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Wine Openers (Waiter's Corkscrews)

Published March 2014

How we tested

Until recently, we’d been uncorking bottles of wine with the Oggi Nautilus Corkscrew ($24.99), a lever-style model that operates like a pump and makes the task effortless, even for novices. But when we noticed that this corkscrew wasn’t holding up—some copies in the test kitchen cracked even after moderate use—we decided to seek out a new, more durable favorite. Those criteria helped us narrow our focus to the type of corkscrew that wine professionals use day in and day out: the “waiter’s friend,” an ungimmicky style that is simple to use once you master the technique and slim enough to stow in a kitchen drawer. We rounded up five openers in a surprisingly broad price range: from as little as $12.99 to as high as $225, the latter evidence that corkscrew manufacturers are trying to remarket this historically cheap tool as not just handy but also supremely engineered.

Fifteen cases of wine later, it was clear that more money didn’t buy a better opener. Two models fetching triple-digit prices lacked hinges on their fulcrum—the metal arm that swings out from the body and grips the lip of the bottle—which limited their leverage. The last-place model also had a sloped (instead of notched) ledge, so it constantly slipped off the bottle. And despite being made from surgical-grade stainless steel, the worm on another model was not attached well; it loosened slightly by the end of testing.

More user-friendly were the two corkscrews that featured ergonomically curved bodies and hinged fulcrums that made easy work of pulling the cork. Either is a solid addition to a bar collection, but what makes our winner worth the extra $25 is its Teflon-coated worm, which considerably reduced friction as we twisted.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*