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[Photo: Maggie Hoffman

Here at SE Drinks Headquarters, we open a lot of wine. A lot of wine. And I found myself, in the middle of tasting my way through all of the crus of Beaujolais, with a broken corkscrew, perhaps the most essential tool of the job.

As I dug through my drawers of crummy promotional corkscrews, I wondered: which is the best tool for this job? Which will really last? Which will leave me struggling and pulling and slipping and fighting to get the cork out of the bottle, and which will make bottle-opening easy? Which corkscrew is actually worth buying as a gift?

I headed over to Wine Enthuasiast's online shop and checked out the options, from a super-cheap plastic-handled waiter's style corkscrew to the fancy wood-handled 'elite' version. They sent me a few samples to test out, and my friend Vinny Eng came to my rescue (there was gamay to taste!) with the gift of a Truetap, which is the wine key he generally uses to open bottles at Bar Tartine.

The Cheapest Option: Plastic Waiter Style Corkscrew

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[Photo: Wine Enthusiast]

Can a five-dollar corkscrew do the job? Sure, technically. But this plastic-bodied waiter's style corkscrew feels cheap in your hand, and is rough at the edges. The large knife cuts through foil well, but the coil is quite short compared to the other corkscrews I tried, so it doesn't go very deep into the corks, and that makes it a bit trickier to get the lever to rest on the lip of the bottle. You can do better than this, folks, and you definitely shouldn't buy this as a gift.

Available online, $4.95

Solid Affordable Choice: Truetap Double Hinged Corkscrew

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[Photo: True Fabrications]

At $6, the Truetap is a much, much better choice. The knife is quite small, but it's easy to release and use (the Pulltap below had a knife that was a bit harder to open, but your mileage may vary.) The coil is thicker, longer, and less tightly-wound than the plastic corkscrew above, but it was coated with a black coating that has begun to rub off after opening only 10 bottles or so. I'm not sure how much the coating matters, since it's not going to touch any of the wine you drink. It's easy to use the Truetap, and the lever stays in place nicely.

Available online, $5.95

Sturdy But Pricey: Pulltap Double Hinged Corkscrew

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[Photo: Wine Enthusiast]

Pulltap 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. The coil is a little thicker than the Truetap, and so far the coating hasn't rubbed off. But I had some trouble getting the knife out of its slot. Once the foil was gone, though, this was the easiest-opening corkscrew of the waiter-style corkscrews I tried. Is it more than 3 times easier than the Truetap, though, to justify the price? I'm not certain about that.

Available online, $19.95

Fancy-Looking: West Storm Elite Two-Step Ratchet Corkscrew

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[Photo: Wine Enthusiast]

I gotta say, this is a gorgeous corkscrew. It feels the most giftable of the waiter-style options in terms of aesthetics, with its thick walnut handle and heavy lever. The foil-removing knife is huge and curved (it made me feel a bit like a pirate) and made for the cleanest foil-cut of the bunch. But the ribbed, very thick coil, is a bit of a struggle to turn into the cork, and it didn't feel as easy to rachet the cork out since the lever kept slipping off the bottle rim. All style, no substance?

Available online, $19.95


Waiter-style corkscrews are handy to keep in your pocket (if you're a waiter) or take on a picnic; they fit easily in drawers and they tend to last quite a while. But people like wine-opening toys to give as gifts, so I decided to try two higher-end corkscrews as well.

Easy Up and Down: Metrokane Lever-Style Rabbit

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[Photo: Wine Enthusiast]

You may get credit in certain crowds for being able to handle a traditional waiter's wine key with ease, but as a person who struggles with carpal tunnel (and opens lots of bottles) I'm really just looking for the easiest way out. And plenty of people at home are intimidated by the waiter's corkscrew and want an easier way. Is a Rabbit (Sex and the City jokes aside) the answer?

The Rabbit comes with a handy round foil cutter that has a concealed knife. You squeeze it around the top of the bottle, turning in a circular motion, and foil is cut away without any flailing knives or cut fingers. It's easy, clean, and safe...and I might start using it even if I'm opening a bottle with the waiter-style corkscrew.

To get the cork out using the Rabbit, you hold the side handles tight and raise the lever so that the corkscrew lowers into the cork. Then you pull that lever back down to draw the cork out of the bottle. There's no twisting or turning, but you do have to hold tightly, and it still takes a bit of strength. I'd say it's more foolproof than the waiter-style keys for beginners, but not worth the drawer space for anyone who has mastered the old fashioned kind of wine opener.

Available online, $50

Easiest of All: Wine Enthusiast Electric Push-Button Corkscrew

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[Photo: Wine Enthusiast]

Can we take all the effort out of opening wine? This is a pretty cool party trick, complete with bright blue light (it's not recommended that you turn the house lights off while you open bottles, but it would be pretty fun to watch.) This one comes with a foil cutter, too, and once the foil is removed, you hold the opener vertically over the bottlle. It's not recommended for use with synthetic corks—check out the cork once you've removed the foil and make sure it's not rubbery. Composite should be fine.

Press the down button, holding the bottle tight, and the blue light shines. The coil goes into the cork (there's a sort of scary moment where it feels like it's not going to latch in) and then draws the cork out of the bottle. There's absolutely no effort or muscle involved, which is kind of amazing. As cheesy as it is, I'd buy this as a gift for wine-loving friends and especially for someone with an arm or shoulder injury.

Available online, $30

Have you tried any of these corkscrews? Or do you have another favorite tool?

All corkscrews except the Truetap provided as samples for review.

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