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With so many ways to open a bottle of wine, finding the right wine opener depends on your personal preferences, tastes, and capabilities. “When shopping for new wine openers, I look for functionality, style, and price,” says Tekla Israelson, certified sommelier and New York sales manager for Washington, D.C.’s Republic Restoratives Distillery. “I want something straightforward that is easy to use [and] won't take up a lot of space, but still looks good on my bar cart.”
According to Israelson, there are a few industry standard options to consider: the waiter’s friend (the classic manual key used in restaurants), electric openers, and winged corkscrews, with levers and air pump systems also popular amongst home wine drinkers. Her personal favorite is the waiter’s friend style: “[They] make it easier to pull the cork out of the bottle.”
While Israelson believes that a bottle of wine doesn’t need to be expensive to be good, she does recommend investing in a quality opening tool. Here are some of the best on the market across a variety of styles.
Best Overall: Oster Cordless Electric Wine Bottle Opener
Oster’s cordless electric opener is among the top-rated of its kind. Its simple, straightforward design, compact charging base, and approachable price point make it ideal for those who want to get the job done quickly with no frills. This opener comes with a foil cutter for easy removal and a clean, blank canvas for easy opening. Like most electric wine openers, all you do is place the device on top of the cork, switch it on, and let the bottle opener do the work for you. With just a single charge (that lasts six to eight hours), you can open up to 30 bottles—appropriate for large gatherings and parties.
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Best Electric: Rabbit Automatic Electric Corkscrew
If you’d like to minimize physical effort (and do so stylishly), Rabbit’s popular electric corkscrew is your best bet. Charge it up before use––each full charge is good for around 30 corks––and, when you’re ready to drink your bottle of choice, open up the top to reveal the built-in cutter and remove the foil cap. Then, place the device atop the bottle’s neck and bring it down onto the cork until it automatically begins to work its magic—pulling out the cork and ejecting it gently once finished. This electric corkscrew is the first of its kind and is compatible with all cork types. Perfect for novices, the electric variety, notes Israelson, is one of the easiest options for home use.
Best Wine Key: Le Creuset Waiter's Friend Corkscrew
Efficient, budget-friendly, and sleek, this classic wine key is another great all-rounder. Made by the trusted French cookware brand Le Creuset, the Waiter’s Friend corkscrew appeals to the service industry and home drinkers alike with its two-step design and grooved screw. This way, it’s intended to maximize movement through cork as smoothly and as vertically as possible. The metal corkscrew is also BPA-free.
Most waiter’s friend-style corkscrews are extremely versatile and work well for any type of cork. Plus, they can easily live in a pocket or bag––another reason Israelson highly recommends this option.
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Best Air Pump: HOST AirPOP Wine Bottle Opener
With the HOST AirPOP—which uses compressed inert gas to remove corks at the touch of a button—you’d be hard-pressed to find an easier or faster way to open a bottle of wine. Simply insert the opener’s needle into the center of the cork after removing the foil cap, push down on the top of the device, and in a split second, the cork is removed with a satisfying pop. Each gas cartridge can open up to 80 bottles. Like electric models, this wine opener style requires little to no force to use, making it another ideal option for drinkers who deal with hand, arm, or wrist issues.
Best Preserver: Coravin Model Two Wine Preservation System
A leader in wine preservation, the Coravin system utilizes a needle and inert gas (argon), allowing users to access wine without actually opening the bottle. This is essential as cork is a self-healing material and will close back up again after the needle is removed. “It is an especially cool tool because it gives the flexibility of tasting a bottle without being forced to open the whole thing,” says Beth Martini, a certified sommelier, and captain at Entente in Chicago. Coravin systems are typically used for reserve wines as a measure against loss and oxidation, and the Model Two is a unanimously popular choice across the industry.
For the home user, Rebecca Sinn, sommelier at Dean & DeLuca at the Ritz Carlton Waikiki, has some tips: “Try to keep it in a cool and dry place in its original case, just like storing a bottle of wine.” She explains, “It’s made of stainless steel and fiberglass nylon, [so this] would help prevent the unit from rusting.” Lastly, Martini recommends avoiding any forcing of the needle into the cork and making sure to puncture in different places, allowing the cork to self-heal as much as possible.
Best Winged: OXO Steel Winged Corkscrew
Winged corkscrews are another way to remove a cork with minimal physical effort, hallmarked by a set of levers on either side of the worm. This style offers several advantages, according to Erik Delanoy, a service industry veteran who currently tends bar at Classic Car Club Manhattan. “First, it removes a lot of the guesswork––it guarantees that the corkscrew will be inserted into the center of the cork at the correct angle parallel to the bottle, and the corkscrew itself is usually more of a blade style, which reduces chances of breaking a cork that might be dried out.” This style does require a bit of work, but not nearly as much as the waiter’s friend, for instance, as the wings do most of the labor when pulling the cork out. Delanoy elaborates: “It’s great for stubborn corks or in general, for those who don’t necessarily have a lot of arm strength." He continues, "To boot, this OXO model’s built-in cutter also makes for a consistent, clean line on the foil.”
Best Lever: Brookstone Manual Lever Wine Opener
There’s no forcing or pulling involved with Brookstone’s streamlined lever opener, a compact and ergonomically-designed option revered for its reliable carbon steel screw. Cork removal––both natural and synthetic––is easy and effortless thanks to the soft-touch, metal finishes, and smart lever system. To use, remove the foil cap (the cutter is included), lift the long arm, and place it on top of the bottle, pulling it down while gripping the device. Squeeze firmly at the base around the bottleneck while bringing the lever down and immediately back up (with the cork), all in one swift, fluid movement. To remove the cork from the opener, just squeeze again and repeat the up-and-down lever movement.
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Best Splurge: Aldo Sohm Chateau Laguiole Corkscrew
Katja Scharnagl, the chef sommelier at Le Bernardin, swears by this top-of-the-line standard wine key designed by legendary sommelier Aldo Sohm for Laguiole—the iconic French cutlery brand founded in 1829. Given the price tag, this is certainly for the serious oenophile, but Scharnagl asserts that it’s definitely worth it (the corkscrew also comes with a leather pouch, which is a nice bonus). “[This is] a very easy-to-handle wine key, which also looks very elegant and is a beautiful piece of art,” says Scharnagl, noting that the brass and compressed resin-coated wood materials are extremely high quality. “You also can give it a personal touch and have it customized,” she continues. “I love it because the knife works really well and the spine is long enough to open older bottles.” All in all, Scharnagl says, it’s “a perfect tool for a sommelier and a wine enthusiast.”
Best Style: Rabbit RBT Tabletop Corkscrew
Décor meets utility in Rabbit’s most chic design to date. This tabletop acacia wood and stainless steel corkscrew features a modern industrial design, perfect for perching on countertops, dining tables, or bar carts. It’s essentially ideal for those who value both form and function. Built to open standard 750ml bottles and magnums (1.5L), this RBT model stabilizes bottles for display or opening and uses a black angular lever to remove corks. For peace of mind, this opener also comes complete with a 10-year warranty.
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As a half-French person and longtime beverage writer, wine is basically second nature to Céline Bossart. Throughout her adult life, she has opened (and sabered) too many wine bottles to count, and not just for the sport of it.