We uncorked the mystery of what goes into a durable and dependable wine opener.
Published Mar. 1, 2014. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 16: Why Not Add Wine?
Until recently, we’d been uncorking bottles of wine with the Oggi Nautilus Corkscrew, a lever-style model that operates like a pump and makes the task effortless, even for novices. But when we noticed that this corkscrew wasn’t holding up—some copies in the test kitchen cracked even after moderate use—we decided to seek out a new, more durable favorite. Those criteria helped us narrow our focus to the type of corkscrew that wine professionals use day in and day out: the “waiter’s friend,” an ungimmicky style that is simple to use once you master the technique and slim enough to stow in a kitchen drawer. We rounded up five openers in a surprisingly broad price range: from about $13 all the way up to almost $230, the latter evidence that corkscrew manufacturers are trying to remarket this historically cheap tool as not just handy but also supremely engineered.
Fifteen cases of wine later, it was clear that more money didn’t buy a better opener. Two models fetching triple-digit prices lacked hinges on their fulcrum—the metal arm that swings out from the body and grips the lip of the bottle—which limited their leverage. The last-place model also had a sloped (instead of notched) ledge, so it constantly slipped off the bottle. And despite being made from surgical-grade stainless steel, the worm on another model was not attached well; it loosened slightly by the end of testing.
More user-friendly were the two corkscrews that featured ergonomically curved bodies and hinged fulcrums that made easy work of pulling the cork. Either is a solid addition to a bar collection, but what makes our winner worth the extra $25 is its Teflon-coated worm, which considerably reduced friction as we twisted.
If you’re looking for an easier way to open bottles, read our review of electric wine openers.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.