Corkscrews are often compared to mousetraps -- building something better than the original T-shaped worm spiral corkscrew seems a superfluous act. Despite reviewers' sentimental attachment to traditional corkscrews, tests prove that new types of wine openers -- especially lever wine openers -- require less muscle and effort than traditional corkscrews.
Lever wine openers work by first clamping to the neck of the bottle. Then a lever (which is either pushed or pulled by handles) pushes the spiral worm into the cork. Finally, the lever reverses to pull out the cork. Some lever wine openers change the direction of the lever one last time to extract the cork from the corkscrew. Internal gears and leverage reduce the muscle needed to extract the cork. In testing, reviewers favor longer levers that are cushioned and ergonomically shaped.
The best reviews recommend the Le Creuset Screwpull Lever Model Elegance (*Est. $100). This wine opener is a gift-giving favorite. It features a patented foil cutter that works with a twist of the wrist. Extracting the cork is a matter of clamping to the bottle and moving a lever to insert the Teflon-coated corkscrew, popping the cork and removing the cork from the spiral. Reviewers say this lever wine opener is excellent and simple to use, with a short learning curve. The Screwpull Elegance also comes with an extra spiral worm, and the unit comes with a 10-year warranty.
Most reviewers say the Screwpull Elegance is excellent, and this consistency goes back more than a decade. In 1997, Cook's Illustrated picked a Screwpull lever wine opener as best, and Screwpull lever wine openers are still the favorite. The Screwpull Elegance has a plastic body and metal handles. Owners prefer this model to the Le Creuset Screwpull Lever Model Classic (*Est. $85), which has plastic handles.
While the Le Creuset Screwpull Lever Model Elegance is easily the best luxury lever wine opener, we also found great reviews for the Vacu Vin Winemaster (*Est. $40). In tests of 24 wine openers, Good Housekeeping experts deem the Vin Winemaster to be the most reliable model. This wine opener also uses levers, but it looks a lot different compared with the Screwpull Elegance. The Vacu Vin Winemaster is more cylindrical, described by Good Housekeeping as looking like a "medieval instrument of torture." It has one set of levers for pushing the corkscrew into the bottle and another set for pulling the cork out. While some reviewers say the Vacu Vin lever wine opener has a bit of a learning curve, many owners say it actually ends up taking less effort than the Screwpull Elegance. Plus, it's hard to ignore the price difference.
In the higher price ranges, you'll find lever openers that attach to a bar or countertop for greater leverage and stability. Some of these wine openers are able to recork the bottle. The Rogar Champion Wine Opener (*Est. $150) earns high scores for performance and uniqueness by 3Luxe.com, a website that reviews luxury goods. This display-worthy wine opener is heavy and definitely not portable. Owners say the Rogar wine opener works well, but it also just looks great attached to a home wet bar.
The Brookstone Connoisseur's Countertop Wine Opener (*Est. $80) is highlighted in an article at The Wall Street Journal. This wine opener is similar to the Rogar Champion, but instead of screwing to the top of the bar, the Brookstone model has an included base with a suction cup to keep it in place. Editors at The Wall Street Journal say it's easy to use, although it does require a lot of counter space.
Several reviewers praise Metrokane's Rabbit wine openers, although reviews on some consumer feedback websites say the cheaper ones are not durable. We found mixed reviews for the basic Metrokane Rabbit wine opener (*Est. $30) and Metrokane Rabbit Deluxe (*Est. $50). While some owners like the design, many owners say that the Rabbit wine openers get harder and harder to use over time -- a problem that other reviewers suggest can be remedied with a drop of lubricant. Still, we found better reviews for the Vacu Vin and Screwpull lever wine openers.
Metrokane has introduced a new version of the Rabbit, the Metrokane Vertical Rabbit (*Est. $60). This model has a single lever; its larger cylindrical mouth slides over the top of the wine bottle and clamps on. Business Week praises the styling and ease of use, but calls the foil cutter "so-so."