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 and synthetic corks with equal ease.
- Extracts the cork without shaking the bottle. If there's sediment, you don't want the wine opener to shake it up.
- Doesn't require brute strength. Wine openers should incorporate some type of mechanical assistance such as leverage or torque so uncorking a bottle doesn't depend entirely on your ability to pull hard. For this reason, you may want to avoid T-shaped, twist-and-pull corkscrews.
- 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, broken corkscrews or scraped fingers.
Know before you go
What's your budget? You can buy a basic waiter-style corkscrew for as little as a few bucks that will function similarly to a model five times the price or more -- the difference will likely be long-term durability and a shorter or non-existent warranty. Easier-to-use wine bottle openers such as electric models and lever-style openers are typically more expensive at $20 to $50.
Do you have limited hand strength? If so, choose an electric wine opener that will require the least dexterity. These models typically require a simple press of a button to do their job, though you may still need to keep the bottle steady while using them. Take care to avoid traditional corkscrews, which require more twisting for successful use.
Do you host lots of parties? If you need to open multiple bottles consecutively, an electric wine opener could save you time. Another option would be an easy-to-use tabletop wine bottle opener. This kind of opener can also be a great conversation piece, though you'll need the space for it. They're also pricey, starting around $75.
Are you inclined to buy a pump-style wine opener? If so, think twice. A stuck cork can blow out suddenly, pushing the device into your face.
Do you need to save space? When space is scarce, a waiter-style corkscrew is your best bet -- most can fit in the palm of your hand. Lever-style corkscrews may be easy on the muscles, but some can be bulky, taking up a lot of drawer space. Electric wine openers are typically designed to sit out in your kitchen, eating up valuable counter space.
Will you take your wine opener on the road? Small enough to fit in a pocket, waiter-style corkscrews are among the most portable.
How old is your wine collection? If you'll be opening a lot of bottles with old corks that are in danger of crumbling, experts recommend using either a two-pronged cork puller (sometimes called an "ah-so" wine opener) or a waiter-style corkscrew. Other types of wine bottle openers may not give you the control you need to gingerly remove an older cork.
Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it
As we mentioned above, you only need a few bucks to buy a basic corkscrew. But if you have a few hundred dollars to burn, you can also buy a high-end model that has been handcrafted in France from ultra-strong steel. Do you get what you pay for? Probably not, experts say. While they might be impressive as a gift, these pricey corkscrews don't fare as well as their much cheaper counterparts when it comes to performance and ease of use. Of course, these models are easy on the eyes, and they may appeal to collectors or wine lovers who simply want to impress their friends. Antique corkscrews costing thousands of dollars are also available online -- just be sure to do some research before you buy to make sure you're investing in an authentic item.