One hundred pounds of resistance. That’s about how much force you need to pull a cork from a wine bottle. And why we think it’s essential to have a good quality wine opener on hand. But how do you know which style to buy? There are many considerations when shopping for an opener, like comfort, solid construction, consistency, and even showmanship. Keeping these things in mind, we tested several styles of openers, from simple waiter-style corkscrews to battery-powered electric models. Here are the four best styles and our top pick in each style category. (Web extra: Watch Fine Cooking editor and drink expert Denise Mickelsen demonstrate how to use our four favorite wine openers.)
$80 at cheftools.com
While there are cheaper models and dressier designs on the market, this classic opener was the one we kept coming back to. Its operation is consistently smooth, and the upper handle’s length provides just the right leverage. According to the manufacturer, you can open about 2,000 bottles of wine before the nonstick coating on the worm begins to wear off. This opener is made of a sturdy high-tech nylon composite and has stainless-steel gears. It comes in a box for storage, with a handy foil cutter and a 10-year warranty.
Lever Style: Lever-style openers may be pricey, but they open bottles in a matter of seconds. Here’s how: Set the opener on top of the bottle. Squeeze the handles to hold in place. Then pull the lever down to penetrate the cork and up to extract it.
Quick tips: Avoid using these openers on synthetic corks, because they can damage the worm. (Many models, however, come with a replacement worm, and replacements can also be purchased separately.) Also, avoid models with plastic gears or limited warranties.
Final Touch Easy-Turn Corkscrew W04700
$30 at winestuff.com
This new-to-the-market opener felt like it was twisting its way through butter, not dense cork. The shaft readily centers on top of the wine bottle and maintains a stable position throughout the opening process. The Canadian manufacturer credits “spring assist technology” for its nearly effortless process. While slightly bulky, it also feels sturdy—unlike one plastic model we tried that fell apart after its second use. To release the cork, turn the wing handle in the opposite direction, and the spring assist ejects the cork. A foil cutter is included.
Table style: This style is also fittingly referred to as a “continuous turn” opener. Here’s how it works: Mount the opener on top of the wine bottle. Turn, turn, and turn some more—in the same direction through the entire process. The worm penetrates the cork and, once fully inserted, smoothly pulls it out.
Our guarantee: This type of corkscrew centers the worm every time.
Murano Waiter’s Corkscrew
$11 at beveragefactory.com
The curved, serrated foil cutter, set at the top of the opener, comfortably hugs the neck of a wine bottle for smooth foil removal. The double lever comes in handy when opening bottles with stubborn synthetic corks: Use the shorter lever to break the cork’s seal and pull the cork up partway, and the longer one to pull it out. The handle’s rubber underside is soft, contoured, and slip-resistant, and provides just the right leverage. Other noteworthy features: an iron core that runs the length of the handle for added durability and a nonstick coating on the worm for reduced friction. Available in a variety of colors.
Waiter Style: You often see restaurant servers and caterers using these “wine keys,” as they are also known, to open wine bottles tableside. Lift the levers and worm so the opener looks like a T. Center the worm over the bottle and twist it about two-thirds of the way into the cork. Hold the levers against the lip of the bottle and pull the cork up to extract. These openers fit easily in a utensil drawer (or pocket), are all-in-one tools—a foil cutter, corkscrew, and bottle opener are attached—and can be bargain priced.
Quick tip: Make sure the worm penetrates straight down into the center of the cork, not at an angle.
Waring Pro Cordless Wine Opener
$40 at chefscatalog.com
This opener has a sturdy design and a comfortable grip, and it penetrates the cork evenly and without hesitation. The cork removal process takes about 10 seconds. When the rechargeable battery is fully charged, the opener will uncork about 80 bottles of wine. To recharge, set the opener on its stable electric base (which also holds a foil cutter). It comes with a limited five-year motor warranty and a limited one-year appliance warranty.
Electric: These openers couldn’t be simpler. Center the opener on top of the bottle and press a button. The worm spirals down into the cork and pulls it out in a matter of seconds. The only strength required is to hold the bottle stable (it wants to spin) with your free hand.
A warning: These openers are a bit noisy, about the level of a power drill or an electric can opener.
Avoid any opener that has an auger-style worm or screw, which looks like a nail with a blade that coils around it. This style of worm shreds your cork. The best worms are shaped like a spiral and have a nonstick coating.
How We Tested
We started by interviewing a dozen wine experts and corkscrew manufacturers. They offered their opinions about which styles of openers they considered most useful, relevant, and worthy of review; these are the styles you see here. We then gathered product samples—29 in all—and proceeded to open lots of wine (yes, we do call this a job), assessing how straightforward and easy the wine openers were to operate.