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Traditionally, wine comes in a glass bottle, the open end of which is sealed by a piece of cork tree bark shaped into a cylinder about a three quarters of an inch in diameter and up to two inches long. Because of this unique seal, corkscrews are the tool of choice for opening wine. There are a variety of types of corkscrews, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Simple corkscrews have a sharpened, coiled wire, called a worm, which screws into the cork when twisting the bar into which worm is embedded. Once the corkscrew is firmly set into the cork. brute force pulls the cork up and out of the bottle. This type can be of ordinary plastic or have an extremely elaborate and decorative handle. One of the most popular styles uses a several inch long portion of a vine branch, and many of these are commemorative.
  • Waiter or wine steward corkscrews are the most common and least expensive. They derive their name from their frequent association with restaurant waiters and rely on simple leverage against the rim of the bottle to pull the cork out. They consist of a worm, to dig into the cork, an extending arm to provide a lifting point against the bottle, and a foil knife, much like a small pocket knife, to cut the foil capsule that normally protects the cork and decorates the top of the bottle. Make sure the worm is an open coil wide enough to receive a paper match head and close to two inches long so that you can get a good grip on stubborn or deteriorating corks. This simple design makes it readily adaptable to small and large bottles, where the increased diameter of the neck of the bottle and its cork may be too large for corkscrews that slip over the neck of the bottle. It's ideal for taking along on picnics or travel (though not by plane).
  • Winged corkscrews have a housing that sits on top of the bottle, a worm that twists into the cork, and two arms that rise as the worm works into the cork. Pushing down on the raised wings employs the advantages of a lever to pull the cork from the bottle. Because of the increase in strength provided by the levers, winged corkscrews can make it easier to extract tight corks. Look for models with a coil rather than an augur style worm because the solid augur is harder to drive into the cork and does it far more damage, which may lead to more cork residue in the wine or may destroy a fragile old cork.
  • Screwpull is a brand name corkscrew that popularized the innovative lining of the worm with a slick coating that greatly eases the insertion of the worm into the cork and a plastic harness that drops over the top of the bottle for sure footing. The corkscrew works by continuous turning of the worm so that it first penetrates, then lifts out the cork by rotation, and employs the mechanical advantage of the screw to gently, but firmly, extract the cork. No one with more than a passing interest in wine should be without one.
  • Rabbit corkscrews earned their name from their appearance. The corkscrew has two arms, which look like rabbit ears, that work like pliers to close a tight grip on the neck of the bottle. A third lever then drives the worm and extracts the cork. Because of the firmness of the grip and long lever used to pull the cork, these corkscrews can make short work of bottles that stymie any of the other corkscrews.

    Rabbits are for serious collectors that uncork a lot of bottles and come in either hand held or wall and table (or bar) mount versions.

An alternative to these five types of traditional corkscrews is the cork puller.

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