The Best Wine Openers

The Best Wine Openers
The Trudeau Turbo double-lever corkscrew, in both open and closed positions

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

For all the pleasure it brings, enjoying a glass of wine can also be stressful. After you pick the right kind of wine, you have to get it out of the bottle. Though uncorking wine isn’t the most challenging thing in the world, using a corkscrew with a better design means less fumbling with the foil and a smoother, easier pop of the bottle.

There are seemingly as many styles of wine-opening contraptions as there are kinds of wine. If you open wine bottles with any frequency, investing in a trusty tool that’s easy to use will only add to the enjoyment.

We rounded up 19 models, ranging from around $4 to nearly $30, and put them through uncorking tests to find designs that work best.

Our Favorites, at a Glance

The Best Waiter’s-Friend Corkscrew: Trudeau Turbo Double-Lever Corkscrew

The Trudeau Turbo’s worm—the metal spiral that bores into the cork—requires just three 360° rotations of the tool to bore through a one-and-three-quarters-inch-long cork—the fewest of all the waiter’s-friend models we tested. Like all double-lever designs, this build uses a set of two fulcrums that helps you lift the cork more easily, but the Turbo’s mechanism is smoother and works better than other models’. The comfortable handle is covered in a grippy rubber, and it includes a built-in foil cutter.

The Best Budget Waiter’s-Friend Corkscrew: True Fabrications Truetap Double-Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew

Truetap’s opener needs five 360° rotations to fully drive the worm into the cork. At less than half the price of our winner (at the time of writing), the nearly all-metal Truetap feels durable and features a built-in foil cutter. The nonstick-coated worm glides easily into both natural and synthetic corks, which are then easy to pull out using the pair of fulcrums. Buyer beware: While the real deal doesn’t cost much, cheap knockoffs abound online.

The Best Twist Corkscrew: Brabantia Classic Corkscrew

If you find it difficult with many corkscrews to get the worm into the cork, the Brabantia will center it for you. Slip the tool on top of the bottle opening, press down, give the thumbwheel about six spins, and it’ll work the cork out fuss-free. The one-piece design includes a foil cutter, and, at about seven inches long, it won’t hog up space in the kitchen drawer.

The Best Lever Corkscrew: OXO SteeL Vertical Lever Corkscrew

Once the foil is off, the lever corkscrew is the fastest way to open a bottle of wine, requiring just two motions—push and pull. The OXO’s body has a comfortable pistol grip that includes a removable foil cutter, and a hefty, rubber-coated handle that’s easy to push and pull.

The Details

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Wine Opener

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The four main styles of corkscrews we tested: lever, twist, winged, and waiter's friend

The four main styles of corkscrews we tested, from left: lever, twist, winged, and waiter’s friend.

A good corkscrew should cover the basics. It should be easy to use, consistently pulling natural and synthetic corks from standard 750-milliliter wine bottles without leaving fragments behind. We prefer models that include a foil cutter, because that’s the first step in opening a bottle of wine.

While there are several styles of corkscrew out there—from high-tech designs that use carbon dioxide to push the cork free, to mechanical tabletop versions with massive handles better suited for those who have a dedicated wine cellar—we focused on the most popular corkscrews you’re likely to use at home. The four designs we looked at were the waiter’s friend, twist, lever, and winged.

  • The small waiter’s-friend corkscrew has a foldout worm and a swing-out leg with one or two fulcrums on it that provide the leverage to pull the cork. It’s a favorite among wine professionals because it’s small and compact enough to fit into a pocket, yet has all the tools you’ll need—foil cutter, corkscrew, and bottle opener—built right into it. You can use it on the tabletop or in midair, as a waiter at a restaurant does, but some practice is required before you’ll become deft with it.
  • The twist-style corkscrew sits on the bottleneck, perfectly centered, so the worm is positioned for you. After about a half dozen turns of the thumbwheel, the cork is out.
  • The chunky lever-style corkscrew is the fastest way to open a bottle of wine, but that ease comes at a price: It’s much larger than the other corkscrew styles, eating up significantly more drawer or counter space.
  • The winged corkscrew is a combination of the lever and twist styles. You turn a thumbwheel that’s connected to a central gear, and the opener sends the worm right down the middle of the cork. As you twist the thumbwheel, a pair of arms rotates upward, until they are nearly vertical. Push those arms back down, and up comes the cork.

We found versions we liked from all of the categories except for the winged type. Despite its popularity, reviewers complained that the design combines the worst of every other design: You have to twist a thumbwheel, just like with the twist-style corkscrews, but you also have the added step of pushing down the levers, à la the waiter’s friend, to remove the cork. Plus, none of the models we tested came packaged with a foil cutter, so either you’ll need an extra tool for that or you’ll be forced to chip and pry at the foil with the corkscrew’s worm, which rarely works well.

To select specific models to test, we cross-referenced reviews from Amazon, America’s Test Kitchen (subscription required), The Wirecutter, Food & Wine, and Good Housekeeping.

A Note About Counterfeits

While researching brands to test, we came across concerns about counterfeit versions of the popular Pulltap waiter’s-friend corkscrew, made by Barcelona-based Pulltex. The chrome Pulltap we tested was about $27, and we called the Maryland-based distributor before ordering to confirm its authenticity. Fake versions of the Pulltap are floating around Amazon for less than half the price, and often arrive without any markings on the corkscrew, or the proper packaging.

What caught us by surprise was a counterfeit version of another waiter’s-friend model—one that normally costs around $5. A fake
Truetap
made it to our office with no engravings, packaged only in a yellow bubble mailer. (We reordered a legitimate model for testing.) If the price seems too good to be true, it might be, so it’s a good idea to read comments left by buyers before handing over your cash.

The Testing

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Uncorking

Three stages of opening a bottle of wine with a waiter's-friend corkscrew: inserting worm, pulling with first fulcrum, pulling with second fulcrum

Regardless of the corkscrew style, a good opener has to be easy to use and consistent.

A good wine opener should make it easy to yank corks from standard 750-milliliter bottles without much fuss. With a re-corking tool on standby, we opened bottles of wine, then re-corked them using two sizes of both natural and synthetic corks. We lined up six testers, a mix of righties and lefties, with varying hand sizes and strengths. Testers took turns opening bottles with corkscrews, providing feedback on ease of use, comfort, and intuitiveness of design. After opening several bottles with each model, we eliminated ones that were uncomfortable or difficult to use. Then we pulled more corks with the remaining models, this time counting the number of 360° rotations required to fully bore into the cork.

With some practice, testers were able to open bottles with all of the waiter’s-friend models, but some were easier to work with than others. Most of these corkscrews require between five and six rotations to sink the worm completely, though our winning Trudeau does it in about three and a half because it has fewer spirals, spaced farther apart along the worm. Most of the waiter’s-friend corkscrews we tested, including both of our winners, are “double-hinged.” That design, which you’ll see on the tool’s packaging, means there are two fulcrum points that press against the neck of the bottle, lifting the cork out in two stages with less effort. We eliminated a Laguiole opener because, unlike the rest of the field, it has only one fulcrum position, making it harder to pull the cork. Our winners consistently grabbed onto all the bottles without slipping off, and pulled all the corks quickly. Testers gravitated toward models that were covered in comfortable, grippy rubber, like the Trudeau.

Using the Brabantia Classic Corkscrew to open a bottle of wine

If the waiter’s-friend style is too hard for you, twist corkscrews, like this one, are easier to use.

We tested a few models of twist-type corkscrews. These tools slip on top of the wine bottle and automatically position the worm just above the cork’s center; all you have to do is turn the thumbwheel. The designs ranged from a simple one-piece build, like our winning Brabantia, to a convoluted three-piece version from Le Creuset. While it takes six rotations to remove the cork with one of these openers, it’s easier to start than the waiter’s-friend design, since it takes care of centering the worm for you. Testers liked the Brabantia’s built-in foil cutter and found the large plastic thumbwheel comfortable to turn. This design makes a good compromise between speed, ease of use, and drawer-space occupancy.

Two stages of using the OXO lever corkscrew to open a bottle of wine: push down, then pull up

The lever corkscrew is the fastest way to open a bottle of wine.

The lever-style corkscrews were the largest models we tested by far, but also the easiest and fastest to use. These feature a handle that you push down, driving the worm into the cork, and then pull up to remove it. Both lever models we tested were a breeze to use, though the Rabbit’s worm failed to pull one of the corks out during our testing—the worm simply retracted on the upstroke, without gripping the cork. Though it was heavier, at just over one pound, our winning OXO SteeL Vertical Lever Corkscrew was more consistent. Testers remarked that between these two models, the OXO’s design was the more intuitive to use. What you sacrifice in style points by using a lever corkscrew, you gain in speed because (after the foil is off) it opens a bottle of wine in under three seconds. Both models come packaged with a foil cutter and a replacement worm, though the OXO has a clever design that stores the cutter onboard.

We tested four winged-style corkscrews, and, while each was easy enough to use, none were very comfortable. Quality was also inconsistent: Several winged corkscrews had loose and wobbly gears, while others had plastic parts that felt like they might snap if you twisted too much. In all cases, the winged corkscrews were clunky to use, and the wings themselves were uncomfortable to push down—plus, this style does not include a foil cutter.

None of the corkscrews we tested left behind cork fragments in the bottles. However, all the corks and wine bottles we tested with were relatively new, and not excessively dry or brittle.

Cutting Foil

Testing the two main styles of foil cutter that come with corkscrews: flip-out and rotary-style

A corkscrew that comes with a foil cutter means one fewer tool you need to keep track of.

While the act of uncorking a wine bottle gets a lot of the attention, you need to remove the foil cap on most bottles first. Cutting the foil is an often-overlooked part of the process, but it can be the most awkward step. Poorly cut foil leaves behind a messy, jagged edge on the metal around the bottleneck that can slice open fingers as you grip and turn.

After the initial uncorking testing narrowed the field by roughly half, we turned our attention to evaluating foil cutters for all the models that included them. For this test, we opened bottles of wine and gauged how easily and neatly the foil cutters worked. The cutters come in two varieties: A waiter’s-friend corkscrew is fitted with a flip-out serrated blade in the handle (similar to a penknife), while the rotary-style cutter that often comes with twist and lever corkscrews spins around the bottle with a small cutting wheel to score the foil.

We found that waiter’s-friend models with curved foil cutters, like our winning Trudeau, were easier to work with than versions with mostly flat blades. The curved blade acts almost like a mini tourné knife, which makes it easier to slide around the round bottleneck. The tip of the blade is also helpful for digging under the cut foil and peeling it back, exposing the cork.

The rotary cutters, on the other hand, are faster to use. The foil cutter on the Brabantia works with one rotation around the bottle, as the cutter is easy to keep in line while you spin it around the bottleneck. The OXO’s horseshoe-shaped rotary cutter needs about two rotations around the bottleneck, and, given a squeeze, the foil cap usually comes off.

How We Chose Our Winners

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We picked our winners based on ease of use, comfort, and their ability to cut foil cleanly.

The Best Waiter’s-Friend Corkscrew: Trudeau Turbo Double-Lever Corkscrew

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The Trudeau Turbo double-lever corkscrew, in both open and closed positions

What we liked: The Trudeau is comfortable, lightweight, and fast, and out of all the openers we tested, it required the fewest number of turns to sink the worm fully into the cork. The two-step fulcrum works consistently to lift the cork from the bottle without slipping off, and it did well with both synthetic and natural corks. The Trudeau automatically adjusts the dual fulcrums so you can pull the cork out cleanly, without gouging it. A foldout foil cutter that cuts cleanly and a beer-bottle opener are built into the handle.

What we didn’t like: Not much, though we wouldn’t mind seeing the whole body covered in the grippy rubber.

The Best Budget Waiter’s-Friend Corkscrew: True Fabrications Truetap Double-Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew

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The Truetap waiter's-friend corkscrew, in both closed and open positions

What we liked: For about the same price as a very inexpensive bottle of wine, you can own a Truetap, which feels solid enough to last a lifetime. The all-metal handle has curves that help make gripping and twisting the tool more comfortable. The worm is covered in a nonstick material, so it drives into both synthetic and natural corks easily. The Truetap requires about five turns to seat fully, and the fulcrums are a little stiffer than the ones on the Trudeau, so it’s slightly more difficult to use. Still, it worked on every bottle we tested. The included beer-bottle opener and foil knife work well, though the blade is not as curved as it is on the Trudeau.

What we didn’t like: The foldout arm, which doesn’t click into the open position, might loosen over time. A cheaply made counterfeit Truetap is, unfortunately, easy to buy online.

The Best Twist Corkscrew: Brabantia Classic Corkscrew

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The Brabantia Classic Corkscrew, our winning twist-style corkscrew

What we liked: If you find a waiter’s-friend corkscrew too difficult, but you don’t have the space to store a larger lever-type corkscrew, the Brabantia is a nice solution. This one-piece tool sits on top of the bottle. As you rotate the thumbwheel, the worm descends into the cork, eventually pulling it up and out. The Brabantia’s all-plastic body is comfortable to grip, and the large thumbwheel is easy to turn. A small cutting wheel built into the thumbwheel does a nice job of removing the foil.

What we didn’t like: We wish it included a beer-bottle opener.

The Best Lever Corkscrew: OXO SteeL Vertical Lever Corkscrew

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The OXO lever-style corkscrew and foil cutter

What we liked: The OXO worked on every bottle we tested. The two-step motion—push down, then pull up—yanks the cork out in under three seconds. Repeat the process again, and the cork comes free of the corkscrew. The foil cutter, which works well, clips into the body of the tool, meaning you have one fewer thing to store. Built for speed, this lever corkscrew is a good choice if you want bottles opened quickly and have room for storage.

What we didn’t like: Some testers found the OXO’s downstroke awkward, as the lever’s handle could bump into the wrist of the hand holding the tool. This model also does not include a beer-bottle opener.

The Competition

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A few quick notes on the other wine openers we tested:

Waiter’s-Friend Models

  • The Pulltap, ordered from a reputable source, works well, but it was the most expensive model we tested and, for the price, doesn’t dominate either of our winners.
  • The other Trudeau model is slower than our winner, because the worm requires more twists per inch.
  • The HiCoup and Barvivo look identical, and might come from the same factory. While handsome, with a hefty weight, they have the same flaw: It’s really easy to push the upper fulcrum into the cork, gouging the cork as it lifts out of the wine bottle.
  • The single-lever Laguiole works about as well as the design allows, but it’s slower than a double-fulcrum version of the waiter’s-friend corkscrew.
  • The grippy rubber coating on the handle of the Rabbit is very comfortable, and this tool works well, but the hinge that connects the fulcrums is stiff, and more attention is required to keep it from slipping off the bottleneck.
  • The OXO waiter’s friend won rave reviews from testers for both its comfortable handle and the foil knife, which is built into a shallow notch in the handle and does a great job of riding around the bottleneck. But this model fell just behind our winners when we tested how tightly it held to the bottle opening.

Twist Models

  • A pair of models from Le Creuset had drawbacks: The Original Table Model opener works in nearly the same way as our winning Brabantia, but it doesn’t include a foil cutter, comes in two pieces, and wasn’t as comfortable to use. The Pocket Wine Opener is a confusing setup of three pieces that requires assembly with each use.
  • The Vacu Vin Twister is a comfortable-to-use two-piece design that works well, but doesn’t include a foil cutter.

Lever Models

The other lever-style opener we tested, the Rabbit, earned high praise for being comfortable to work with, and it has a very good foil cutter, but the worm failed to pull one of the corks during testing.

Winged Models

We didn’t like any of the winged openers we tested. The metal versions from HiCoup, Precision Kitchenware, and WMF all worked well enough, but were uncomfortable to use. As the arms swing up on these models, your hand has less room to turn the thumbwheel. OXO’s version has rounded wings and a grippy thumbwheel that are more comfortable to work with, but the plastic gears feel cheap.