were debating getting a more expensive one. Now I am going to get the Wing cork screw and save money for more wine!

Will Eyer said…
Hey Lisa,

Glad you liked the article and found it helpful. Ya know, the same thing happened to me, that expensive lever-pull I had broke down, so I started using the "wing" and haven't looked back.

May I also recommend the wing's side-kick the "waiters-friend" great for removing those broken corks and you're are all set.

deetrane said…
The zig-zag is one is sort of a 60's, truly Bond-esque contraption- a real crowd-pleaser, and devastatingly effective:

(pardon me - it's from the 1920's)
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Athalia said…
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