If you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a sommelier’s wine service, you’ve witnessed the choreographed dance of opening a bottle under pressure — potentially in more ways than one. While the choice of wine key might seem like an inconsequential detail, the tool itself can make the difference between elegant dining experience or disaster.
To help those of us at home streamline our drinking accessories, VinePair reached out to wine industry pros across the country — who have, collectively, opened thousands of bottles — to recommend the best gadget for the job. Below, sommeliers from Santa Monica to Indianapolis share their tried-and-true wine key picks.
The Best Wine Openers Recommended by Wine Pros:
- Pocket by Coutale Sommelier
- Wood-Handled, Double-Hinged Le Creuset
- The Durand
- Pulltap’s Double-Hinged Corkscrew
- CB2 Brushed Gold Bottle Opener
- Sommelier by Coutale
- Winebow Imports Double-Hinged
- Vintage Image SS Waiter’s Friend
Keep reading for details about all the recommended openers!
“My go-to wine opener is always the Pocket by Coutale Sommelier. It’s an extension of my hand at this point! The knife stays sharp the longest, the screw is the perfect width and goes into cork smoothly, and the double-hinge is sturdy but flexible at the same time. It’s perfectly compact to fit in any pocket of my work wardrobe.” —Chloe Miranda, Sommelier, Birdie G’s, Santa Monica, Calif. (Donate: Independent Restaurant Coalition)
“My favorite wine key is a wood-handled, double-hinged Le Creuset. It was a wedding gift, and after five years and more cork pulls that I would care to count, it still works like the day it came out of the box.” —Carlos Baz, General Manager and Beverage Director, Goosefeather, Tarrytown, N.Y.
“Everyone knows the somm’s standard is the ‘double-hinged’ corkscrew for its simplicity and durability, but for collectors with older bottles (or just home enthusiasts who have left a Cab in the bottom rack in the basement for several years), the Durand screw is worth its weight in brass. It contains the two-pronged cork extractor commonly used for older corks, but together with a traditional corkscrew in one elegant, simple piece, so you can use both at once for maximum confidence in extraction with no cork crumble.” —Adam Berlin, Owner, Buena Vida Tapas & Sol, Atlanta
“Through the years of working as a bartender and trying many brands, I tend to opt for Pulltap’s double-hinged corkscrew. There are certainly fancier wood-handled, shinier options available, but for me, Pulltap’s has always been reliable, sturdy, and affordable. I usually need to replace my wine key twice per year.” —Arielle Natale, Bar Manager, Elaia Estiatorio, Bridgehampton, N.Y.
“After 30 years in the business, my go-to wine tool is the Coutale Sommelier Pocket series. I’ve owned tools approaching $200, and this one (which only costs about $25) works just as well. It features a double clutch that doesn’t dig into the cork too deeply, a svelte worm, and, most importantly, a blade with micro serrations that cut evenly — even through those dreaded German foils. It’s very stylish, and comes in nice brown or black wood or stainless. I open hundreds of bottles a year, and the one I currently have has been a trusty companion for about three years now.” —Gary Mullis, Assistant General Manager, Foxcroft Wine Co. Waverly, Charlotte, N.C.
“My favorite wine opener is The Durand, available through the Rare Wine Co. It’s designed with older bottles in mind, gently removing the cork from its sides and center at the same time. For old corks that are disintegrating, it’s pretty foolproof. I use it anytime I have a cork that is fragile or suspect — usually bottles 10 years or older. The last thing I opened with it was a 1994 Cornas from Auguste Clappe. I started buying wine when I was 25, when access to wine was very different, and now find myself drinking a lot of older bottles. I think it’s important to taste wines that have aged — you get insight into what might happen with the wines that you’re producing right now.” —Jay Boberg, Co-founder, Nicolas-Jay, Willamette Valley, Ore.
“At Infinite Monkey, we operate with no vineyard and no pretense, making this no-fuss solution from CB2 [brushed gold bottle opener] our go-to behind the bar and at home. It’s ideal for our taproom since it opens cans as well as bottles. I always have one stashed in my pocket for easy access.” —Quinn Woodhouse, Lead Bartender, The Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery, Denver (Donate: Women’s Wine Guild of Colorado)
“My absolute favorite is the Coutale ‘Sommelier’ Wine Key because it has a double-hinge and the all-important flat knife. It cuts foils really cleanly and gets the cork out in one easy gesture.” —Marianna Caldwell, Assistant General Manager and Sommelier, Cassia, Santa Monica, Calif. (Donate: The United Sommeliers Foundation)
“I gravitate towards any wine opener that has a double-hinge and a decent blade. The double-hinged wine opener helps prevent the cork from breaking or tearing by providing better leverage at two points rather than one. Having a decent blade on your wine key ensures that you can cut the foil off of the bottle in two quick cuts. A functional tool overall is all that is needed for efficient and proper wine service. The one we use in the restaurant is from Winebow Imports. The knife is wonderful with the foil, and it’s an easy cork grabber. The only other tool that can be potentially helpful for me when opening older bottles is an Ah-So cork puller, which is essentially a tong for the cork. This tool can be useful when a cork is particularly crumbly or old.” —Julie Masciangelo, Sommelier and General Manager, Il Posto, Denver (Donate: Il Posto Emergency Relief Fund)
“The Durand: It’s indispensable for old bottles. If you enjoy wines with age on them, you know the unique pain of old corks. It’s a particular kind of fear that only increases as a table of guests or friends watch as you struggle to save an old wine from itself. Regardless of provenance, old corks can be difficult (sometimes impossible) to pull out cleanly, often crumbling and leaving residue in the wine. As someone who opens a great many bottles each year, I rely heavily on the Durand and wouldn’t dream of attending dinners without it.” —Walker Strangis, Founder, Walker Wine Co., Los Angeles
“The best wine opener is NOT a monogramed, matte-finished, bubinga-handled, powder-rose, pearl-inlaid masterwork that sleeps in a whale bone and velvet case! It’s a black and stainless Pulltap’s double-hinged waiter’s corkscrew — because people always steal fancy looking ones, and the ugly functional ones never walk off! I trick mine out and grind off the serrated teeth of the foil blade. I hate the tiny particles of foil dust that those make.” —Josh Ratliff, Sommelier and Director of Culinary Arts, Newfields, Indianapolis
“Working wine pros need a tool that is efficient, sharp, and durable. No serious professional would ever be seen with a winged, electric, or air-pressure corkscrew, among others. A good corkscrew should be easily pocketable, particularly when working table-side in a restaurant. I’ve seen numerous expensive tools like Laguiole, the Durand, and others. But my favorites over the years have been the sleek stainless steel models officially known as ‘Vintage Image SS Waiter’s Friend’ from the Wine Appreciation Guild based in San Francisco. They are French-made, have a sharp micro-serrated blade for clean capsule cutting, and, most critically, do not wear out too quickly at the two most important lever points… It’s fast, it’s safe, and it lasts.” —Joseph Spellman, Master Sommelier, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, Landmark Vineyards, JNSQ Wines, Paso Robles, Calif.
Published: November 13, 2020