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Though some quick and dirty ways to get a bottle open might seem to be more efficient, using a proper tool with a corkscrew is the safest and cleanest method.
If you contributed to the 1.1 billion gallons of wine consumed in the U.S. during 2021 alone, no judgment here.
It makes sense. Wine is not only delicious, but when enjoyed in moderation, it can even be good for you, since it’s packed with antioxidants and pairs well with a variety of foods (yup, even take-out).
However, one point of frustration that both wine newbies and seasoned pros share is figuring out the best way to actually open a bottle of wine.
Do you need that fancy electric wine opener, or is your trusty $5 corkscrew cool? And how does one safely open a wine bottle if there’s no corkscrew in sight? (We definitely feel you on that one.)
Fret no more. Here are the best ways to properly open a bottle of wine and ensure you never have to deal with a broken cork or broken glass moment of shame again.
Let’s get those bottles poppin’, shall we?
1. Wine key
A wine key can also be called a “waiter’s friend” corkscrew and is one of the easiest to use and most efficient wine openers around. They also get bonus points for being slim, portable, and inexpensive. (Pro tip: Keep an extra just to stash in your checked suitcase zipper and you’ll never find yourself without a wine opener on vacation!)
This double-hinged corkscrew has three parts — a foil cutter (also called a sommelier’s knife), a lever, and a spiral metal corkscrew, playfully referred to as the “worm.”
To open a wine bottle properly with a wine key, follow these steps:
- Use the sommelier’s knife to pierce the foil just below the lip at the top of the bottle. Then, turn the bottle to cut all the way around the foil. Discard the foil cap and tuck the knife back into the wine key.
- Insert the corkscrew or “worm” straight downward through the center of the cork, twisting in a clockwise motion. Twist until you have the corkscrew almost fully inserted into the cork, with only one screw spiral visible. This typically takes six turns.
- Rest the shortest notch of the metal arm lever on the top lip of the wine bottle. Pull the handle up to bring the cork out of the bottle while using the lever for leverage. At this point, you can switch to the longest notch on the lever to finish pulling the cork out, if needed.
Note: Inserting the corkscrew too far into the cork can cause pieces from the bottom of the cork to fall into the wine, while not inserting it far enough may cause the cork to split or break apart when opening it.
Our recommended wine key:
2. Wing corkscrew
Next, there’s the twin lever corkscrew or “wing” corkscrew. These typically also have a bottle opener at one end, making them a great multifunctional tool. But unlike the wine key, they usually do not have a foil cutter.
To open a wine bottle with a winged corkscrew, follow these steps:
- Remove the foil with a foil cutter or knife (very carefully).
- Insert the corkscrew into the center of the cork, rotating clockwise, with the “arms” down. The winged arms will begin to rise as you insert the corkscrew. Twist until you have the corkscrew almost fully inserted into the cork, with only one screw spiral visible.
- Once the arms have lifted up, use both hands to pull the arms down to either side and lift the cork. Gently wiggle out the rest of the cork with one hand on the corkscrew and one hand on the bottle. Success!
Our recommended wing corkscrew:
3. Electric wine opener
One benefit of an electric wine opener is that it removes the cork quicker than other corkscrews and leaves very little room for human error (aka bits of cork floating in your wine!). It’s also a great option for those with arthritis, carpal tunnel, or limited hand mobility.
The downside? They certainly take up a lot more space than the traditional bottle-opening tools and they need to be charged.
To open a wine bottle with an electric wine opener, follow these steps. Note that instructions may vary based on the model, so review the user manual first.
- Make sure the electric wine opener is charged! Remove the foil on the wine bottle with the foil cutter (most electric wine openers include one as an accessory or have one attached to the base).
- Place the tip of the corkscrew into the center of the cork. Push the button to start the electric wine opener and release the corkscrew, steadying the wine bottle with your other hand.
- Remove the cork based on the model. Some models require pressing another button to do this, while others do not. Release the cork from the wine opener. Enjoy!
Our recommended electric wine opener:
4. Reverse corkscrew method
There are dozens of scrappy ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew and you can find these methods floating around on the Internet — from bike pumps to mangled wire hangers to power tools. Though we’re fans of DIY, we really don’t recommend doing this, as it can be very dangerous and lead to injury.
The safest way to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew is to push the cork into the bottle, rather than taking it out. This is referred to as the reverse corkscrew method.
To open a wine bottle using the reverse corkscrew method, follow these steps:
- Remove the foil from the top and steady the bottle with one hand on the neck. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, apply pressure to the cork and push it back down into the bottle.
- You can also use a rubber mallet or rolling pin to tap the top of the spoon. This method works best if you have a helper holding the bottle steady for you.
- Tap until the cork is fully floating in the bottle but no longer blocking your wine. Enjoy!
Note: This method does not work well on older wines, as the corks tend to crumble more easily. If you do get bits of cork in the wine, strain the wine through a coffee filter before sipping.
Using a proper corkscrew (pick your favorite from the list above!) is the safest way to open a bottle of wine. Opening a wine bottle without a corkscrew increases the chance of glass breakage and injury, so it’s best to do this only as a last resort.
The most dangerous methods of opening wine bottles include applying heat in any way or using a knife. We also highly discourage the “banging” methods, such as banging the bottle against a wall using a towel or banging the bottle with a shoe, as these can easily lead to broken glass in a flash.
And we can’t believe we have to say this, but never open a bottle of wine with a samurai sword if you’re not trained in the sabrage technique (no matter how cool it looks in movies).
No matter what bottle opening method you choose, wrap the wine bottle with a towel while gripping it. This will protect your hand from any accidental glass breakage.
Leftover wine? Hey, we’re impressed.
The best way to re-cork your wine is by covering your cork with wax paper. Since corks expand once they’re removed, the wax paper will help the cork slide back into the bottle easier. Wrap one end of the cork with wax paper and insert the cork halfway down.
It’s also a good idea to invest in some wine stoppers. Wine stoppers are typically inexpensive, reusable, and create a tighter seal.
In general, wine lasts 3 to 5 days once opened, if properly re-corked and stored. Opened wines should be stored in a wine fridge. If you don’t have one, it’s recommended to store them in your regular fridge (yup, even reds).