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Over the years, I can safely say I’ve had every kind of wine opener in my possession. For a tool that’s built for one purpose, there is an incredible variety of designs that range in price from cheap to extravagant.
A few models were prized for their ease of use, a couple were most effective for a specific task – say, opening older wines with a natural cork – and countless others have been passed along to students, family and friends or seized at the airport, having been forgotten in carry-on luggage over the years.
The best corkscrew is whichever style you’re comfortable with. I’m not fond of electric corkscrews, but know how essential they can be for wine lovers with arthritis or limited hand strength.
For ease of use, many look to the wing or winged style devices. Lever models are even simpler to handle – two swift motions: worm goes in, cork pulls out – but are a significant investment.
A number of family members and friends swear by their continuous pull corkscrews, popularized by the Screwpull brand, which is now sold as Le Creuset. These call for a bit of pressure and clockwise turns that drive the worm into the cork and gently remove it. They are pricey, but really effective. I’ve given a number of these as gifts over the years.
The two-pronged cork extractor, which goes by the name Ah-So or butler’s thief, is a specialized piece of equipment. Its best use is for opening aged wines. There’s no worm, just two thin blades that you wiggle back and forth down the neck of the wine bottle before pulling the cork up. They’re not for the faint of heart, as it’s easy to push the cork into the wine by mistake.
If I had to single out one essential model, I’d default to a double-lever waiter’s friend corkscrew. These are the industry standard for good reason. Durable. Affordable. Functional. Pulltap’s or Koala are the brands to look for. Knock-off versions tend to break easily.
It may take you a few attempts to get the hang of it, but once perfected that technique will serve you for life. Widely available for less than $20, these corkscrews last and free up your disposable income to spend on what really matters – bottles of wine to open and enjoy.