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Expert tips on how to open a wine bottle with a wine opener in 2021

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le creuset waiters corkscrew with a cork attached next to a bottle of white wine on a table how to open a bottle of wine 2021

The easiest way to open a wine bottle is with a tool like a waiter's corkscrew or electric opener.
Here are tips for how to open a bottle of wine and what to do if you don't have a corkscrew.
See more: The best wine openers and corkscrews we tested in 2021
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Opening a corked bottle of wine shouldn't be too difficult if you have the right tools on hand.

While it's technically possible to remove the cork from a wine bottle without a wine opener, you'll save a lot of time and energy by investing in one, be it a waiter's corkscrew, winged corkscrew, lever corkscrew, or electric opener.

Below are the step-by-step processes for how to use each of these tools to open your bottle of red, white, or rosé, taken from our experience testing the best wine openers of 2021 and the expert insights of sommeliers and winemakers.

And if you find yourself in a situation where you can't use any of the recommended tools, we also share some more creative solutions to uncork your wine bottle without a corkscrew.

Lastly, don't forget to remove the foil before you start taking out the cork. Most wine openers should come with a foil cutter.

How to open a wine bottle with a waiter’s corkscrew

hand holding a wood waiter’s corkscrew and pulling the cork out of a bottle of wine to demonstrate how to open a wine bottle with a waiter’s corkscrew 2021

“The classic double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew [also known as a wine key] is the gold standard that people should master. It’s probably one of the most common types in the wine world,” said Peter Mondavi, Jr., co-proprietor of Charles Krug Winery. Other wine experts agree: a waiter’s corkscrew is reliable, easy to master, and the most compact option to open a bottle of wine. 

The best waiter’s corkscrews are double hinged. They have a foil cutter and handle on one side, a screw in the middle, and two notched pieces on the other side. 

To use it, open up both sides of the opener so it looks like a “T” and insert the screw into the center of the cork. Make sure it’s twisted into the cork all the way to the top of the screw. Bring the side with the notched pieces down toward the bottle and hook the upper piece on the lip of the bottle. This gives you the leverage to bring the cork out by pulling the handle on the other side upwards. The cork should now be halfway out. Move and hook the bottom piece on the lip of the bottle, and continue pulling the handle to completely remove the cork.

Pro tip: “Though not very graceful, [this method is] functional for a very stubborn cork: Place the bottle on the ground between your feet. Firmly hold the neck of the bottle down and pull straight up on the corkscrew handle. Once the cork is broken loose, you can bring it up to the table to finish the job,” said Mondavi, Jr.

Shop the best waiter’s corkscrews we tested in 2021:Waiter’s Friend Corkscrew (small)Double-Hinged Corkscrew (small)
How to open a wine bottle with a wing corkscrew

black winged corkscrew inserted into a wine bottle to demonstrate how to open a wine bottle with a winged corkscrew 2021

A winged corkscrew has a wing on each side along with a top handle connected to a screw in the middle. 

To use it, insert the screw into the middle of the cork and twist the handle to push the screw all the way in. Hold the bottom of the corkscrew as you twist the screw in, so your bottle doesn’t go flying. While you’re twisting the screw in, the wings will lift up.Hold and push down the wings at the same time to remove the cork.

Pro tip: Move slowly when you push the wings down. If you’re working with a stubborn cork, you can break your winged corkscrew if you’re moving too quickly.

Shop the best winged corkscrews we tested in 2021:Gourmet Winged Corkscrew (small)Good Grips Winged Corkscrew with Removable Foil Cutter (small)
How to open a wine bottle with a lever corkscrew

hand gripping the handle of a lever corkscrew on top of a table to demonstrate how to open a wine bottle with a lever corkscrew 2021

A lever corkscrew has a lever on one side and is a bit clunkier than waiter’s keys and winged corkscrews. 

To use it, twist the screw into the middle of the cork.Squeeze the bottom of the opener and pull the lever upwards to remove the cork.

Pro tip: We don’t recommend a lever corkscrew if you like being able to see that the cork has been removed. Its cylindrical design covers the entire bottle opening, so it can be hard to tell at a glance if you’ve successfully removed the cork. In addition, wine experts generally don’t like lever corkscrews because they take up a lot of space and tend to not come with foil cutters. (Our best pick below is an exception and comes with a foil cutter)

Shop the best lever corkscrews we tested in 2021:Vertical Lever Corkscrew (small)
How to open a wine bottle with an electric corkscrew

electric wine opener next to a bottle of charles shaw white wine to demonstrate how to open a wine bottle with an electric corkscrew 2021

Electric corkscrews make it really easy to remove a cork by doing all the work for you. The downsides are that they need to be charged and take up a lot of space.  

To use it, position it directly over the center of the cork. The controls may vary depending on the specific electric opener you get. Generally, there is an up and a down button. Press and hold the down button and the opener will insert the screw into the cork and remove the cork. Hold the bottle as the opener operates, so it won’t go flying.Press the up button and it will push the cork off the screw.Shop the best electric corkscrews we tested in 2021:Electric Wine Opener (small)Cordless Electric Wine Bottle Opener with Foil Cutter (small)
How to open a wine bottle with an Ah-So wine opener

two prong ah so opener in a wine bottle with a gray background to demonstrate how to open an old vintage wine bottle 2021

Old or vintage corks require extra care and delicate handling. “If you suspect from the start that you are working with a tricky cork, I’d go straight to the Ah-So opener. You may want to keep a decanter close by just in case you encounter a bit of crumbling along the way,” said Katie Griesbeck, the vice president of sales and marketing at Cakebread Cellars

To use it, wiggle the longer prong of the opener between the cork and lip of the bottle.Then wiggle the shorter prong in on the other side.Twist the handle slowly to remove the cork. Shop the best Ah-So wine openers we recommend in 2021:Westmark Steel Two Prong Cork Puller (small)
How to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew or wine opener

hand holding a house key at the top of a wine bottle cork to demonstrate how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew 2021

It’s heartbreaking when you want to open a bottle of wine but realize you don’t have a corkscrew on you. Here are 6 easy, creative ways to get the cork out with common household items. Warning: things could get messy, and you may lose a bit of wine depending on which method you use.

 With a screw, screwdriver, and hammerUse the screwdriver to twist a long screw into the cork. Leave about an inch of the screw outside of the cork. With the back of the hammer, pull out the screw, and the cork along with it. With a house key or serrated knifeInsert the house key or serrated knife into the cork at a 45-degree angle. Now twist the house key or knife to remove the cork. A knife may be more comfortable to hold since it has a handle. With a wooden spoon (or any long and sturdy object) If you don’t mind pushing the cork into the bottle, you can use the handle of any long object to push the cork inside. 

Pro tip: This method works best with newer corks that won’t crumble once pushed in. If there are any small cork bits floating in your bottle, pour your wine over a mesh strainer to catch the pieces.  

With a bike pump (or any air pump with a needle) Insert the needle of the pump all the way through the cork until it reaches the space between the bottom of the cork and the wine. Pump the bottle with air to force the cork up and out. Only pump until enough of the cork is out for you to pull it with your fingers. You don’t want the cork to explode. With a lighterUse the flame of a lighter at the neck of the bottle, where there’s an air gap between the bottom of the cork and the wine. Rotate the bottle slowly as you heat it so the heat is distributed evenly and you don’t shatter the glass. Continue heating it until the cork lifts out and you can pull out the rest with your fingers. With a flat-soled shoe Place the bottom of the bottle in the shoe, where you’d normally put your heel. Hold the bottom of the shoe against a wall, with the bottle parallel to the ground. Tap the wall with the shoe and bottle together and keep striking until the cork comes out.

Pro tip: The shoe should have a rigid sole, with not too much cushioning.

Read our full guide to how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew for more detailed information on each of the methods above.
Check out our other wine-related buying guides

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