The Definitive Wine Bottle Opener Buying Guide
If you’ve seen the movie Sideways then you know that some people take wine very seriously. All the jokes aside, appreciating wine can actually be a very rewarding and pleasant experience. However, nothing ruins the experience more than a shoddy bottle opener. Don’t let your next tasting go bust because of a wine bottle opener malfunction. Check out this guide to help you sort through the various options out there and choose the best wine bottle opener for you.
A Word on Terminology
There are definitely a lot of different terms that get thrown around when it comes to wine, but you don’t need to worry about much of that when you’re looking at bottle openers. Some openers might claim to use a special process that can preserve the aroma or undertones of the wine, but for the most part that’s just meant to sell you the product. What you really need to focus on in the construction of the opener and how it actually opens the bottle.
Most of your time and effort is going to go into choosing the right operation method for your needs. You can boil openers down into two basic categories: manual and automatic. As you can imagine, a manual opener requires you to do most or all of the work to uncork the bottle, whereas an automatic opener does the work for you in one of several different ways. If you decide to choose an automatic opener, you might be looking at electric models, or models that use special compression cartridges to uncork the bottle. The latter can be very expensive, both initially and to restock the cartridges, as well as cumbersome to use or move.
Manual wine openers are going to come in a huge variety of styles, but they don’t require a power source or any special components to operate. Choosing between these models comes down to how much you want to spend and how much effort you want to put into each opening. A waiter’s corkscrew opener is very common, but involves leveraging the cork out of the bottle. From here, you can choose more manual openers that require you to literally pull the cork out yourself, or use a lever system to pry the cork out with less effort.
Synthetic vs Natural Corks
The type of cork in the bottle you plan on opening also plays a major role in choosing the right wine opener, as some models are not compatible with synthetic corks. Traditional corks are made out of tree bark while synthetic corks use a plastic composite that offers several benefits to the environment, manufacturers, and consumers. If you know that you are going to be drinking a type wine that uses a synthetic cork, you need to choose an opener that is specifically rated to function with them. Otherwise, you run the risk of breaking the cork during the opening and causing bits of it to fall into the wine. At worst this renders the wine undrinkable, or at least means you would need to strain the bottle to sort out the debris.
Alternatively, if you know that you only drink wines that use natural corks, then you don’t have to seek out a special model; nearly every opener is designed to function with this cork style. Still, buying an opener that doesn’t work with synthetic corks will limit the future flexibility of the opener. If you receive a bottle with a synthetic cork as a gift, or a guest brings one over to enjoy, then you simply won’t be able to use that opener with that bottle.
The presence of a foil cutter built into an opener isn’t completely necessary but can save you a considerable amount of time and effort. Most bottles of wine place a foil cover over the cork to protect it, and the cutter allows you to remove this without having to struggle to tear it with your fingers or use a larger and more unwieldy cutting implement.
On most manual openers you’re typically going to find either a serrated or straight edge knife-style cutter that usually folds out from the handle. Some models may build the cutter into the opener, but this is less common. Another possibility is that the manufacturer might include a separate cutter with the opener, which you will need to track and store separately from the actual opener.
Safety should always be a top concern when looking at wine bottle openers, especially since the actual process of uncorking a bottle can be quite tricky, no matter how much wine you’ve been drinking beforehand. Automatic openers with an electric power source are generally the safest option, because they fully enclose the corkscrew with protective plastic and don’t require any manual effort at any point. As long as you make sure to keep the opener level over the cork, you just need to push a button and the device does the rest.
If you’re not interested in an automatic wine opener, then you’ll need to pay attention to a few different points on the manual openers you consider. First of all, check to make sure that any extra components don’t get in the way of your use of the device. For example, if you’re using a waiter’s corkscrew opener with a fold-out foil cutter on the handle, the blade or tip of the cutter should be completely covered so that you don’t accidentally cut yourself while you use the device.
The debate between automatic and manual wine bottle openers is a vast one, but there is one basic factor to consider when trying to choose between the two – the power source. Most automatic wine openers require you to have some form of external power source to power the internal motor. Some models simply plug into the wall and are completely stationary, while others are portable and use an internal battery to power the motor. In either case, you need to have access to electricity to use these openers, making them rather impractical to take with you to some locations.
If you plan to take your wine opener to different places or use it in an area where you don’t have easy access to an electrical outlet, then you are going to want to choose a manual opener. Of course, even if you don’t plan on traveling with your wine opener, you can always benefit from having a manual opener as a backup. It can definitely come in handy in the event of a power outage or malfunction in your automatic opener.
After you take all of the functional aspects of wine bottle openers into consideration, you need to make sure you also think about the actual look of the device. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how easy an opener is to use if I don’t like to look at it. Drinking wine should be a holistically enjoyable process, which means that you should have a wine opener that matches your personal aesthetic, along with being easy to use, so that you can truly appreciate every moment of the process.