Opening cork bottles

We visited opening screw tops last week. This week: traditional corks.

Wine aficionados can argue about corkscrews well into third bottles.

My choice: double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew (also called “waiter’s friend”). Inexpensive, almost indestructible; be sure to get one with hinges. It is opener of choice at wine bars and restaurants because it works so well.

Second choice: wire twist corkscrews such as Screwpull. You rotate wire screw (the “worm”), cork climbs up worm as you rotate. Downside: often divot of cork goes into wine when tip of the worm penetrates through the cork; very tight corks can break cheaper versions of the device.

Close third: Rabbit lever corkscrew. Worm plunges into cork in down motion of lever; cork extracted in one pull on up motion. Hand-held and table-mounted versions available. Downside: pricey.

Wing-style? Wrong in many ways. Thick screw mangles cork, which it seldom fully extracts. Tool will break, guaranteed, at least opportune time. Re-gift yours next Christmas.

Gimmick extractors? Electric corkscrews, gas/needle cork devices. Please, save your money.

Device with two thin metal prongs of uneven length called an “Ah-So” would be better named the “Oh-No.”

This writer’s extraction arsenal? Waiter’s friend. Screwpull worm (not the whole device) is backup for times cork fails—the worm works well snagging remains of flawed cork still in bottle.

Parting advice: If host is opening wine from their collection for you to enjoy, praise their tool and technique whatever it is. Never express your opinion until they open and pour the last bottle.


• Picos del Montgó Tempranillo 2009. Tempranillo+10% syrah; plum, grape, cherry, chocolate, earthy finish; works with Tex-Mex, solid value. $9

• Noble Vines 446 Chardonnay 2010. Apple, pineapple, apricot; clean-crisp acidity, creamy-silky-medium body; easy toasty oak; nice value. $11

• Bogle Phantom 2007. Big berries, fierce spice, plum, tobacco, pepper, cedar, aggressive red fruits; full mouth; not for faint of palate. $20