Types of Wine Openers
Lever Wine Openers
One of the most popular kinds 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.Electric Wine Openers
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. Corkscrews
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 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 be tucked in your pocket.
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.
Finding The Best Wine Openers
There are a handful of expert reviews of wine openers, but
some are quite dated. The most helpful recent reviews include hands-on tests
from TheSweethome.com and YourBestDigs.com. Solid but aging sources include articles
from Cook's Illustrated and SeriousEats.com. One of the best resources 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. Other good sources for user
reviews include BedBathAndBeyond.com and WineEnthusiast.com. To pick the best
wine openers, we evaluated these reviews by focusing on wine openers' appearance,
performance, ease of use and durability.
Best lever-style wine openers
The Brookstone Connoisseur's Compact Wine Opener (Est. $45) is a great choice if you prefer a
lever-style wine opener. It features a solid design and get raves for its ease
of use. The Connoisseur features a 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 easily in
a drawer. It comes with a foil cutter, but not an extra worm or storage case.
Few reviewers fault the Brookstone Connoisseur's
performance, saying 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 reports problems getting the cork completely out of the bottle, or they say
they had problems with particularly firm synthetic corks. On the bright side, the
included foil cutter cuts cleanly, reviewers say.
The Brookstone Connoisseur has an extra-long ergonomic
handle to make opening a bottle of wine easy for those without much muscle or
grip strength. A couple of reviewers who have limited hand dexterity due to
arthritis say they have no trouble operating the unit, although there are those
who say it still takes a bit of effort and finesse to pull up on the handle and
properly expel the cork. However, once you get past the learning curve, it
becomes easier. Most owners say the unit is durable, with some reporting years
of happy use, but there are still some scattered reports of stuck levers and
loose screws. Brookstone backs the opener with a one-year warranty, and the few
reviewers who have dealt with customer service say they had good experiences.
Reviewers are similarly enthused about
the OXO Steel Vertical Lever Corkscrew (Est. $40), which
shares many of the Brookstone Connoisseur's strengths. One of the biggest
differences is aesthetic: Much of the OXO is black, with an easy-to-grip
rubberized surface and handle, while chrome figures more heavily in the
Brookstone. The OXO comes with an extra worm – a nice bonus – and a
foil cutter that can be stored directly on the wine opener.
Like the Brookstone, the OXO works with
both natural and synthetic corks, and reviewers report few issues removing
either kind. Most say the opener removes corks with one fluid, easy pump of the
zinc handle, and the cork is similarly easy to eject from the worm. The foil
cutter, however, gets mixed reviews: While most owners appreciate storing it on
the wine opener itself, some say it could be a bit sharper.
The rubberized surface on the OXO
provides ample space to keep a firm grip on the wine opener during use, which
users love. Reviewers say they don't need an inordinate amount of strength to
operate the wine opener, making this a candidate for users with limited
dexterity. Durability reviews are limited as this is a relatively new product,
but there are a couple of reviewers saying it broke within a couple of months.
It's worth noting that OXO products are backed by a lifetime guarantee, however.