How to Use a Wine Opener: Detailed Instructions for 6 Different Corkscrews
Got a few wine openers in your kitchen but no idea how to use them?
At Wine Turtle we’ve tried most varieties and are here to give you the breakdown of each one – from how to use each kind of wine opener, which are worth purchasing, and important things you should know.
Whether you want to use an electric corkscrew or wine key we’ll give you everything you need to know, including tips, tricks and a video to show you how it’s done.
Just select the wine opener you're looking to use below...
Rabbit Style Wine Openers
When it comes to sheer ease of use rabbit style wine openers are probably the way to go. With their sturdy design, beautiful presentation, and ease of use, they are the easiest wine openers to use. Yes, even easier than electric openers (we’ll get to that later).
How to Use a Rabbit Wine Opener
Rabbit style wine openers consist of a clamp that goes around the bottle and a lever that controls the worm or spiral. To use a rabbit style wine opener follow three simple steps:
- Position the lever so that the worm is up and clamp the handles around the neck of the bottle.
- Move the lever up, the worm will penetrate the cork, and then down, the cork will be extracted
- Clamp the cork (which is impaled on the worm) and move the lever up and down again to remove the cork from the worm
It’s that easy! And it works every time. The worms, or spirals, are generally coated with Teflon or another non stick material and a good wine opener will come with a replacement spiral for when it starts to be more difficult to use. Most come with a foil cutter, or have one built into the clamps.
Rabbit wine openers are a little more expensive but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and you get quick, easy extraction every time. With the additional foil cutter and worm, you’re essentially getting two openers for the cost of one and they are often packaged beautifully so they make a nice gift or look good on your bar.
Tips For Using A Rabbit Style Wine Opener
- Make sure to fully extend the lever allowing it to reset. Otherwise you will end up pushing the cork down into the bottle (and ending up with a wine stain on your kitchen ceiling)
- Pay attention to the ease with which the worm inserts into the cork. If it starts to get very difficult, replace the worm!
- Always read the directions that comes with your device – each will have brand and model specific tips and tricks!
Wine Key or Waiter’s Friend Style Wine Openers
The wine key or waiter’s Friend style wine opener is often seen in the industry. From bars and restaurants to tasting rooms at vineyards, this is the tool most commonly used by staff. And while it’s not the easiest to learn how to use, once you can use it it adds a certain panache to your wine-opening routine.
How to Use a Wine Key or Waiter's Friend Style Wine Opener
These openers have two parts, a spiral and a boot lever. Most have an attached blade, either serrated or smooth, for cutting the foil. If they don’t you can use a foil cutter or the tip of the spiral, although we don’t recommend that. First, using the tip of the spiral rarely cuts cleanly and second, it dulls the tip. But in a pinch, go ahead. To use a waiter’s friend style wine opener:
- Twist the spiral into the cork six and a half times – this should leave only one curl showing.
- Engage the top lever to begin extraction and then the bottom to finish extraction. You can use a twisting or rocking motion to remove the cork if the bottom is still in after using the levers.
- Twist the cork off the waiter’s key and enjoy.
Some waiter’s friend wine openers have a longer spiral to assist with extra long corks. Others only require five turns – be sure to read the instructions!
Tips for Opening Wine Using a Waiter’s Friend or Wine Key Wine Opener
- Practice makes perfect – this is a tricky method. You may not get it on the first try but with a little practice you’ll eventually look like a sommelier when opening bottle after bottle.
- Be sure to insert the tip of the spiral slightly off center. Imagine the circumference of the curls are a straw and center it that way – if you center the tip you’ll have trouble upon extraction.
- Always completely fold in the knife before inserting the corkscrew to avoid injury to your hand. Some waiter’s friends come with a knife that automatically folds in when the lever and worm are folded out.
- Be sure to read the enclosure to learn how many twists your wine opener requires.
Ah-So, Butler’s Thief, or Two Pronged Wine Opener
This wine opener looks a little intimidating – how on earth could those two, flat prongs get a cork out? Most wine experts and wine lovers consider this their go to opener, though, so it’s worth trying out.
How to Use a Two Pronged Wine Opener
The Ah-So is simple in design. It works on cork and synthetic corks and is the perfect tool for opening a bottle with a brittle cork. No matter what your first preference for opener is, you should keep one of these on hand for those! To open a bottle of wine using an Ah-So:
- Insert the longer of the two prongs into the bottle so it lies between the cork and the inside bottle wall. Wiggle it down a little.
- Insert the other prong the same way, across from the long prong.
- Use a rocking motion to get the prongs as far down as they will go – the underside of the handle should kiss the bottle.
- Twist and pull until the cork is out.
The Ah-So does not leave a puncture in the cork and that is part of the story of why it is sometimes called a “Butler’s Thief”.
The story goes that many butlers would use these to dip into the better bottle’s in the master of the house’s collection and replace it with the lesser wine – there was no proof because it leaves no trace (well, except for that cut foil!).
Check out the different types of wine grapes in our guide.
Tips for Opening Wine Using an Ah-So Wine Opener
- Do not insert the long prong too much before getting the second one in – you don’t want to have to bend the shorter prong.
- Use your hand toward the end to pull the cork out so that it doesn’t fall on the floor.
- Don’t splurge – no matter the price, these wine openers work the same!
Traditional or Winged Corkscrew
If you like the look of a traditional corkscrew or don’t want to invest in a different tool right now, we’ve got you covered. These are not difficult to use or a bad wine opener to have, but there are definitely easier options out there.
How to Use a Winged Corkscrew
These corkscrews have a long spiral, two levers, and a ring that fits atop the bottle. To use a winged corkscrew to open wine:
- After cutting the foil (new versions will have one right at the bottom) place the round opening where the bottom of the worm is over the cork. The levers will be in the down position.
- Turn the handle until the levers come all the way up. Press down and they will remove the cork. Twist the cork off of the spiral.
It’s good to know how to use these corkscrews because you will find them everywhere.
Tips for Using a Winged Corkscrew
- If the cork seems to move into the bottle instead of allowing the spiral to penetrate it, it’s time for a new wine opener.
When you’re on the go sometimes you have to make do with what you have. And, sometimes you don’t want to bring your good corkscrew on the go. The tiny investment in a travel corkscrew will pay huge returns.
How to Use a Travel Corkscrew
These corkscrews have two parts – a sheath covering the spiral (doubles as a handle), and the spiral itself. When not in use, it is about the size and width of a highlighting marker or shorter Sharpie. To use a travel wine opener:
- Remove the sheath and put it through the hole at the top of the spiral. One end is more narrow – don’t force it or you risk getting it stuck.
- Twist the spiral all the way into the cork.
- Place the bottle between your knees and pull the cork out slowly and evenly.
- Pull the sheath out of the hole and cover up the spiral again.
These corkscrews can be purchased for as little as a dollar in gift shops, wine and liquor stores, and online.
Tips for Using a Travel Corkscrew
- These will last a while, especially if you take care to pull the cork out straight – a vertical pull puts the least stress on the cork, bottle and opener. But if you notice the spiral getting loose or the plastic cracking, it’s time to think about buying a backup.
- Always remember that the spiral’s tip should not be exactly centered before insertion – imagine the spiral is a straw and use that to center it.
The Electric Wine Opener
Electric wine openers are available in a variety of styles – from corded to rechargeable – and quality levels. They take up a great deal of room but depending on the style can look very sleek and even complement the decor of a more modern kitchen. They are excellent for those with limited strength in their hands or arthritis.
The Basics of Using an Electric Wine Opener
Electric Wine Openers automate the process of wine cork removal using their tube shape and hidden spiral. They require a little bit of work but are generally pretty easy when you can find a good one. To use an electric wine opener:
- Cut the foil and then place the open end of the tube-shaped device over the top of the bottle. Press down firmly while grasping the bottle with your other hand. Make sure everything is straight.
- Press the button and do not allow either the tool or the bottle to rotate – you’ll end up with a gnarled cork in a closed bottle of wine.
- Remove the cork.
One of the gripes we have with electric wine openers is that many do not clearly advertise whether they work on synthetic corks, or if they require pulling/pushing/twisting on the user’s end.
Tips for Using An Electric Wine Opener
- Be sure to read everything about, especially the reviews of, any electric wine openers you’re considering. You should buy one that works on cork, synthetic cork and extra long corks, has one button for insertion that transfers to extraction, and that has a mechanism for extracting the cork from the spiral.
- Keep everything lined up to avoid mishaps.
- Hold both the opener and the bottle firmly to make sure that the cork is penetrated and extracted with out problem.
Now that you know how to use a wine opener, the most important part of selecting a wine opener is choosing one you’re comfortable using and that provides consistent results. Just bookmark this page for when you’re ready to learn how to add another to your arsenal!
What opener is your go to? Do you use more than one?