People have needed a corkscrew ever since vintners and brewers started using cork plugs to close bottles. At its simplest, a corkscrew is a pointed metal helix (the “worm”) which is attached to a handle that can be used to drill the helix into the cork, and then pulled out again to remove the cork. There are many possible add-ons to this basic design that make it easier to drill the screw into the cork or to bring more force to bear in extracting difficult corks. Most household corkscrews fall into one of four categories:
Basic and Enhanced Basic Corkscrews
The basic ‘T’-design can be enhanced in various ways: With guides that fit over the top of the bottle and help centre the screw in the top of the cork; with geared keys that make it easier to turn the corkscrew into the cork, and by teflon-coated helixes that penetrate hard corks more easily, especially synthetic corks.
Waiter’s Corkscrew or Sommelier Knife
A waiter’s corkscrew has a corkscrew in a folding body, similar to a pocket knife. A hinged arm fits against the lip of the bottle for leverage when removing the cork. Often, there is also a small blade in the handle, that can be used for cutting and removing the foil over the bottle top. These are especially favoured by wine waiters in restaurants since they are small and can easily fit in a pocket.
Wing or Angel Corkscrew
Two levers are connected to the body via a rack and pinion assembly. The pinion is on the same shaft as the worm, and the levers extend outwards and upwards as the screw is turned into the cork. Pressing the levers back down towards the body lifts the cork from the bottle. Wing corkscrews are most common and convenient for household use.
Lever or ‘Rabbit’ Corkscrew
Hinged arms, like a nutcracker, are used to hold the neck of a bottle while a top-mounted lever drives the worm down into the cork. The lever is lifted to remove the cork. This design is much bulkier and usually more expensive but offers the benefit of quickness and relatively little effort.
Every home needs a corkscrew to open a bottle of wine. Something simple will be fine in most cases but homes that open a lot of wine bottles, or people that find the more effort-intensive methods difficult due to problems such as arthritis, may be prepared to pay more for interesting features or a clever design. There’s a huge variety of corkscrews available but we’ve made our picks of the best, including the basic designs.
Brabantia Classic Corkscrew
The Brabantia Classic corkscrew is a basic design with useful enhancements. The flared capsule helps the user to seat the opener properly on top of the bottle and turning the ‘key’ drives the worm into the cork. Continuing to turn the key will then withdraw the cork from the bottle. The worm has a non-stick coating and there is a built-in foil cutter in the key. This corkscrew receives excellent reviews and is available in different colours and finishes. It earns our recommendation based on price and ease of use.
Tong Wing Corkscrew
This Tong corkscrew is a sturdy ‘wing’-model manufactured from a zinc alloy with a rustproof stainless steel worm. A plastic washer allows the opener’s body to be comfortably located on the bottle top as the helix is screwed into the cork. To extend the corkscrew’s usefulness, the turning key has been designed to lift beer caps. A simple but useful tool in any home at an everyday price.
Smaier Premium Waiter’s Corkscrew
Smaier’s corkscrew includes a sharp, serrated foil cutter and fold-out, beer-bottle opener. The body is constructed of stainless steel and the lever-arm that fits on the bottle-rim is double length for extra leverage. Unusually, the worm has a notch along its length that the manufacturer claims ‘reduces drag’ and makes it easier to penetrate a cork. This corkscrew is available with a rosewood handle or in an all-stainless steel version and is delivered in a presentation box that makes it suitable as an attractive gift for any wine drinker. The Smaier Premium Waiter’s Corkscrew is a sensibly-priced, solid choice of this design.
Joseph Joseph BarWise Corkscrew
Joseph Joseph’s design adds useful features to a basic corkscrew: The ‘forked’ frame makes it easy to seat and hold the opener on the bottle top; the screw is non-stick coated; the helix is drilled down into the cork, and then lifted, by a continuous winding action; and a foil-cutter is included at the bottom end of each arm. The corkscrew is shipped in a presentation box. We like that this corkscrew does not require the user to have great skill or strength and believe its clever design justifies its slightly higher price.
Popwinds Electric Wine Bottle Opener
The Popwinds Electric Wine Opener is powered by a lithium-ion battery, rechargeable via a USB cable supplied with the purchase. A small LED window indicates the battery level; a full charge is claimed to be sufficient to open 100 bottles. It features a Teflon-coated worm and a foil cutter in the cap. A transparent capsule helps seat the opener centrally on the bottle top, and it is illuminated in blue when the opener is in use. Pressing the power button rotates the worm, which continues to turn and withdraw the cork once it is tightly held. The Popwinds Electric Opener is available with a black, silver or red body. This is a great choice for anyone who has arthritic hands or, perhaps, simply wants an effortless way to open a bottle of wine.
KitchenCraft Lever Arm Corkscrew
KitchenCraft’s Lever Corkscrew is delivered in an attractive presentation box with a foil cutter; bottle stopper; a black, metal stand; and a spare, non-stick-coated worm. It is manufactured from stainless steel. The outsides of the handles have cushion pads for a ‘soft-touch’ but otherwise this is an unrefined example of its type that can open a bottle in three seconds or less. It is a sturdy, bottle-opening opening machine that will be worth the extra cost to a regular wine drinker and should provide many years of good service.