Types of Corkscrews
Corks slowly became the most prominent bottle stoppers during a long three-hundred-year period between 1600 and the early 1900s. And with cork, came many types of corkscrews.
With the cork becoming a standard closure, wine lovers developed several cork-pulling devices, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Although we don’t know for sure who invented the first cork-pulling gadget, we DO know that the first 17th-century models certainly had a helical screw or worm. The invention was often called a bottlescrew.
Time passed, and people devised an immense range of corkscrew models. Today, though, only some prevail. Here’s how to open a bottle six ways.
The Timeless Screw Pull
A handle is vital to hold the device steady. It can be as simple as a piece of wood or as sophisticated as a stainless steel ergonomic handle. As you turn the handle, the perpendicular worm penetrates the cork, and with a strong pull, the cork pops.
Although a classic device, the screw pull has plenty of disadvantages. Some corks are unwilling to yield, and old corks will break when facing such brute force.
You will spill wine more often than not. If you’re not careful, you might give yourself a black eye. This is our least favorite of all the ways to open a bottle of wine.
Wine Key vs Corkscrew
There are many types of corkscrews. However, the screw pull (aka wine key) is not always considered to be one of them. Some critics say that there are three essential parts of a corkscrew: Handle, worm, and lever. A wine key lacks the lever.
A simple device comprising a handle and two parallel metallic prongs that fit in the tight space between the cork and the inside of the bottle’s neck is, for many, the finest cork puller on the market.
This classy tool allows the user to remove the cork without damaging it, which is immensely appreciated by collectors who keep the stopper as a token.
The two-pronged cork puller is also ideal for removing old, crumbly corks without damaging them or contaminating the wine with residue, so it’s a must in every sommelier’s pocket, even if it’s seldom used.
A more advanced model includes a helical screw that supports the prongs for a more secure pull. If you are considering becoming a sommelier, you must have one of these in your toolkit.
The waiter’s friend or two-step corkscrew is the single best tool for the sommelier trade. It is one of the most important types of corkscrews.
Created in 1882 by the inventor Carl Wienke, this corkscrew looks like a pocket knife. It conceals the screw and a blade, protecting the pocket’s integrity during a long shift.
Two hundred years later, the waiter’s friend is the most reliable corkscrew on earth, and you can find one for two dollars or a few thousand. Nevertheless, the concept behind every one of them is the same.
We designed our own waiter’s corkscrew, which we use at the Wine School. Our personal favorite way to open a bottle of wine. For the professional, this is the best corkscrew.
How to Use a Waiter’s Corkscrew
The device uses a rudimentary lever, allowing the user to pull the handle while lifting the worm (and the cork) slowly and steadily within one or two controlled steps.
The winged corkscrew is a crowd-pleaser. A coiled screw concealed within the device’s body pulls up even the most stubborn corks with ease. It is one of the most common types of corkscrews found in homes across America.
As you turn the handle, a set of gears pushes the worm towards the cork lifting a pair of wings in the opposite direction. Once the wings are wide open, one must only push them gently to retrieve the cork.
Incredibly effective, these types of corkscrews have little portability, making them best suited for having in one’s kitchen drawer rather than in a restaurant scenario.
This corkscrew can be beautifully ornamented, from a classic style to ultra-modern, making them fun collectibles.
The winged corkscrew is a crowd-pleaser. A coiled screw concealed within the device’s body pulls up even the most stubborn corks with ease. As you turn the handle, a set of gears pushes the worm towards the cork lifting a pair of wings in the opposite direction. Once the wings are wide open, one must only push them gently to retrieve the cork.
Incredibly effective, this corkscrew has little portability, making it best suited for having it in one’s kitchen drawer rather than in a restaurant scenario. This corkscrew can be beautifully ornamented, from a classic style to ultra-modern, making them fun collectibles.
However, these types of corkscrews are not used by wine professionals.
The lever-style or rabbit corkscrew takes the winged corkscrew’s engineering to another level. One of the newest types of corkscrews, developed in the late 20th Century.
The device has a gripping handle that adjusts to the bottle’s neck, and with a swift up-down movement, the cork is gripped and pulled in the blink of an eye.
Although a beautiful collector’s piece and a flashy appliance, the lever corkscrew has little use in professional scenarios but might be appropriate for wine drinkers with movement disabilities as its leverage power can help anyone remove a stuck cork.
This is an effortless way to open a wine bottle. And big props to its inventor. Sadly, many sommeliers turn their noses up at this type of corkscrew. Bottom line: a great tool for wine 101 enthusiasts, but if you want to look like a pro when you open a bottle of wine, opt for something else.
More Wine Openers
Automatic Wine Openers
Automatic wine openers work like magic. Set it in place and press a button, as simple as that.
The battery-powered electric corkscrew might be a technological breakthrough, but not a much-needed one. The device’s patent was filed in 2001, and after twenty years, the model has become fancier but not much more useful.
These types of corkscrews are no longer commonly available but are a good choice for people with arthritis.
Although it does as promised, you won’t see electric wine openers in restaurants soon, and you surely don’t need one at home unless you share your flat with an elderly roommate who will very much appreciate the wine opener’s comfortable advantage.
Coravin, The Anti-Corkscrew
What types of corkscrews don’t involve removing corks? This one! A real revolution in bottle-opening technology came with the invention of the Coravin in 2011.
More than a wine opener, this is a Wine Preservation System. A surgical needle pierces the cork and injects a sterile gas to force the wine to pour out of the device by pure pressure.
Once the needle is removed, the cork’s natural elasticity seals the entrance, protecting the wine from its most feared enemy — oxygen.
With Coravin, one can serve a glass of wine or even a two-ounce pour while leaving the remaining wine untouched. This has allowed wine lovers to enjoy their collection of bottles for weeks instead of hours and restaurants to serve age-worthy wines by the glass.
The National Wine School recommends using a coravin when taking online wine courses.
Collecting Various Types of Corkscrews
For professional wine service, you’re probably better off with a waiter’s friend for everyday use, a two-prong puller for old bottles, and a Coravin to serve contemplative bottles by the glass.
Other than that, if you’re looking for a wine opener to have around your house, have fun! There are plenty of types to choose from. For wine openers, the more creative, the better. There are tons of exciting models out there, and as long as they do the job, they’re okay.
Remember, wine might be a contemplative beverage, but it’s also fun, so build your corkscrew collection and bring it out whenever you have company. After all, wine is about sharing, and sharing your passion for wine is part of it all.
As a wee lad, I learned “how to open wine bottle without corkscrew”. It wasn’t pretty or efficient, but it did work. If you remove the foil, you can pound on the bottom of the bottle with a shoe, and eventually the cork will pop out. If you don’t break the bottle first, that is.