Disintegrating Cork

This bottle was a nightmare. I picked it up in Pasadena at Chronicle Wine Cellar. The wine caught my eye as it was from Kunde Vineyard, which someone had suggested I visit in my post about vineyards to hit in Sonoma. We weren’t going to be able to make it there, but I still wanted to try the wine, as the Zinfandels seemed right up my alley.

The wine was a Kunde 1998 Shaw Vineyards Zinfandel. It cost $19.95 at Chronicle Wine Cellar. It was a lone bottle on a shelf and I grabbed it the second I saw it. The problem came when I went to open the bottle. I stuck my corkscrew in and the cork was soft. I went to pull it out and it broke. Undaunted, I tried again. What remained of the cork crumbled into a million little particles and fell in my wine, rendering it temporarily undrinkable. I had to strain each glass. And even that didn’t get it all because some of the pieces were so miniscule they fit through the strainer. I wasn’t too hopeful at this point for how the wine was going to taste, given that it indicated to me that the storage of the bottle had been less than ideal (it was 9 years old after all).

Thankfully, I was wrong! The wine was perfect. In fact, it could have aged even longer in my opinion, though I’d be wary of the cork….

On the nose there were aromas of toast, oak, blackberries and currants. The wine had a very pleasant nose and Matt’s friends were laughing at me as I just kept sticking my nose in the glass. I love the aroma of a good Zinfandel. At 14.1% alcohol the wine was on the lower end alcohol-wise of the Zinfandels I see now. In the mouth there were big gobs of dark fruit, spice, currants, blackberries and red cherries. Overally, it left an impression of dark fruit and spiciness with me. I very much enjoyed the wine in the bottle, once I got it open, and hopefully the cork added to my fiber intake for the day.

But tell me, how do you handle things if a cork goes horribly, horribly wrong?

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10 Responses

  1. Your blog is very interesting.
    Bye bye

  2. Yow. What a nightmare. Well, at least the wine was good! I usually use a tea strainer, the fine mesh kind which gets out most of it. But I’m confident some other reader will really know what to do. Never bought a wine that old from Chronicle. May not do so now, either!

  3. WineHack number 2 for ya:

    Use a loose tea ball to pour the wine through. The holes are much finer than a traditional strainer and made to catch small, ground up things (like tea leaves)…Enjoy!

  4. Hi Sonadora
    You can use a tool called an Ah-So to get out broken corks, they are pretty cheap and have them at most wine stores. They are tong like and the blades slip in around the cork and pull it out.
    See ya
    John
    :)

  5. I was trying to remember the name of the darn thing and John came up with it. It is basically two prongs that slide in around the outside of the cork – you kind of rock the handle back and forth gently to work it in all the way.

    Then, you twist it gently until the cork loosens and it pulls out. That’s the theory anyway but it does work better on older corks. For everyday use, however, they are kind of a pain.

    Anytime you open something older than about 5 or 6 years you should assume the cork is suspect and take your time with it. Glad the wine was good!

  6. I just wanted to add another vote of confidence for the Ah-So wine opener. It takes a bit of practice the first few times, so try it out on a couple of bottles with intact corks before attempting a crumbly one.

    Generally, I dislike the Ah-Sos, favoring the simple Pulltap waiter’s key, but I’d make an exception if the cork was disintegrating around the corkscrew!

    In case you run into the cork-in-the-wine thing again, one of my decanters came with a wine funnel with filter – it’s a funnel that has a separate very fine mesh filter that you can stick inside of it, and pour the wine through to your glass. The filter will even catch most of the sediment in older wines – always nice to avoid that unpleasant last sip in case you weren’t paying enough attention!

  7. Agree with Dr Debs et al – very fine tea strainer (which is only used for the purpose of removing cork from wine and not to make tea!).

    The Ah So is very good – but if you use a cork screw – my hint would be drive the thread all the way through the cork and push down – this moves the cork and loosens it from the bottle neck and I think it is then easier to remove in one piece.

    Good luck!

  8. I have used the Ah-So also and wound up punching the whole thing down into the wine. So I use the tea strainer or I have also used a coffee filter. It takes a few moments longer but no cork ends up in your glass! I enjoy Kunde wines also.

  9. What fools for laughing at a woman appreciating her (hard-fought) glass of wine!

  10. Thanks for all the tips and ideas everyone! I will be on the hunt for some of these method when I finally make it to the wine store.

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