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A Look at Wine Openers (Part 1)

Breaking a wine cork could be one of the most frustrating things in the world for a wine lover. A perfectly good wine that will have cork droppings after a cork is removed is also tantamount to a major crime. Yet we encounter this quite often at home as well as in restaurants where wait-staffs struggle to open wines with their different wine openers. While drinking wine is relaxing, opening wine could be stressful to many. I think it is about time we take a more serious look at the different kinds of wine openers and see how each one functions in removing the cork that protects and preserves our wines.

 

Six Different Kinds of Wine Openers

1. The Winged Corkscrew a.k.a. Butterfly Corkscrew

The Winged Corkscrew – the cheapest, most readily available, though unreliable wine opener.

This is probably the most common opener you will see in restaurants, supermarkets and liquor shops here in the country. All of these winged corkscrews are made in China and cheaply available at between P150.00 to P200.00.

I really despise this opener as it is by far the most unreliable of all cork pullers. First, there is no sharp blade or knife in this corkscrew, so removing the foil of the bottle is already a challenge. Then the “screw part” or spiral bit is too coarse and more often than not, tears the cork apart. After the screw enters the cork, the butterfly wings go up in synchronized form, then you have to push both the wings down to release the cork. It may look aesthetically nice, but this opener sucks.

 

2. The Waiter’s Friend Corkscrew

My opener of choice, the Waiter's Friend, including my prized possession, the Laguiole corkscrew.

To me, any self-respecting wine person needs to have this waiter’s friend as his basic wine opener. Other openers can be part of a wine accessory collection. There are several models for this type of opener, but my favorite will be the double-lever version. This type of waiter’s friend allows the cork to be pulled out in two steps, leveraging each lift to avoid cracking the whole cork as the wine is being opened. There is still no guarantee of not breaking a cork with this opener, but the more you use, the more you will be adept to it.

The waiter’s friend is not very expensive, but if you long for the “Rolls-Royce” of waiter’s friend corkscrews, there is the French made Laguiole corkscrew. The Laguiole corkscrew is made in Auvergne, France, hand-crafted individually by artisans like an expensive Swiss watch, and uses traditional craftsmanship dating back to 1829. The Laguiole costs more than many premium wines, and is easily between P5,000.00 to P10,000.00 per corkscrew.

 

3. The `Ah-So’ a.k.a. Two-Prong Cork Puller

The Ah-So Cork Puller - the opener that keeps the cork in pristine condition.

This is a German engineered wine opener, using two unequal steel prongs to pull the cork out. The concept is to insert the two prongs in between the cork and the bottle, and then to twist and pull the cork until the cork slides out. I am not a huge fan of this opener in general, but for old vintage wines that will have brittle corks, the Ah-So is by far the best opener to get the entire cork out. This opener can also rescue corks that break into half inside the bottle by pulling out the remaining cork piece better than other openers that tend to further shred the rest of the cork. Sadly though, this opener can be used by dishonest wine traders for substituting the actual wine content from its bottle, as the opener can leave no trace, nor hole on the original cork when being opened nor closed.

We will continue with the last three kinds of wine openers in our next column.

For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, and other wine related concerns, please e-mail me at [email protected] I am a proud member of the Federation Internationale des Journalists et Ecrivains du Vin et des Spiritueux or FIJEV since 2010. You can also follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/sherwinlao.

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