Sukari Bowman has three corkscrews in rotation, one of which she keeps in her purse.
“I carry it with me wherever I go,” says the Color of Wine podcast host. “It’s a regular waiter’s corkscrew that I’ve used for years. The only place I don’t take it is the airport because they’ll tell me to throw it out.”
Bowman likes its weight and hinge, and estimates it cost her about $20. “All I know is it opens up the bottles,” she says.
She also has a Coravin, which she bought at the onset of the pandemic, and a rather grand apparatus with a granite base that sits atop her bar cabinet.
Of the three, her $20 waiter’s corkscrew gets the most use.
“It all depends on how it fits in your life,” she says. “I’d rather just have the workhorse that feels good in your hand and gets you from point A to point B.”
Winemaker Maya Dalla Valle also uses a waiter’s corkscrew to open bottles at home.
“It’s easy to use, no fuss and gets the job done,” she says. “If I’m opening an older, more delicate bottle of wine, I’ll use a Durand.”
The latter is a $125 tool specially designed for “compromised and fragile corks,” according to the company website. If you tend to buy and drink aged bottles, a Durand could be worth the investment, Dalla Valle says.
Durand wine keys aren’t intended for use on non-cork closures, however, or on bottles with necks smaller than ¾ inch in diameter.
If you’re in the market for a new corkscrew, consider what sorts of wines you buy, plus when, where and how often you drink them. Everyone’s habits, bottles and budgets are different. Do you need a tool that opens as many bottles as quickly and cleanly as possible? Or do you want a bit of pageantry when you pop?
“I was very fortunate to be gifted it,” she says. Code 38 corkscrews start at $395.
Fern appreciates that it doesn’t have a serrated blade, so when she cuts foil off a bottle in the dining room, “it looks streamlined to the guest,” she says. This has practical benefits. “If you rip up that foil, oftentimes you’re going to cut your fingers off when you’re trying to open the wine,” she says.
Would you rather open as many bottles as quickly as possible? Or do you want a bit of pageantry when you pop?
It’s an investment in every sense, Fern says. She asks her colleagues in the kitchen to help her keep the blade sharp. In 2018, the helix broke, so she contacted the company.
“They sent me a new one,” she says. “They replace pieces on it, so it’s really the last corkscrew I’ll ever have.”
Shane Lopez, a wine consultant at Augustine and Melanie Wine Bars, has also noticed that the knives on pricier corkscrews tend to perform better over time. “They’re longer and slice easily through the thickest foil,” he says
He uses a basic, double-hinged corkscrew to open bottles at home and work, though. Lopez says he doesn’t want to have to chase down a treasured apparatus at the end of a busy shift, plus he finds no-frills corkscrews more adaptive.
“To me, it’s like breaking in a good pair of jeans,” he says, “maybe a little tight at first, but eventually when you break them in it feels just right.”
If you try out a basic waiter’s corkscrew and find it imprecise or unwieldy, however, then, by all means, upgrade to a fancier model.
“It’s a matter of preference on expensive corkscrews,” says Lopez.
Ramon Manglano, sommelier at The Musket Room, stresses the importance of finding a corkscrew that’s reliable and feels right in your hand. He uses a Coutale Sommelier Prestige with a spring-loaded double lever at work. The line starts at around $40.
“It’s sturdy, no frills,” says Manglano. “It definitely got a bit looser as I used it… but it also maintained enough of a stiffness that I don’t feel like it is ever going to lose a screw or go limp in the middle of service.”
Like Bowman, Manglano has a high-end corkscrew at home for special occasions.
“I almost never take it out except for personal events, or opening fun or expensive bottles of wine with friends,” he says.
It comes down to how you drink and serve wine, Bowman says. And, in the end, maybe there’s another accessory more deserving of your hard-earned cash.
“When I entertain, if I’m serving reds, I’ve probably already opened them before my guests arrive and I’m decanting them,” says Bowman. “That’s where you can get fancy. Get a really nice decanter, because that’s what your guests will see.”