Picture the scene, it’s a warm summer’s afternoon, a picnic is spread out on a grassy slope, and a beautiful girl is by your side.
To complete the romantic setting you reach for a bottle of Bordeaux wine, and then it hits you – no wine opener! Well, that’s happened to me, and I am sure it has happened to lots of other people over the years.
An interlude of romance ruined by the lack of a simple tool to open a bottle of your favorite wine.
After reading this, you’ll never be lost without a wine opener, as we have lots of different types and different price brackets to recommend.
Types of Wine Openers
There are a number of different types of wine openers on the market, and they fall into five basic categories. The simplest is the waiter style, to the more elaborate being the electric or tabletop variety. If you look at the differences, it will make your choice of wine opener easier.
The Waiter Style
This is probably the simplest and cheapest wine opener on the market. Not surprisingly it gets its name from its use by waiters in all types of restaurants, from fine dining to bistro. What makes this style of wine opener so universal is its portability. It’s easy to carry around in a pocket or an apron. It’s also the type most often found as part of a multi-knife kit.
One thing to be aware of when using a waiter style wine opener is getting the corkscrew positioned correctly is essential. If the screw is not placed in the right spot, and the lever action is applied, then a dry cork can often break. Novices often struggle in the beginning to get the action right, but with all things a little practice, and a few bottles of wine later, you should be competent at pulling a cork with this style of wine opener.
The Butterfly Style
This could be seen as the next logical improvement on the waiter style wine opener. The butterfly style wine opener has two wings that provide the necessary pressure to remove the cork from a bottle without the mess.
As the user screws the auger into the cork, the two geared arms on the side of the wine opener raise. Once the corkscrew is in the cork, gentle pressure downwards on the butterfly wings and the gearing pulls the cork from the bottle. This type of wine opener is a little larger than the waiter style, but is still small enough to go in the pocket, and will not take up much room in a kitchen drawer.
This is a more expensive and bulkier style of wine opener. However, they are very easy to use, and ideal for the novice wine lover. The lever style sits on top of the bottle, and when you press the lever down the corkscrew is driven into the cork. When you lift the lever back up the cork is withdrawn. Because it is such a simple operation, the lever style is a big favorite.
As the name implies, the tabletop wine opener fits onto a table or bar top. These are much larger than the other wine openers, and therefore much more expensive. They are best used in places where a lot of bottles are being opened, such as a bar or restaurant, or if you want to make a serious statement about your love of wine. They are bulky and need to be properly attached to something sturdy to work correctly so purchasing a tabletop wine opener should not be considered lightly.
Up to now, we have looked at wine openers with varying degree of manual labor. Electric wine openers use minimal effort to open a bottle of wine, but they are the most expensive. An electric wine opener won’t take up a lot of space in your kitchen or on your bar top, and they come in a variety of designs and colors to match the decor. If you have problems gripping, with little hand strength, or are likely to get tired opened lots of bottles regularly, then this is probably the solution for you.
10 Best Wine Openers
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How to Choose Right
If you are a wine lover who likes to open a bottle on a regular basis, or someone who has a glass once in a while for special occasions, getting the right opener is equally important. There is nothing worse than having to struggle to get a cork out a bottle, or having it break in two as the pressure mounts. The frustration this causes can often ruin the enjoyment. A good opener takes away that frustration and allows you to open a bottle with ease, allowing you time to savor the contents.
It may seem a simple task, to pull a cork out of the neck of a bottle, but there are thousands of different variations of wine openers on the market. The majority of wine openers are manual, this is the more traditional way of opening a bottle of wine, and nowadays some are electrically powered which makes it a lot easier if you have problems with strength in your hands.
Before going out to buy a wine opener, it is best to consider a few simple things to help narrow down your choices, so you pick the type that is perfect for you.
How often do you need a wine opener?
Consider how often you drink wine, and where you drink it. If you only drink wine for special treats, then there is no point in buying an expensive wine opener that will be used rarely. On the other hand, if you regularly have a bottle of wine with a meal, or do a lot of entertaining it is worthwhile looking at the more tough and professional models on the market.
The strength of your hands will be a consideration in the type of wine opener you are going to purchase. If you have no problems with gripping things, and your hands have plenty of strength, then there is no problem, and you could just about choose any wine opener you like.
However, many people, in later life, for example, find it harder to grip and hold onto things, as their hand strength has become limited. This is where an electric powered wine opener may be a better option. People do use electric openers just because they are easy and efficient.
If you like entertaining and serve a lot of wine at parties, you’ll need to make sure the wine opener you choose is durable and can handle a large volume of bottles. Also, you don’t want it to take a lot of time opening bottles when you should be at the party socializing. Electric models are quick and efficient and could fit the bill.
If you like to share your love of wine with other people, and host wine tastings then consider an opener that helps you look the part of the connoisseur. You may also need to consider decanting the wine for greater pleasure, so extras such as an aerator or decanter may be required.
Pull or Push?
There are wine openers, which increase the pressure inside the bottle forcing the cork out, rather than pulling it from the top. Pump style wine openers are not as safe as the pull types, and you should think twice before buying. A stuck cork can, without warning, blow out, hit the user or someone nearby, and cause an injury. If there is any weakness in the neck of the bottle, the increased pressure inside could cause the bottle to break, leading to untold damage, mess, and not least a wasted bottle of good wine!
Is the size Right?
Choosing the size of wine opener depends on what you are going to do with it, and how it fits into your lifestyle. For instance, if you have a bar at home, and want to make a statement, then a big manual wine opener would do just that, turning your man cave into a French bistro.
On the other hand, a wine opener for the kitchen may need to fit inside a drawer or look good on the worktop. You might just need a handy wine opener to take with you on journeys, so it needs to fit neatly in the pocket.
Matching the Decor
You might think this is being a bit trivial, but getting a wine opener that matches your kitchen can just add a little something to the ambiance of your wine drinking. Many are stainless steel or silvered so they can match most household color schemes. However, if you have a modern style colored kitchen, there are also wine openers that come in a variety of primary shades to coordinate with your decor and other wine accessories like decanters, chillers and dispensers.
How old is Your Wine?
If a bottle of wine is not stored correctly, the cork can dry out making it harder to pull. A dry cork can often snap or crumble and using a corkscrew can often make matters worse. Therefore, if you have a vintage collection of wine you do not want to ruin by destroying the cork, we suggest you consider a prong-style wine opener. The advantage of his is that it does not have the corkscrew and rather grabs the cork and gently withdraws it from the bottle.
Any Little Extras?
Many wine openers come with a foil cutter, either built-in or as an added extra. A foil cutter adds something unique to wine presentation and should not be ignored. Winemakers go to the trouble of putting the foil cap over the cork to seal it in, and to make the top of the bottle look good.
Why just rip it off with the blade of a knife, when it can be cut around the top leaving a collar on the bottle to give it style and elegance. It’s all part of the joy of drinking a bottle of wine, and a good foil cutter is a great bonus.
What to Look for in a Good Wine Opener
These are the features you are going to need to look for when choosing the right wine opener. If your choice of wine opener meets the criteria, then you know you’ve made the right choice and picked an excellent quality wine opener.
You don’t want a wine opener that requires the muscles of Superman to pull a cork. A wine opener should have enough leverage to remove a cork from the wine bottle without the user having exerted too much pressure on the device.
The cork is tightly wedged into the neck of the bottle to stop air entering the bottle and contaminating the wine, so some degree of pressure is needed. Too much pulling on a cork can cause it to rip apart into pieces, especially if it is dry or old. A good wine opener provides even pressure on the cork, and smooth leverage to pull it from the bottle.
Little Movement of the Bottle
A good wine opener requires minimal movement of a bottle. Older or vintage wines often have sediment in the bottom of the bottle. This is quite natural and nothing to worry about. However, you do not want to shake the bottle up or move it about unnecessarily when removing the cork to disturb the sediment. You do not want the residue to end up in the glass, as it can destroy the enjoyment of a good win by adding a bitter and gritty taste.
The Type of Cork
Traditionally wine bottles have been closed with corks that come from the bark of the cork tree. This natural substance is noted for its ability to be squeezed into the neck of a bottle providing an airtight seal. The relative cheapness of cork means it has been many years before an alternative has come on the scene.
Nowadays a synthetic plastic style cork is becoming more popular particularly among New World winemakers. These corks offer similar properties to natural cork and have the added advantage of not drying out over time. Be aware that synthetic corks do vary in their quality and hardness, and are not as uniform as natural cork. So, make sure the wine opener you choose can cope with all types of corks.
A Worm, not an Auger
To make sure your wine opener does its job correctly, check the style of screw that is turned into the cork. Look for a worm not an auger. How can you tell the difference? It’s quite simple, a worm corkscrew looks like a coiled up work, and auger looks like a worm wrapped around a stick.
A worm corkscrew provides more surface area in contact with the cork, and thus evenly applying pressure to remove it. The auger style has a tendency to shred corks, and should be avoided if you are looking for the best performance from your wine opener.
Q: How best to use a rabbit wine opener?
A clamp goes around the bottle, and a lever controls the corkscrew in the Rabbit style wine opener. There are three steps to using it:
- Make sure the corkscrew worm in the up position, and clamp the handles around the neck of the bottle.
- As you move the lever upwards, the corkscrew will penetrate the cork. Push the lever down, and the cork will come out.
- Hold onto the cork, and then by moving the lever up and down the cork will remove itself from the screw,
- Make sure the lever is fully extended to reset otherwise it may push the cork into the bottle.
- If you feel the corkscrew is having difficulty penetrating the cork replace the worm.
Q: How best to use a waiter’s style one?
- With the corkscrew spiral extended, twist the worm into the cork about six and a half times. This should leave one curl of the worm showing.
- Engage the top lever onto the mouth of the bottle and pull, once the cork has started to come out of the bottle, use the second lever position to finish the extraction.
- Use your hand to twist the cork off the worm.
- It can be a tricky operation at first. But practice with a waiter’s style opener helps a lot.
- To get a perfect pull, its best to place the tip of the spiral worm a little off center of the cork. Just think of the center of the spiral being at the center of the cork, and you should be okay.
- Most waiter’s style wine openers come with a knife foil cutter, so do remember to put the knife back into position before starting to open a bottle. Otherwise, you may cut yourself.
Q: How to use a two-pronged wine opener?
- Insert the longer of the two prongs between the cork and the bottle neck first, and then wiggle it down a little.
- Insert the second prong on the opposite side of the neck between the cork and the glass.
- Gently rock the handle allowing the prongs to ease their way down the neck of the bottle as far as they will go. The handle should be touching the bottle.
- Twist and pull and the cork should slowly come out of the bottle.
- Do not insert the long prong too far before putting the second in as you may then bend the prongs which is not okay.
- As the cork is about to leave the bottle use your hand to catch it so that it does not fall on the floor.
Q: How to use a winged wine opener?
- With the levers in the down position place the round opening at the bottom of the corkscrew worm on the mouth of the bottle.
- Turn the handle until the levers have risen as high as they can. Press down on the levers allowing the gearing to pull the cork out of the bottle.
- Twist the cork off the worm spiral.
- If the worm spiral is having trouble penetrating the cork, it is time to replace it and get yourself a new wine opener.
Q: How best to use an electric wine opener?
- Remove the foil cap from the bottle allowing the mouth and cork to be seen.
- Place the open end of the electric wine opener over the mouth of the bottle pressing down firmly, and holding the bottle at the same time.
- Make sure the electric wine opener is vertical to the bottle.
- Press the button to operate, and do not let the opener or the bottle rotate.
- Remove the cork from the opener.