Although you can spend plenty of money on a gadgety wine opener, every wine expert we spoke to prefers a simple, double-hinged corkscrew. We especially like True Fabrications’ Truetap. Yes, it’s a knockoff of the Pulltap’s—the corkscrew most recommended by experts—but in our tests, we found that it is similar in handling, one of the least expensive models we tried, and solidly built, and unlike the Pulltap’s, it can be shipped from a reliable, local source. And unlike wing corkscrews, it’s compact and slim, which means you can buy a couple and keep extras in your desk, glove compartment, or backyard—so you’re always ready to open up a bottle.
If you can’t find the Truetap, go with OXO’s Steel Double Lever Waiter’s Corkscrew. It works the same way as our main pick, but shows OXO’s style. Though it’s few dollars more expensive, it at least comes from a well-known company and isn’t a knockoff being sold by someone claiming to be a different company.
For those with grip issues, or those looking for an opener that can handle multiple bottles without tiring out your hand, we recommend the Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener. In our tests, this rechargeable electric opener worked faster and just as easily as one that cost twice as much, and its slender profile makes it easier for smaller hands to use.
Starting at about $7 apiece, the Truetap is an affordable upgrade if you don’t like the wine opener you have now. It’s small, light, and easy to use, and it feels totally sturdy.
If you have only ever tried lever-assisted wine openers and want something that is faster and easier on the hands than a waiter’s corkscrew, our tests showed that electric openers are much easier to use. We recommend upgrading to the Oster Electric.
There are many different styles of corkscrews, ranging from a simple “wing,” where the worm (the metal helix that is driven into the cork) runs perpendicular to a wood handle, to electronic beasts that do all the work for you at the push of a button. Depending on the style, one can spend anywhere from a few bucks to hundreds. We found that $10 or less is all that’s necessary.
As James Beard-nominated sommelier Michael McCaulley, wine director and partner at Philadelphia’s Tria, told us, you can think of a wine opener like a hammer. Sure, there are nail guns, but if you’re just driving one nail, they’re not really necessary. The same goes for Electric Wine Bottle Openers. You just need something that’ll get corks out easily and that will last.
To figure out the best options, we spoke to a number of wine servers and sommeliers— people who open bottle after bottle, night after night, among other experts. “You want a corkscrew that is easy to use and takes up as little space as possible. You also want ones that are made well and aren’t too expensive,” said Michael Madrigale, head sommelier for Michelin-star chef Daniel Boulud’s Bar Boulud, Epicerie Boulud, and Boulud Sud. “For home use, simple is best,” Ray Isle, Food & Wine’s executive wine editor, agreed. “I still prefer a waiter’s corkscrew to anything else,” he told us.
“I really believe that a wine key is something quite personal. For me, the best style is the classic waiter’s corkscrew … I think that this kind of model gives a person the greatest amount of control when opening a bottle. It’s sort of like the ‘stick shift’ of wine keys. No professional driver wants an automatic,” said Jordan Salcito, wine director of David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group and formerly of Eleven Madison Park, where she was part of a James Beard Award-winning beverage team. She told us that one should look for “a wine key that fits easily in (his or her) hand, has a long, sharp, knife capable of cutting a clean edge, and can extract long corks cleanly.”
Waiter’s corkscrews go by many different names: sommelier knife, waiter’s friend, and wine key among them. Their primary function, as with any corkscrew, is to remove the corks from bottles of wine, of course, but they generally have a small blade for removing the foil, as well as a bottle opener for popping the top off a beer. They’re often quite small, with the Pulltap’s style folding down to about 5 inches long and less than half an inch wide.
“Double-hinged” refers to the metal lever that folds out from the body of the corkscrew and sits against the mouth of the bottle. There are actually two steps; you first lift from the lip in the middle, and then, once the lever has reached its apex, the one at the end. You might also see this style referred to as a double lever. Single-hinged/levered options are out there too, but they don’t offer as much leverage and therefore require more yanking. With the double-hinged style, the cork comes right out.
Again and again, the experts told us Pulltap’s is the way to go. Tria’s McCaulley told us, “For everyday purposes we recommend a double-hinged Pulltap’s … Often times when you buy a corkscrew without a double hinge, especially if you’re inexperienced, you break corks very easily.” Asked why he specifically likes this model, he said, “It’s very light…it has a nice sharp blade, and it has a ridge to the blade, and the ridge really cuts through the foil really well. It has a thin worm that is made of strong metal.”
Jill Zimorski, wine director at the Hotel Jerome and formerly of Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt in Frederick, MD, agreed. “For non-wine professionals, a simple $10 Pulltap’s model with the double-action hinge is perfectly appropriate and acceptable. The Pulltap’s is good because it’s sturdy (I’ve had some for years and years), effective, and inexpensive. What more could you want? And if you want flair, then you can order a colored one. There are also some slightly fancy versions (chrome and such) if desired.”
However, with knockoffs rampant and high shipping fees on those shipped directly from the Barcelona-based Pulltap’s, we set out to find the Pulltap’s design from a reliable source. In total, we tested these eight models: True Fabrications’ Truetap, The Wine Enthusiast’s Pulltap’s Double-Hinged Waiters Corkscrew, another Wine Enthusiast Pulltap’s with the same name but from a different vendor , Pulltap’s Double-Hinged Waiters Corkscrew, OXO’s Good Grips Waiter’s Corkscrew, the OXO Steel Double Lever Waiter’s Corkscrew, the PullParrot, and Innovation Coutale’s Sommelier.
We tested each corkscrew by, well, opening bottles of wine. Not surprisingly, they all worked exactly the same. We found the process to be even easier than we expected, and had the process down after the first bottle. None of the openers fell apart, and none broke the cork. The double hinge makes a big difference by providing so much leverage.
For this year’s update, we also wanted to find a good option for those with hand strength issues. Previously we had recommended Metrokane’s Rabbit Vertical Lever Style Corkscrew, but we wanted to test it against some of the different assistive openers available now. We conducted an additional 7.5 hours of research on Amazon and sites including AbleData, the National Public Website on Assistive Technology, and Wine Folly, and ended up with a list of 21 options. These are intended to make it easier to open a bottle of wine for those who may have difficulty doing so with a more traditional corkscrew for any number of reasons. This list includes some electric options, others that use a lever system, and even one that removes corks using pressurized gas.
We eliminated the majority based on ease of use but also considered size and price. For testing, we narrowed this list down to five corkscrews: Cork Pops’ Legacy ($25), Metrokane’s Rabbit Vertical Lever Style Corkscrew ($45), Oster’s Electric Wine Bottle Opener ($19), Ozeri’s Nouveaux II Electric Wine Bottle Opener ($20), and Waring Pro’s WO50B Cordless Wine Opener ($35).
We tested each assistive wine opener with the same brand of synthetic-corked wine. Although we prefer simply pulling the foil off rather than cutting it, we did test the foil cutters each of the openers came with. I opened a bottle following the manufacturer’s instructions, and then the test was repeated by a left-handed assistant with hand strength issues. We compared notes afterwards and were able to come to an easy consensus.
After testing the assistive openers, we still agree with our experts that most people will be happiest with a simple manual corkscrew as they’re easy to use, portable, and easy to store.
True Fabrications offers an alternative to the Pulltap’s called Truetap, and we feel the most comfortable recommending it as an easily accessible option. While it’s a knockoff of the style—really, identical save for the name engraved in the hinge—it’s a high quality option with all the same benefits. Because they’re so similar, all the input from the experts we spoke to still applies.
When asked what the difference between the models was, True Fabrications’ Lindsey Wilcox told us, “The Pulltap’s and Truetap are essentially the same product. We produce the Truetap, allowing us to pass along a better price to our customer as well as more color variety. Aside from the lower prices and color variety, there is no difference.” Holding them side by side, we found this to be totally true. A Truetap looks and feels just like a Pulltap’s, but is consistently available for less than $10 on Amazon. It’s also great that True Fabrications stands behind its products with a complete lifetime guarantee. If something breaks, the company “will take it back and offer a replacement or refund, no questions asked.”
Even though there were no discernible differences between the various double-hinged waiter’s corkscrews we tested, we think it makes sense to spend just a few dollars more to buy something from an actual company with a standalone website and people you can talk to rather than from a fly-by-night third party on Amazon.
Although we find the Truetap to be an easy-to-use, portable, and inexpensive corkscrew, it’s not for everyone. It does require a degree of physical strength and dexterity that some people may not possess. If that’s the case, consider the Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener we discuss below.
Others may not be thrilled with purchasing what’s perceived as a knock-off product, but it is the best value for the dollar.
The Truetap hasn’t had any stock issues since we published this guide, but if you can’t find it, we recommend OXO’s Steel Double Lever Waiter’s Corkscrew. Usually retailing for around $15, it competes with Truetap in every way. The general structure is the same, but the look and feel are both more premium. It also has a slightly different lever design, bottle cap opener, and blade design. While it’s functionally the same, the bottle opener and blade are better; the double lever works as well as Truetap’s.
It’s also slightly larger than Truetap in all dimensions and heavier by 44 grams, which lends it a pleasantly heavy feel in the hand. As far as build goes, if you’ve used OXO products before, the steel body and matte rubber handle will be very familiar.
Rather than the smooth motion that Truetap offers when you open and close it, the metal lever on this one clicks into place when compacted or extended. It won’t change positions unless you want it to. The double-lever arrangement helps in removing longer corks, as you can get leverage from two positions. It works just as well as Truetap, which is to say, very smoothly. There’s little to no difference in how good they are at removing corks.
The foil-cutting blade is rounded rather than straight and serrated, making for a smoother cut along head of the bottle, and the beer bottle opener at the other end is another nice bonus. With two lifting arms, compared to one on the Truetap, you can open a bottle either underhand or overhand, whichever is more comfortable.
We put the OXO into our wine-opening rotation, and it continues to work well.
The best assistive wine opener for most people is Oster’s Electric Wine Bottle Opener. It quickly and easily removes the cork from a bottle of wine, runs off a rechargeable battery, and has a narrower diameter than the next-best model, making it easier for those with small hands to hold. The motor showed no signs of strain, and even the foil cutter was the best we tested. It’s also the least expensive model we tested.
The Electric Wine Bottle Opener is a 10.75-inch-long, 2.25-inch-diameter plastic tube and comes with a plastic charging base that holds it upright and stores the foil cutter. Oster says the wine opener’s battery will last for 30 bottles before it has to be recharged, but there’s really no reason not to return it to the base after each use.
Using the Electric Wine Bottle Opener couldn’t be easier. You simply center the bottom opening on top of the cork and press the button with your thumb while holding the bottle with your other hand. Once the corkscrew catches, it’ll drive its way down, at which point an internal mechanism will begin to push against the neck of the bottle, lifting the cork. Within about 6 or 7 seconds, the cork will have been removed from the bottle. You’ll feel it release and maybe even hear a small pop. Simply press the up button for a few more seconds to force the cork out and, well, that’s that.
The Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener costs half as much as Cook’s Illustrated’s top pick, the Waring, and is in fact the least expensive of the assistive openers we tested. It’s also lighter, a quarter-inch thinner, and faster than the Waring. We couldn’t see any reason to choose any of the more expensive models we tested over this one.
We’re not the only ones to like Oster’s opener. It’s the top-selling item in the electric wine opener category on Amazon. Of the 2,370 customers who’ve reviewed it, 1,652 have left five-star ratings and it has an average of 4.3 stars. Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required, and encouraged) offers its recommendation, saying, “This opener removed corks effectively, yet it was significantly louder than the others.” We didn’t find the sound output problematic at all. We measured it at about 74 decibels from a distance of 11 inches, a little quieter than a power drill and just a few dB louder than the Waring Pro.
Oster offers a 1-year limited warranty on its Electric Wine Bottle Opener.
Of the manual corkscrews, the $10 Pulltap’s got the most mentions from experts. In a New York Times article about the Code38, the paper’s wine critic Eric Asimov called Pulltap’s his “standby home corkscrew.” Cook’s Illustrated picked the Pulltap’s as its top choice. Consumer Reports tested a number of electronic corkscrews, but included a few manual models in the mix, calling Pulltap’s “one worth trying.” Maggie Hoffman is the drinks editor for Serious Eats, and has also pitted wine openers against each other to find the best. “Pulltap’s is a go-to brand for wine folks, and I can see why. The construction feels sturdy, the lever is solid, and the knife is sharp.”
So it sounds pretty straightforward, right? Pick up a Pulltap’s, and you’re all set. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Pulltex claims its Pulltap’s to be the progenitor of the style. “We have designed the first double lever corkscrew, called Pulltap’s,” said Matías Martínez Romegialli, the company’s assistant sales export representative. “Unfortunately for us, there are countless knockoff brands around the world.” A quick search on Amazon shows this to be true, with dozens of models that claim to be the real thing. This wouldn’t be so bad if Pulltex sold directly in the US, but the Barcelona-based company’s website adds exorbitant shipping fees. It’s hard to actually find a Pulltap’s that you know is a Pulltap’s, at least in the States.
We ordered three of the models that advertised themselves as authentic Pulltap’s from Amazon in addition to the True Fabrications’ Truetap. Of the trio purchased from Amazon, which ranged in price from $2 to $10, one came with no logo etched into the metal arm, one came with the Pulltap’s name and the phrase “Patent,” and the other took weeks to arrive from China. When it did, it also said “Pulltap’s,” but wasn’t better than the other models we tried. The Truetap from True Fabrications was identical to the Pulltap’s-engraved models from Amazon. It’s hard to say if any were authentic for sure though, because none of them came in Pulltex or Pulltap’s packaging. While they all look pretty much the same, small differences in the details of the no-name model make it feel cheaper.
While Pulltex’s Pulltap’s is the major name brand when it comes to waiter’s corkscrews, there are many others. They range from no-name companies to more premium sellers. Laguiole’s Waiter’s Corkscrew is $20, while the handmade options from Code38 start at more than $200. These options are nice but not necessary for most wine drinkers. They merely add flair, not functionality.
A few new manual corkscrews have popped up since we originally published, and we pitted them against the Truetap to see if they offer a better experience. Both are variations on the traditional Pulltap’s-style design. The Pullparrot ($12) has two key features that make it a little different. The first is the knobs on either side of the cutting blade, which make it easy to flip the knife out with just a thumb. For a waiter who has to open bottles quickly, this could be a great feature, but we’ve been happy following Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice and simply pulling the foil off rather than cutting it. Either way, for many people at home, this won’t be a huge advantage. The other difference is how the double lever works. The inner step isn’t fixed but rather is spring-loaded. It must be pushed in to be used, which adds a level of complexity to something that works fine without it. This is a good option, but doesn’t beat our top choice.
Then there’s the Innovation Coutale Sommelier ($10). It also has an improved cutting tool: When you open the lever, the knife automatically closes. We like the idea, but our review model was slightly off-center, meaning the blade would miss its mark. A nudge got it back on track, but it would still be askew about half the time. As for the lever, this one is double-hinged but actually more difficult to use. A tab at the far end of the lever must be pushed in towards the bottle to activate the first lever. If you don’t hold it the right way, the lever slips right off of the mouth of the bottle. Hold it right and this won’t be an issue, but we suspect many people will make this mistake at least a few times. It’s a nice-looking opener, but one with a frustrating design.
OXO’s Good Grips Waiter’s Corkscrew is pretty nice for $10, but it only has a single hinge.
Of the assistive wine openers, we preferred the electric models to the mechanical favorite from last year.
Waring Pro’s WO50B Cordless Wine Opener ($35) is a pretty good alternative if the Oster pick isn’t available. It’s very similar but is a step down in a few ways. The setup is essentially the same, with a baton that fits into a charging dock. With this one, the actual opener is slightly taller at 11 inches high and about 2.5 inches around at the thickest point. It’s also 1.7 ounces heavier than the Oster. The foil cutter is actually exactly the same; it looks like the two companies are sourcing that accessory from the same manufacturer. The WO50B comes with a vacuum-pump wine saver, which is not a method we recommend for preserving wine; we don’t think it adds value.
The WO50B works the same way as the Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener, although it took a few seconds longer at 8.5 seconds. I found it to be a totally smooth process, as did my testing assistant. She did note, however, that the wider diameter might be problematic for those with smaller hands. One advantage to this one is the longer-running battery, which is supposed to last for 60 bottles. Again, it’ll take a long time for people to hit this wall, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have more power.
The third electric opener we tried was Ozeri’s Nouveaux II Electric Wine Bottle Opener ($20). This one also houses a rechargeable battery, but there’s no charging dock. Instead, the included charger plugs directly into the back of the opener, which actually allows it to take up less table space. It’s not as easy to use as the Oster and Waring, though. We found it somewhat difficult to get the corkscrew to catch the cork. Once it did, the engine really sounded like it was straining, much more so than in either of the other openers we tested. It took about 14 seconds to remove a cork, which is double the amount of time of our pick. It’s not a bad opener, but it doesn’t stand up to the Oster or Waring Pro. A Wirecutter staffer told us she had independently purchased this opener in the past, and it stopped working after 6 months.
The $45 Metrokane Rabbit Vertical Lever Style Corkscrew is the most expensive of the openers we tested, which is somewhat surprising considering that it’s purely mechanical, with no electrical elements. It uses a handle that acts as a lever; you start with it raised, lower it over the cork, and lift it back up again before lowering it one more time to remove the cork. I found it took a lot of strength to raise the lever once the corkscrew was in the cork, and so did my second tester. For the size and complexity of this one, you don’t really get any real benefits compared to a standard double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew.
The craziest opener we tested was Cork Pops’ Legacy ($23). The smallest tool of the bunch, it’s a plastic housing on top of a long needle, with a canister of compressed air. To open a bottle, you push the needle through the cork and then push down on the canister, which forces air into the bottle, the pressure of which helps to remove the cork. During the first attempt to use it, we were shocked by just how quickly the cork popped out and how much wine splattered on us and the inside of the tool. There wasn’t as much of a mess the next time, but the somewhat-explosive force made us concerned about using this one. One Amazon reviewer reported a bottle breaking from the pressure (there’s even a warning on the package about this). In addition, you need to replace the CO2 cartridge when it runs out (after about 60 bottles of wine). We can’t recommend this one.
When you’re ready to open a bottle, we found the method suggested by Gary Vaynerchuk, the founder of Wine Library, to be about as easy as can be. First, he shows that you can simply pull the foil off the bottle, rather than cutting it. Then, place the worm in the center of the cork, and, rather than turning the opener, turn the bottle to start the drive. Once the worm is in, turn the corkscrew the rest of the way—about five rotations total. Then use the mechanics of the lever to lift it, and your vino is ready to go. If it seems hard, don’t worry. “Opening a bottle is a relatively simple procedure and gets easier with practice; if you’re not very good at it, you clearly should be drinking more wine,” said Hotel Jerome’s Zimorski.
Ultimately, waiter’s corkscrews are great, and the True Fabrications’ Truetap is at the top of the pile. We wish it were easier to recommend Pulltap’s, as Pulltex deserves credit for originating the look and feel. The Truetap is simply going to be easier for most people to get their hands on, and it’s a high-quality product in its own right. For a zero-effort wine bottle opener, we recommend the $20 rechargeable Oster Electric Wine Bottle Opener.
Originally published: June 10, 2013