What the best wine opener does

  • Has a screw that's at least 1.75 inches long. Shorter screws will tear up corks.
  • Can handle all types of corks. Corkscrews should be able to extract natural as well as synthetic corks.
  • Extracts the cork without shaking the bottle. If there's sediment, you don't want the action of the corkscrew to shake it up.
  • Works without excessive brute strength. Corkscrews should incorporate some type of mechanical assistance such as leverage or torque so uncorking doesn't depend entirely on your ability to pull hard.
  • Has a worm, not an augur. Worms look like, well, coiled worms. Augurs, which look like a worm wrapped around a nail, tend to shred corks.
  • Gets the job done safely. That means no explosions, cracked glass or broken corkscrews.

Know before you go

Do you have limited hand strength? If so, choose an electric model, advises ConsumerReports.org.

Do you host lots of parties? If you need to open multiple bottles consecutively, an electric model will save you time, according to CooksIllustrated.com.

Do you specifically host wine-tasting parties? If so, you might want to consider a wine aerator and decanter.

Are you inclined to buy a pump style? If so, think twice. A stuck cork can blow out suddenly, pushing the device into your face.

Is storage an issue? Lever-style corkscrews may be easy on the muscles, but some can be bulky.

Will you take it on the road? Small enough to fit in a pocket, waiter-style corkscrews are the most portable.

Do you care about kitchen décor? You might want to avoid an electric model, since it may be hard to find one that matches the look of your kitchen.

Do you open many old bottles? If you have bottles with old corks that are in danger of crumbling, experts recommend a pronged opener.

Will it be merely a tool, or more? Are you looking for an investment piece, or simply something that does the job? The answer will help you determine how much to spend.

What extras should you consider? Glasses for red wine and white wine, a pump that preserves wine by removing air, a decanter, a wine journal and a drip stopper are among the best gadgets, according to VinoGadgets.com.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

Buying a corkscrew can be a quick transaction of $10 or less or a major purchase costing thousands of dollars. That's because antique corkscrew collecting is growing more popular every day, as evidenced by the proliferation of websites and published guides devoted to the subject. For this reason, it's worth doing some research before you buy, especially if you have a passion for wine and wine gadgets. To many, corkscrews are just tools, but they can also be a valuable investment.

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