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Nov 2, 2009 11:52 AM

Why do so many corkscrews suck?

I used to be into high ceremony and flashy accessories when it came to opening wine.

When having guests over, I would proudly walk over to my laminated box full of glitzy accessories and conduct the ritual that I thought ’serious’ wine drinkers should perform — you know, the foil cutter, an antique wine funnel and my Rabbit corkscrew.

I junked all but one of these wine openers due to serious design flaws. Due to serious design flaws, I junked all but one of these wine openers.

Honestly, I chose all of my wine accessories for form over function, thinking function was pretty much the same. One night, this strategy really bit me in the ass. My suave wine opening attempts failed miserably three times in a row. And with each successive gaffe, I earned an increasing amount of laughter from my friends — the exact opposite response I was trying to elicit!

This comedy of errors ended with my Rabbit exploding into bits, ejecting a metal spring into one guest’s risotto while leaving the screw still in the cork! At that point, one of my guests started impersonating Elmer Fudd in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, singing “kill the wabbit…Kill The Wabbit….KILL THE WABBIT…”

Once all the hoots and howls subsided, I still had the issue of opening the bottle with the screw lodged in the cork. Luckily, I had a small pair of vice grips in the garage to bail me out.

Fast forward to the next morning. While trying to put my Rabbit back together, I realized that this wasn’t the first time my glitzy wine accessories had failed me.

At that point, I decided to hit the reset button on my collection and buy a whole new set of accessories. If something had failed on more than once occasion, I junked it…ergo, 2/3 of my accessories collection was gone including a Rabbit, a large mounted brass opener and a French Laguiole.

My new go-to set of tools:

* A $0.69 sieve to replace my $200 antique wine filter. I found the sieve at a dollar store. It completely outperformed the antique filter, which had large holes instead of fine mesh. I sold the antique on eBay and bought more wine.
* A Pulltap Waiter’s Corkscrew, which replaces EVERYTHING ELSE. Yes, the sturdy and perfectly functional Pulltap (image right), found in the pocket of most wine-serving waiters walking around restaurants today. This thing works like a dream, and you can buy it for a song ($4-6). I gave away the other dozen wine openers to Goodwill.

Out of curiosity, I’d love to know where you guys stand on wine accessories. How many do you have? Does function follow form? Why?

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  1. I have never had a problem with the deluxe rabbit. One thing about storing them is put them back in their casing each time.

    2 Replies
    1. re: redmeatfan

      I have a drawer full of various types. But always fall back to my Lagioule waiter's style. And while I feel cooler using it, I can't argue that anything makes it far superior to the $5 grocery store version of the same device. I have a rabbit equivalent that generally annoys me and takes up too much space, and jams the drawer when it opens the wrong way (learn from my mistake and see hint above about saving its casing).

      1. re: redmeatfan

        I've never seen a rabbit explode. I have, however, seen one push a loose cork into a bottle with such force that the wine gushed up around it and literally hit the ceiling, leading to the hasty bringing out of a stepladder in the middle of a dinner party before the red wine stained the ceiling for good.

        I agree, a hinged waiter's-style (mine is actually a modern-design version of the classic with a lovely curve to it) is all you'll ever need to last you a lifetime.

      2. You can't touch a waiter's double-hinged key. There is nothing better, in my opinion.

        I admit to a habit of collecting ridiculously overpriced Riedel decanters, which don't out perform the cheapies.

        1. I use a Screwpull waiter corkscrew, have used the same one for years. Love it. I also have a generic magnum decanter that I got from a restaurant supply and a vacuum wine saver that I received as a gift - I hardly use it though, since we generally drink our bottles quickly.

          1 Reply
          1. re: annapurna7

            I've never had any problem with my Rabbit, but know people who have. I much prefer a waiter lever screwpull, but alway make sure it is functional (good size screw, two levels of ridges for the bottle) before buying it for what it looks like.

          2. My tools of the trade :

            1) a common waiter's two-step corkscrew ( $10, if you want to splurge )

            2) an ah-so, also called "key" wine opener ( picture attached ).
            This one is invaluable with rotten and/or very old corks.
            ($4.75 for the plastic version, which is the one I use )

            3) Drip-stopper foils.
            Infinitely reusable, I take them everywhere.
            It's amazing how many waiters see it for the first time when I pull one of those little discs.
            The prices in the link below are inflated, they usually cost about $1 a pc. in any wine store.

            4) Foil cutter? What's that? I just pull the damned thing out, it plays absolutely no role.

            2 Replies
            1. re: RicRios

              I have used many different types, the double handle from Italy worked for years until the body delaminated, now it's for display. the cheap double handles are junk and a machined screw often pulls not the cork but the center out. I've also used double pronged ah-so for years and they work well for cheap or old deteriorating corks. My favorite is the simple $6 two step waiter's Pulltap. My son got us a Rabbit for Christmas, so I need to use it when they come over. $200 for a corkscrew, gimme a break.

              1. re: RicRios

                Personally, I like the single-action "waiter's friend" with the silicone coated screw better, but that is just me. Even with longer corks, I have never had an issue. I travel wih one in each checked bag.

                I also travel with an Ah-so in each bag, for the reasons that you mention, plus Dbl-magnum corks.

                Along with these, I generally have a free, monogramed foil cutter, which gets replaced about every 5 winery visits, a Vac-u-vin with a handful of stoppers.

                I had not thought about the foils, but see your wisdom. Next trip to Williams-Sonoma, or similar...


              2. All - I gotta say it's refreshing to see that most responders are using inexpensive wine tools, where form follows function. I expected a bunch more advocates of them silly Rabbits. :-)