Given wine’s history, you’d think best way to pull cork was long-ago solved. Not so.
Hundreds insist they make the better opener—with prices from a buck to well north of $100. General categories:
• Waiter’s friend. Worm twists into cork; two-stage hinged lever pulls cork out. Pro: simple, dependable, choice of professionals, low cost. Con: requires some practice, muscle on tight corks.
• Continuous turners. Cork climbs thin worm you rotate until cork is free. Pro: often affordable, easy to use. Con: often dislodges cork divot into wine when worm pierces bottom of cork; plastic handle breaks if you are careless working with tight cork.
• Rabbit. “Rabbit ears” clamp bottle, lever pushes worm into cork, reverses to pull cork. Pro: quick, easy. Con: expensive, can be difficult to free cork from worm, durability issues.
• Uncorking machines. Typically, worm/lever mounted on table/bar. Pro: fast, easy to use. Con: large, fixed in one place, expensive.
• Winged lever. Thick worm twists into cork, raising two levers; pressure on levers pulls cork. Pro: usually cheap. Con: mangles cork, difficult with synthetic corks, durability issues; pros ridicule these.
• “Ah-So”—two thin metal prongs of uneven length. You work prongs between cork and bottle, carefully twist to lift cork. Pro: consider for delicate or damaged corks. Con: slow, baffles beginners who shove entire cork into the bottle creating a pain in the glass.
• Gas openers. Insert needle, inject gas to eject cork. Pro: flashy gimmick. Con: needle insertion difficult; gas charges expensive; use incorrectly, bottle explodes and sends glass shards cutting into you and your guests, bumming out your party.
• Turning Leaf California Chardonnay 2011. Crisp, straightforward apple, pineapple, pear, lemon; nice acidity, oak whisper; creamy balance. $7
• Jacob’s Creek South Eastern Australia Shiraz 2010. Berry, dry cherry; very simple, light; no wow, but price makes it OK 2nd-3rd bottle buy. $8
• Purple Cowboy Tenacious Red 2011. Cab-syrah-merlot; deep purple, very jammy, plum, blackberry, cherry cola; light tannin, fast finish. $13
Last round: You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy wine. That is sort of the same thing.