Wine Openers

Over the last few years, I written about wines from around the world. We've gone over growing the grapes, making the wine, how to taste, and discussed how store your wine, taste it, and pair food with it. But, we haven't gone over how to get the wine out of the bottle. When you have a screwcap, that's pretty simple, however, most wine still comes with a cork. 

I'm sure most of you have seen the Youtube video of the guy opening a bottle with his shoe. I suppose you could do this, but you'll certainly be shaking up all the sediment along with the wine...not ideal when you easily carry an opener with you.

lever pull
There are so many different types of openers, and there is no way I can cover them all here, but I will touch upon the best known. 

The main components needed to open a bottle of wine are something to cut the foil, and something to extract the cork. Cutting the foil can be done with a knife, or a foil cutter. Extraction of the dork can be accomplished with many different approaches. The original extraction tool was a simple auger or worm, with a handle that was screwed into the cork, then pulled, using muscle power. The process was improved by taking advantage of leverage.

 The "butterfly" corkscrew is what I remember my parents using. The worm is screwed into the cork, and as it is, the "arms" move into an upward position. When pushed down, the cork is removed. This style requires an additional foil cutter, but does come with a bottle cap opener.

The lever-pull (also known as a rabbit) is an improvement on the butterfly. This type of corkscrew relies on gear. Once clamped on the neck of the bottle, the gears drive the worm into the cork, and by lifting the handle, the cork is easily extracted. This type also requires a separate foil cutter. The disadvantage is that it is bulky, and can be pretty expensive. 

foil cutter
One of the newer types of "corkscrews" doesn't even have a worm. These cork extractors use compressed air, or even CO2 cartridges. A "needle" is inserted into the cork, and the gas is pumped into the bottle, where the pressure pushed the cork out. Because this type of extractor requires that you push through the cork, they can add sediment to your wine. Also, if you have a tight cork, built up pressure can actually break off the neck of the bottle. While I have never seen this happen, it has been reported.

One of the older types of extractors also doesn't have a worm. Some refer to this type as the "two-prong" or "butler's friend", but I have always known them to be called "ah-so". The two prongs are inserted between the cork and bottle, then twisted and rocked, removing the cork. This type of extractor was designed to remove corks from Port wine bottles that might have a lot of sugar coating the cork, forcing it to stick to the bottle, By inserting the prongs, and twisting, it would scrape off any residual sugar, releasing the cork.

Waiter's Corkscrew
I've tried them all, but I continue to use my trusty Waiter's Corkscrew.  This style takes some practice, but once you master it, you'll find it very easy to use. I prefer the double hinged style,which allows for different levels of leverage. It also has a good serrated foil cutter, and a teflon worm that is not too thick. It easily fits in a pocket, and is comfortable in my hand. There are cheap versions, and expensive versions. I paid about $60 for mine and it has lasted years...definitely worth the investment! When I do come across the occasional broken cork, I can usually get the cork out with this style of corkscrew, or sometimes have to resort to a combination of my waiter's corkscrew and an ah-so.

As mentioned in the beginning, there are many different ways to get the cork out of the bottle. I am a believer in keeping the "romance" of opening the bottle. As a Sommelier, that is part of my job. We are also trained to open the bottle as quietly as possible. You shouldn't hear the cork popping. The cork should come out in one piece, allowing for examination of the cork (type...don't smell the cork, it won't tell you anything. But, do look at it for potential leakage or mold).

However you open your wine, the goal is the same: to release the liquid art inside the bottle.


  1. Thank you for posting this. This blog was really helpful and informational!!'d like to thank you for your efforts you've got made in composing this post.

  2. There are so many different types of openers, and there is no way I can cover them all here, but I will touch upon the best known.