It might be possible to open a bottle of wine with a butter knife -- but why try? Well-designed devices that let you extract even dried-out corks without breakage can be had for under $10. No matter what your price range, all good corkscrews have two design elements in common: an auger that's at least as long as the cork you want to pull, and a screw that spirals out from a nice sharp point like a coil of wire. The post-hole auger style is notorious for splitting corks. The compact, folding "waiter's friend," featuring a flip-out lever, is a popular choice. Pulltap's version (1) is the current hit with working wait staff. They start at $12.50 ($35 as shown, with copper finish and Teflon-coated screw, Vinifera, 1055 Yonge, 416-924-4004), while Forge de Laguiole's Sommelier (2, shown in briar root, $176, Vinifera) is the Cadillac of the fleet. Embros (1170 Yonge, 416-923-1808) sells a metal-and-plastic model (3) that does the job for $8.95.
The corkscrew most people have in a kitchen drawer is the basic long-lever, or butterfly, style. Screw it in, push down on the arms to heft it out. Monopol's Profi (4, $69.95, Embros) comes in left- and right-handed versions (left-handed $85, Vinifera), while Italian design giant Alessi's over-the-top angel makes a very 90s statement (5, $105 at Word of Mouth, 398 Spadina Road, 416-488-6155, and others).
The bell style, which screws into the cork and then lets you screw it out, makes for smoother operation. Monopol's Profi bell (6, $59.95, Embros) operates with elegance, whileL'Esprit & le Vin's reproductions of an antique French spring model (7, $179, Vinifera) can't be beat for looks. Vinifera'sRobert Jull swears by Screwpull's Pocket Model (8, $35), which comes apart to get compact but gives unbeatable leverage when it's time to get the job done.
The must-have corkscrew among serious wine snobs is Screwpull's ergonomic Lever Model (9), by French cookware company Le Crueset and currently manufactured in Ireland. It's engineered to do the twisting while you push down in one fluid move. We've seen prices on this from $179 (Embros) to $230 (Vinefera) and $250 (Wine Establishment, 250 the Esplanade, 416-861-1331). Screwpull's patent expired two years ago, and the knock-offs are making a splash, notably Metrokane's Rabbit (10, $99, Wine Establishment).
Monopol's prong-style wiggles into the bottle neck beside the cork and pulls it out in a snap. The technique is tough to master but extremely useful if you need to open a lot of bottles with fragile -- old or dry -- corks (11, $25, Wine Establishment).