Main image

Uncorked, literally: Comparing styles of corkscrew

Main image

There is a common saying, "Always use the right tool for the job". When it comes to opening a bottle of wine, the job is simple. However, the tool: corkscrews, are varied. With so many different styles of corkscrews, how do you choose what's best for you? This article examines the difference between several styles of corkscrews and their various nuances to help determine the best addition to your wine toolkit.

A brief history of the wine corkscrew

Although we've been sipping on wine for centuries, the glass bottle and cork closure combination weren't introduced until the 18th century, when it became necessary to find a solution to effectively remove the cork without damaging the contents of the bottle. Thus the corkscrew was born.

Early corkscrews were referenced as "steel worms" and were crude forerunners of the corkscrews we see today. However, thanks to modern technology and the bright minds of wine enthusiasts, there are now plenty of modern wine openers available on the market.

1. Wine key, also known as "Waiter's Friend."

Aptly named, this corkscrew is a staple for those working in the service industry. Offering a sleek design, the Waiter's Friend is a great asset for a swift open on a busy night.

Although this corkscrew is a popular choice among restaurateurs and sommeliers, it can take a bit of skill to master. You need to place the metal "worm" in the centre of the cork, screw it in just enough to gain traction then use the lever against the lip of the bottle at the proper angle to smoothly remove the cork. To the inexperienced hand, attempting to use a wine key can sometimes result in cork confetti in your wine bottle. However, with some practice, this corkscrew is a valuable tool for any wine occasion.

Top tip: If your cork does crumble into the bottle, don't panic. You can decant your wine into another container through a coffee filter (preferably unbleached) or tea strainer (just make sure it's clean!) to filter out the cork pieces. With older wines, it's not uncommon for the cork to break or crumble.

Waiter's Friend corkscrew with a cork on the screw, with a dropstop and a bottle stop.
Waiter's friend corkscrew

2. Winged corkscrew

While the wine key uses one lever as a fulcrum to open a bottle of wine, the winged corkscrew introduces a second lever to the equation. With a lever on each side, the worm becomes effectively "winged". This corkscrew style is also a firm favourite, featuring a simple design, ease of use, and affordability. To open a wine bottle with a winged corkscrew, place the worm on the centre of the cork and turn the handle on top. As the handle turns, the wings will rise- simply push the wings back down and pull the handle to remove the cork with ease.

Winged corkscrew shown from levers fully depressed to levers raised.
Winged corkscrew

3. Lever corkscrew

If the winged corkscrew is considered an easy method to open a bottle, then lever corkscrews are effortless. These incredibly user-friendly wine openers feature "handles", which grip the bottle to keep it steady and a handle that moves the lever- all you do is lower the handle to activate the screw. Once you feel the cork grip, simply raise the handle to release the cork.

This style is slightly more expensive than a wine key or winged corkscrew but will guarantee a quick and easy open whenever the mood strikes.

If you're keen to look "behind the label", with the Level 2 Award in Wines, you'll gain an understanding of the factors that influence the style and quality of the wines you love and discover new styles and regions.

A lever corkscrew, closed, with a cord on the screw.
Lever corkscrew

4. Ah-So Cork Puller

The two-prong, or "Ah-So", wine opener is not actually a corkscrew- but rather a cork puller. This design features two metal prongs that slide down between the edge of the cork and bottle, allowing the user to remove the whole cork. The Ah-So wine opener is a popular choice when removing the cork from an older bottle, where the cork may be too brittle for a traditional corkscrew. Although it is commonplace to find this style in the toolkit of wine collectors and advanced enthusiasts, the Ah-So Cork Puller may not be the first choice for a casual glass.

Two-prong "Ah-So" cork puller on a plain white background.
"Ah-So", two-prong, cork puller

5. Legacy corkscrew

The Legacy corkscrew is a more obscure style, typically found only in the remit of very serious wine collectors or enthusiasts. Functionally similar to a lever corkscrew, it features a single handle that lowers and activates the screw to remove a cork with ease. However, these wine openers are typically mounted to a bar or tabletop and are often ornate in style. As such, they often come with a much higher price tag, but their decorative appearance makes Legacy corkscrews a unique and prized possession among their owners.

With all the variations on the corkscrew, it begs the question, "so, what's the best one?" There is no right answer to this query. As with a style of wine, type of glass, or particular pairing - the "best" is entirely subjective. Whether you're looking for ease of use for every day and reach for the lever corkscrew, or you're opening an older wine for a special occasion and select the Ah-So, it's really just about choosing the right tool for the job. Thankfully, this job is one we can all enjoy. Cheers!

Written by Jessica Heyse, Account Development Coordinator-Americas

Related reading