What do you do when you have a cork stuck in a bottle? I have had the privilege recently to be drinking a number of bottles of wine that have been more than 25 years old. The only problem is that 25-year or older corks tend to be very soggy and are extremely difficult to remove from the bottle. The only way to be in with a chance with such an old cork is to use the Ah So corkscrew which has two prongs on the outside of the cork to provide enough friction to squeeze the cork, pulling it from the bottle’s neck. Using a center-drilling corkscrew would almost certainly destroy the cork splitting it into little bits. This is a concern in that the cork pieces are small and difficult to clean up and more importantly, you have likely introduced small cork pieces into the wine itself. While you can filter the cork bits out, it is not recommended, as the wine likely has a weak structure and could be damaged by filtering.
I had two bottles recently where the cork slid into the bottle intact, no matter how I tried to remove it. While the cork floats, if the bottle is full, the cork does not have enough air space to get out of the way when the bottle is turned over to pour. The cork wedges into the bottle neck making it impossible, or at least extremely slow and difficult to pour the wine. However, there is an easy way to deal with this – just use a chopstick! The chopstick, stuck into the bottle, easily clears enough room, getting the cork out of the way. You can then easily pour the wine into a glass or decanter and the problem is solved.
If this happens though, you should immediately empty the bottle into a decanter and then refill in another bottle (without the cork) to ensure any possibility of cork taint (not already introduced through the wine touching the bottom of the cork while cellaring) is not worsened.
A cork stuck in the bottle has happened to me about seven times now, but fortunately I have always had a chopstick on hand to help me out!
Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013. Steve Shipley
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