Wine openers are essential tools for any vino lover
Sipping a glass of wine is one of life's most relaxing pleasures. Unfortunately, uncorking a wine bottle can put a damper on your anticipation if you have to wrestle with a corkscrew, only to shred the cork and fish out tiny pieces before enjoying your vino. Fortunately, manufacturers are introducing better-engineered wine openers that are more reliable than previous models and require less effort to use. Many also sport sleek designs and high-end materials.
If you're an ardent wine lover, you may also be searching for a better way to store your wine. If so, check out our report on the best wine coolers if you want to keep those prized bottles at the most consistent temperature to ensure the best possible flavor.
Manual wine openers are simple to use
One popular kind of manual wine opener is a lever style, which works very simply: Press down on a lever and a coiled metal rod -- also referred to as a worm, spiral or screw -- is driven into the cork. Pulling the lever back up removes the cork from the bottle, and repeating the push-pull action releases the cork from the spiral. The downsides here are reliability and price: Lever-style wine openers are prone to breaking over time, and they are expensive compared to corkscrews, starting at about $20 and costing up to $100 or more.
Electric wine openers make opening wine bottles a cinch
Electric wine openers are motorized, battery-powered gadgets that generally come with a recharging base so they're always ready to use. Fans say they're easy to operate -- all you need to do is line them up with the cork and push a button -- but if counter space is an issue, note that they're typically designed to be stored on a countertop and not in a drawer. These are also more expensive than your typical corkscrew, with most in the $20 to $40 range.
Corkscrews are easiest on your wallet, but hardest on the hands
Your least expensive option is the basic corkscrew, which combines a metal worm with a handle that's twisted to drive the worm into the cork, then manipulated to remove the cork from the bottle. They require varying degrees of muscle to use, but you'll certainly need more elbow grease and a better grip than you would with lever-style or electric wine openers. Basic corkscrews can be as cheap as a dollar or two, but they can cost $30 or more if they're made of high-quality materials, have a cool design or are engineered to require less effort. Corkscrews are usually the most compact wine openers and can easily fit in most drawers; some even fit in your pocket.
The popular waiter-style corkscrew that's prevalent in restaurants has one or two hinged braces that fit against the rim of the bottle, increasing leverage to help make cork extraction easier. Other common corkscrew types include slightly easier-to-use winged versions with two handles that rise as the worm makes its way into the cork, as well as T-shaped, twist-and-pull models that require the most strength.
How we chose the best wine openers
There are a handful of expert reviews of wine openers out there, but some are quite dated. The most helpful recent reviews include hands-on tests from TheSweetHome.com and CooksIllustrated.com. However, the best resource on wine bottle openers is Amazon.com, which has thousands of reviews from wine opener owners on how their gadgets fare in day-to-day use. To pick the best wine openers, we evaluated these reviews by focusing on wine openers' appearance, performance, ease of use and durability.
Best wine openers
The Metrokane Original Rabbit Lever Corkscrew (Est. $48) is the standard bearer among manual lever-style wine bottle openers. Experts say it gets the job done with few headaches, and is well-designed and -constructed to boot. So-named because its rounded levers resemble rabbit ears, reviewers say the polycarbonate Rabbit is "cute" but a bit clunky, sometimes taking up too much space in drawers. The unit comes in black, silver, red and pink. A clear plastic storage case, extra worm and foil cutter are included.
Experts say the Rabbit is their go-to choice for its solid performance. It removes corks in just a few seconds, and Maggie Hoffman of SeriousEats.com says the foil cutter does its job reliably "without any flailing knives or cut fingers." The unit is billed for use with both synthetic and manual corks, but reviewers report mixed results with synthetics. The foil cutter also gets mixed owner reviews -- some call it "slick" and say it slices with ease, while others say it's fussy and the blade dulls too fast.
The Rabbit really shines when it comes to ease of use. An ergonomic handle helps those with shaking hands or limited hand strength, but some users caution that it takes practice to determine the optimal grip pressure. Owner reviews are mixed on durability: Multiple owners report regular use for years with no problems. However, others warn of breakage within a few years and several say Metrokane's customer service leaves something to be desired despite the long, 10-year warranty.
The Brookstone Connoisseur's Compact Wine Opener (Est. $45) functions much like the Metrokane Rabbit, and reviewers say it shares many of that model's strengths, including solid design and ease of use. One of the biggest differences is the Connoisseur's more traditional look: Most of the body is made of chrome-finished metal with a few black rubberized plastic accents. Reviewers say it looks and feels expensive enough to give as a gift, and stores more easily in a drawer than the bulkier Rabbit. It comes with a foil cutter, but not an extra worm or storage case.
Few reviewers fault the Connoisseur's performance. Like the Rabbit, it requires only a few seconds to uncork a bottle of wine. Brookstone says the opener works with both natural and synthetic corks. Most reviewers say they've had no trouble with either kind of cork, but a handful of owners report problems getting the cork completely out of the bottle, or they say they had problems with particularly firm synthetic corks. The included foil cutter cuts cleanly, reviewers say.
The Connoisseur has an extra-long ergonomic handle to make opening a bottle of wine easy for those without much muscle or grip strength. Two reviewers with different types of arthritis say they have no trouble operating the unit, but a handful of others report that it still takes a bit of effort and finesse to pull up on the handle and properly expel the cork. Most owners say the unit is durable, with some reporting years of happy use. However, there are still some scattered reports of stuck levers and loose screws. Brookstone's one-year warranty is not as generous as the Rabbit's, but the few reviewers who have dealt with customer service say they had good experiences.
While the Brookstone Connoisseur's gets slightly better reviews overall from owners, experts prefer the Metrokane Rabbit. That, along with the included extras, gives the Rabbit the edge to become our Best Reviewed pick.