The Best Wine Openers: How to Pick the Right Corkscrew for Your Bar

When it comes to replacing your favorite well-worn bottle opener, adding a new corkscrew to your collection, or shopping for a fellow wine lover, you have a few questions to consider.

Opening of bottle of wine with corkscrew

Is an opener worth its price? How easy is it to use? It it suitable for all the bottles in your collection? Learn about the pros and cons of a few of the most popular wine openers on the market, from the simple to the fully loaded.

The screwpull lever style

This style, popularized by The Rabbit, is the most popular gadget-like model on the market. It clamps easily around the neck of the bottle. With a smooth pull and raising of a lever, this opener inserts a spiral and pulls the cork right out. Its ease of use could be a particular asset for older or less-agile wine lovers as it offers extra stability, power and control.

The Rabbit

This style of corkscrew makes opening a bottle look effortless. If you’re throwing a party and want to dazzle your guests while opening several bottles in a short amount of time, this is the answer.

Pros:

  • Requires little effort to open a bottle.
  • Most brands offer replacement spirals as they dull with age.
  • These corkscrews are aesthetically pleasing, meaning style-conscious consumers can display them on the bar.

Cons:

  • Due to its size, this style isn’t easily stored and takes up a lot of space.
  • The forcefulness of the lever style has its downsides. It sometimes inserts with such force that it can push a cork partway into the bottle. Usually the cork still extracts completely, but it can create a suction and spray wine as it does — not so dazzling.
  • The force of the lever style is not appropriate for opening those aged gems in your cellar as it can easily destroy an older or more delicate cork.

Best for: Those who like sleek design and love to entertain, less physically agile users who need extra stability, control and leverage. For an easy-to-use and attractive everyday opener, it’s a worthy addition to your collection.

The waiter’s style corkscrew

This is the simplest, yet most universally effective opener on the market. It is likely your go-to corkscrew, and for good reason! The double-hinged version, in particular, is a favorite among wine connoisseurs and professionals. Often accompanied by a built-in foil cutter, the waiter’s style opener is compact, low-tech and easy for a savvy drinker to use.

Image: 4 Lagioule Corkscrews of Various Colors

We recommend Laguiole En Aubrac corkscrews, which are made in France by master craftsmen. They are handcrafted with extra-long, five-turn stainless steel grooved spirals and serrated blade foil cutters, and come with lifetime warranty against any manufacturing defect.

Pros:

  • This style works well for any type of cork, from composite, to natural, to synthetic.
  • Because it offers so much user control regarding the force, speed and angle of insertion and extraction, this corkscrew is one of the better options for opening your prized cellar items. Even the best sommeliers sometimes break a dry or aged cork, but with the Laguiole, it is usually salvageable with a light touch.
  • This compact corkscrew can slip easily into a briefcase, purse or picnic basket for those unexpected or on-the-go pours.

Cons:

  • The waiters’ style corkscrew might be more difficult for older or less agile consumers to maneuver.

If you want only one opener in your collection, this is the most useful and versatile opener on the market. Every wine drinker should have at least one! But beware, not all are created equal — there are many imitation Laguiole corkscrews on the market.

Best for: Connoisseurs, collectors and everyday users — anyone who doesn’t need maximum physical assistance opening a bottle. The next time you’re looking for a personal, thoughtful gift, an engraved Laguiole fits the bill.

The Ah-So or Butlers Friend style corkscrew

The Butlers Friend style opener is also known as the “Ah-So.” As in, “Ah… So that’s how you use it!

Butlers Friend corkscrew

Its simple, two-pronged style is best used on older, dry corks where a regular corkscrew would cause too much crumbling. The prongs are slipped in between the cork and neck of the bottle, gently wiggled and twisted, and the cork can be pulled up completely intact. While this openers requires some practice and skill to use, it’s the perfect low-tech, yet effective solution for savvy collectors who struggle with crumbling corks.

The Ah-So requires enough special skill to prevent it from being your go-to everyday opener. However, it is certainly worth owning, as it is one of the best options for the aged bottles in your collection. With proper technique, it extracts a dry cork with more care than almost any other opener on the market.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact
  • Won’t damage dry, aged corks

Cons:

  • Requires upper body strength and stability so may not be appropriate for less agile drinkers
  • Not the most versatile opener as it does not work well on slippery synthetic corks
  • Requires some skill to use

Best for: Collectors who have many aged wines whose corks need extra care.

Cork Pops

The Cork Pops opener is a unique and effective cork extractor that also has a significant “wow factor.” It forces carbon dioxide gas into the bottle through a needle inserted into the cork. The gas enters with such high pressure that it pops the cork right out of the bottle! Because it does not have a spiral, it works especially well for fragile corks. This style will open almost any bottle with ease and is an impressive way to entertain guests.

Cork Pops

The Cork Pops is a fun, versatile and easy-to-use opener that rounds out any collection. It may not stand alone as your go-to opener, but its impressive design make it a fun addition to your cellar.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Works fast
  • Good for aged corks
  • Great for entertaining

Cons:

  • Additional long-term costs due to replacement cartridges
  • Doesn’t always work well on synthetic or particularly long corks

Best for: Those who love to entertain or who want an effortless wine opening experience.

The winged-style corkscrew

This is one of the most common openers on the market. For everyday bottles, the winged corkscrew offers a decently efficient way to extract your cork. It isn’t the most elegant or compact of openers. But, this style may be good for a less agile drinker, as it aligns the bottle top under its ring and leverages the cork out with little necessary strength.

Winged Corkscrew

A winged opener is truly only useful for your everyday table wines as its high force extraction is likely to snap a dry cork.

This style is not a go-to for most cellars, as it is clunky and doesn’t offer anything that other, more effective models don’t have. But keep it in mind when shopping for an older wine lover, as it can offer stability and control.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Requires little force
  • Typically inexpensive

Cons:

  • Not good for aged corks
  • Inexpensive versions can lose grip on extraction
  • Can push synthetic corks into the bottle

Best for: Older users who need a little stability control and leverage assistance.

Do you have a favorite wine opener? Let us know in the comments.

About the author: Rebecca Cox is a Chicago-based actress, wine lover and wine shop-girl. Check out her blog Chicago Uncorked to follow her thoughts on wine tasting, enology, viticulture and wine in the Windy City.

5 Comments

  1. The “Ah-So” (which I call the female corkscrew) is the only one I can use. I find that twisting it while pulling helps get the cork out. Glad to see that they’re available again; mine disappeared years ago and I couldn’t find a replacement.
    – Beverly Feldt

  2. All cork screws are not created equal. The diameter and the pitch of the screw itself is important as to not damage stubborn corks. the larger the diameter and the greater the pitch, the less likely the cork will be damaged.
    – Greg

  3. I recently purchased a most handsome Laguiole en Aubrac corkscrew. Alas, it has no notch on its lever, much like what you have pictured on this page. It’s not easy to use. I can not readily get the lever to rest on the lip of the bottle. Maybe I lack the knack, but my far less expensive Rialto, while not as elegant and without a quite as heavy helical screw, is far easier to use – as is the Coutale recently given to me by a negociant in Saint Emilion.
    – Arlen

  4. I have a Laguiole en Aubrac corkscrew. After only a few uses the screw has bent to an angle such that is protrudes substantially and dangerously from the body of the corkscrew. This Laguiole corkscrew is my second one — the same bend in the screw happened to the first. I will not purchase another one.

    – Joe Danks

    • Hi Joe,

      If you purchased a Laguiole from IWA, please send a note to support@swawine.com with photos of the problem and any original purchase information you retained, so that we can help. If your Laguiole came from a different company, the lifetime guarantee should still be in effect, and you can contact Laguiole en Aubrac directly for assistance.

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