What Makes a Good Corkscrew

This is really about basics. The basic things you want to look for in a corkscrew, sometimes called a “wine key.” We’ll leave discussion of the different types of openers (double lever, gas, battery-powered, Rabbit) for another day. That’s because the corkscrew is the most compact and easy-to-stow-in-a-handy-place wine opener available. When you’re entertaining or cooking and need a bottle open now, it should be right there, ready to go. The term “wine key” most likely comes from the time of its patent application in the U.S. in 1883, when it was referred to as the “C.F.A. WIENKE LEVER CORKSCREW.”

 

Does it really matter? I mean, doesn’t most any corkscrew work? Well, yes, they do. But when you get a tight cork or maybe don’t have ample strength, it can be a struggle. And who wants to look like they don’t know how to open a bottle of wine in front of guests? Especially when a proper corkscrew will make the job much faster and easier.

 

It’s not about how much you spend. We’ll look at several examples of corkscrews and I’ll explain why.

 

What To Look For

  1. A large coated worm (the screw that goes into the cork)
  2. A double-reach bootlever (the metal lever that notches onto the edge of the bottle)

A double-reach boot lever, with two notches to ease cork extraction

Large Coated Worm

Most worms will be larger, but be sure yours is. Also, look for a coating on the worm, not bare metal. The non-stick coating will help you twist the worm into the cork more easily, especially if it’s a denser, man-made cork and not a natural one. The large screw ensures that you get a good bite on natural cork, which can dry a bit depending on storage and the age of the bottle. You do not want to deal with cork fragments in your bottle.

Double-Reach Boot Lever

This is the most important part. The double-reach boot lever has two notches to help you lever the cork out of the bottle much more easily. Here’s why.

 

You want to screw the worm into the bottle almost the whole way. When you do that with a single-reach boot lever, it can be hard to fit the end of the boot lever onto the edge of the bottle. Many times, you’ll end up unscrewing it a bit to fit the notch on the bottle. Then when you pull, the angle makes it tough to get leverage, so you have to pull harder. And since the worm is not the whole way into the cork, most likely the cork will not be fully extracted. Sometimes you can just muscle it off, but with a tough cork, you’ll have to screw the worm the rest of the way into the cork, then lever again to complete the extraction – not so elegant.

 

The double-reach boot lever solves that problem. You simply insert the worm fully into the cork, then fit the first notch onto the edge of the bottle and pull. The leverage is better, making it easier, and the cork will be partially extracted. Then simply extend the second notch to the edge of the bottle and pull to complete the extraction. Much easier. Double-reach boot lever corkscrews can be purchased for under $5, so you don’t have to pay a lot of money to get one. Of course you can pay more if you want to up the aesthetics.

Example of what you don’t want: a single-reach boot lever corkscrew with an uncoated worm

Corkscrews can be works of art and enhance your wine experience. But if you do plan to spend more for a corkscrew, be sure to look for the double-reach boot lever – not all have it.

Example of an expensive French corkscrew with a single-reach boot lever

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