Reviewers say that you don't have to spend $50 or $100 to get a good corkscrew. While there's a flood of $20 corkscrews and wine openers out there, testers say some are definitely better than others.
We read a lot about continuous-turn wine openers. Unlike lever-type models, continuous-turn corkscrews require you to twist the screw into the cork. Unlike a traditional corkscrew, you don't have to pull the cork out. Rather, you just keep turning the screw in the same direction and the cork pops out. The Oxo Good Grips CorkPull (*Est. $20) receives some good reviews, although some users say it isn't that durable. Most owners and experts say it's a good continuous-turn corkscrew overall. It includes a foil cutter, but reviewers are mixed on how well this works. Screwpull also makes a continuous-turn corkscrew.
Wing-style corkscrews are also easy to use, and they also require that you twist the corkscrew into the cork. As you twist, two levers are pushed upwards. Then you push down on the two raised levers to pull out the cork. Here again, we found some good reviews for the Oxo Good Grips Winged Corkscrew (*Est. $9), which has a large, comfortable handle. However, we also read some durability complaints for this model.
So-called "waiter's friend" wine openers fold like a jackknife and use an extended brace that fits on the rim of the bottle, so you can leverage against that to extract the cork after screwing in the metal worm. While many oenophiles have a deep attachment to waiter's wine openers, most experts say they take a lot of practice and a fair amount of muscle. The Good Housekeeping panel unanimously preferred the Oxo Good Grips Waiter's Corkscrew (*Est. $12) over all of the other wine openers they tested. Keep in mind that this panel included members of their waitstaff who likely have experience opening wine bottles routinely. Overall, user reviews are favorable for Oxo's plastic Waiter's Corkscrew but we found some complaints about durability for the metal version (*Est. $15).
For similar results, the Pulltap's Professional Waiter's Corkscrew (*Est. $10) isn't fancy, but works well enough. A related model, the Pulltap's Double Hinged Waiter's Corkscrew (*Est. $20) has a two-tiered brace, which allows for continued leverage by moving the brace to a new position when the cork is halfway out. A foldout foil cutter is included.
The Built Wine Ratchet Magnum (*Est. $90) looks like something you might find in a toolbox, although it's still a basic corkscrew where you're doing all the work twisting and pulling. Testers at The Wall Street Journal found it harder to use. A short review at Wired agrees that you'll need some muscle to use this corkscrew, adding that it looks cool and "can double as a weapon in a bar fight."
The "ah-so" wine bottle opener is another style, but reviewers don't recommend these units, which are usually affordably priced but tricky to use. With an ah-so wine-bottle opener, you have to slide two thin strips of metal between the cork and the glass, then twist and pull to extract the cork. This takes practice, and reviewers say the steep learning curve doesn't give this type an edge over other styles. Editors at Good Housekeeping say that ah-so wine openers can tend to push the cork in rather than pull it out. However, an ah-so wine opener can have an advantage if your bottle has a fragile, dry or damaged cork. If you're considering buying an ah-so wine bottle opener, it's probably best reserved for special bottles -- but if you love mastering gadgets, an ah-so wine opener might be a fun challenge.