By: George Balling
Most of us just want to enjoy a glass or two of wine on any given occasion like a Tuesday. We have found though and received many questions about how to do certain wine related activities, or choose wine “tools”. They aren’t the most frequent questions we get but we do get them, we figured it was a good time to answer some of those queries.
There are a handful of bottles across price points that are sealed with a natural cork and then a wax closure over the top of the cork, as opposed to the more common foil covering. Many have asked about the best way to remove this hard wax closure, and it is a great question. There is actually a helpful and simple sommelier trick to getting the cork out. Attempting to chip off the wax is not the way to go, you could spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen trying to chip it off with little progress and only a spray of small bits of wax to show for it. When you encounter a wax closure you should take the worm of the corkscrew and twist it directly into the center of the top of the wax and keep turning until it’s all the way into the cork. When you make the same motion to remove the cork that you always do the wax will crack in a perfect circle and come out with the cork.
Many have also asked what is the best wine opener to buy. This is a tough question to answer simply or directly. I have found that the choice of cork screws or other openers is as personal as the choice of wine. For instance, I prefer a traditional waiter’s corkscrew with a very straight “handle” across the entire corkscrew. I also prefer a serrated edge on the knife of the corkscrew. Everyone’s preferences are different though, that is why we carry so many choices. This one might be better answered in person when we can talk with you about the different options. I do recommend openers that have the worm of the corkscrew coated in Teflon. The worm goes in and comes out much easier. Also, for those who are newer to opening traditionally cork sealed bottles a hinged opener is many times easier as it takes less hand strength to get the cork moving. Stop by the shop and we will work with you to find the best opener for you.
Champagne and sparkling wine bottles can give many of us fits trying to open them. For some it is even a frightening experience attempting to get the cork out without collateral destruction when all the pressure is released from the secondary fermentation. You do not want the loud pop when removing the cork on sparkling, rather you want just a soft fizz sound. Here are the steps. First, remove the foil if there is one. Then with your thumb over the top of the “cage” turn the twisted wire loop that holds the cage in place until it is loose around the neck of the bottle. Gently remove the cage with your thumb atop the cork for as long as possible. To remove the cork, grasp the cork firmly with one hand. Place the other hand on the bottom of the bottle, and here is the trick, turn the bottle not the cork until it starts to push out. Keep your thumb on top of the cork and allow the pressure to help you get the cork out until you hear that fizz sound.
Many of us don’t finish a full bottle at once so how to preserve the wine? In wineries when a tasting bottle is not consumed by the end of the business day the bottles are topped with Argon gas. Argon is an inert gas that is heavier than oxygen. This is vital as oxygen is what causes wine to spoil after the bottle is open. In wineries there are typically large tanks of Argon either in the cellar or a room behind the tasting room. For wine consumers at home, we sell a product called Private Preserve ($12, for 120 applications) that is Argon that comes in an aerosol can. With each can are two “straws” that fit into the aerosol dispenser and can be extended down into the bottle. You dispense one spritz and then return the cork or twist cap to the bottle. The Argon settles over the wine and as long as you don’t shake it or pour from the bottle the gas stays in place and preserves the wine.
Email or stop by the shop and let us know what other questions you have and we will do our best to help you enhance your wine experience.