I’ve used every type of corkscrew under the sun over the years, from the twin lever corkscrew, to the zig zag/fish corkscrew (not a fan, sorry), to the lever arm corkscrew, and everything in between. Every time, I’ve come back to the waiter’s corkscrew (sometimes called the waiter’s friend corkscrew or the wine key). I love the portability, ease, control, durability, and most importantly, the size of the waiter’s friend and wouldn’t be without one at a tasting.
I’ve had perfectly good waiter’s friends corkscrews that have cost very little yet efficiently opened hundreds of bottles. If you want a brilliantly made and beautiful waiter’s friend corkscrew that really should last you though, authentic corkscrews from Laguiole are wonderful (Laguiole is not trademarked and as such corkscrews bearing the name are manufactured globally). Always look out for those handcrafted in France in the town of Thiers and the village of Laguiole itself. These quality French manufacturers stamp a trademark or signature into their corkscrews. A description of the type of steel used and ‘Made in France’ will often be stamped as well.
I always much prefer waiter’s friends corkscrews with serrated knives (over circular foil cutters and similar), as I find them much more durable and flexible to work with.
The only time I don’t solely rely on waiter’s corkscrews are when I have older bottles to open (perhaps fifteen years-plus). Corks in old bottles are delicate objects, as corks are like bodies—they become brittle with age. If you’ve plunged a waiter’s friend corkscrew into an old bottle of wine and been embarrassed when only half the cork has come out, know that this probably wasn’t you; it was the cork. I like to use a butler’s friend corkscrew for these bottles. These are two-pronged corkscrews where each prong is inserted fully down the outside of the wine cork (after the wine’s foil has been removed of course), and the cork is then twisted out in its entirety using the corkscrew’s handle, Vacu Vin sell one of these here on Amazon here
In either case, it’s not the end of the world at all if cork does end up in your wine. Simply filter this off through a funnel (containing muslin or a sieve) into a decanter, and you will be as right as rain.
Extracted and adapted from our wine book The Indispensable Guide: Hosting Wine Tastings: How to Run Fun, Engaging Wine Tastings that Work Every Time available here