Aside from finding an absolute gem — perhaps a patented English-made screw pull dating back to the 1800s purchased at an antique shop — it’s best to examine what corkscrews are most useful and readily available. The products listed below are widely sold at many winery and wine retail shops.
($3 – $40)
Pros: The most basic device available.
Cons: Very minimal. Ninety-nine percent don’t have a blade/foil cutter or bottle opener. Unless done gently, an irritating “pop” sound might be taken as gun fire by your guests.
Rating: Use in case of emergency.
Pros: The hinged lever takes pressure off extracting the cork. The lever can also operate as a bottle opener.
Cons: If not used properly, the lever can chip glass from the bottle’s neck. Cutting the foil must also be mastered or else you might as well keep using the T-shaped model with a separate foil cutter.
Rating: Basic and practical.
($5 – $8)
Pros: This tool can be useful in retrieving sunken corks and extracting older corks that may be unstable and break apart when you use a worm. And, if you reverse the extraction method, you can put corks back into the bottle.
Cons: Another opener that requires getting used to. Patience is certainly required. Also, doesn’t work well with synthetic corks.
Rating: A problem solver.
Pros: Pocket size and very practical. To quote the Oxford Companion to Wine, Second Edition (1999), “Life without a foil cutter is quite feasible; living without one after being introduced to it is not.”
Rating: Hot, very hot.
($5 – $10)
Pros: Simple. The circular base around the worm helps center the screw.
Cons: Usually doesn’t have a blade/foil cutter. You also have to manually unscrew the cork after it’s been extracted. It’s common that this is forgotten until you either have to put the tool away or open another bottle.
We’re talking high end! Some more high-tech than others. Springs, levers, crank wheels, clamps and Teflon-coated worms — all working together as one. Yes, baby, yes! Very streamlined. There are a number of models. The Le Creuset Screwpull is a hand-held version. Others mount to walls, counters, etc.
Pros: Great for trade purposes. They’re the most efficient style of corkscrew for opening a slew of bottles. They extract the cork quickly and then remove it by clamping the grip together and pulling up the lever. We’re talking a done deal in under 10 seconds!
Cons: Must use a separate foil cutter. Some need adapters for flanged bottles.
Rating: Presents (to yourself, perhaps). Touch me, feel me, use me!
Pros: Alleviates strain on the wrist. Works well with synthetic corks. Foil cutter is definitely “cutting edge.”
Cons: Takes a little getting used to.
Rating: Very “jet-set” modern. Experimental.