How to Open a Bottle of WIne
OPENING THE BOTTLE
There is a lot to be said for thecap, especially after we have struggled with the impenetrable capsule and crumbling cork that so often seem designed to separate us from the wine we want to drink. In fact, a simple screwcap would be perfectly adequate for the vast majority of wines: those that are designed to be drunk within a year or two of being bottled. There is even some Australian research that suggests the screwcap keeps wine just as well as a cork and capsule for much longer periods. However, it is thought by most bottlers that the pop of the cork represents an important part of our enjoyment of wine, and is something worth spending money on. So in most cases we are still saddled with the business of wrestling with capsules and corks.
A capsule (the foil covering the top and the neck of the bottle) is put on mainly for cosmetic reasons but partly to protect the cork from a very rare bug called a cork weevil. Plastic ones are the most difficult to remove and may call for a very sharp knife. Foil and thin metal capsules can usually be cut more simply with the tip of a corkscrew. To leave the bottle looking attractive, the capsule should be cut in a neat line round the bottle neck close to the rim. To ensure there is no possibility of contamination from the capsule, especially important if it is made of lead, this line should be at least 1/4 in (6 mm) from the rim. If you remove the capsule altogether, the wine will of course taste exactly the same, but some people think that the bottle looks naked.
There is an enormous range of different instruments that can be called into play for removing the cork. The most efficient corkscrews do actually have awhich is a spiral coil of metal, as opposed to a rivet with a coil embossed on it. The latter sort are too prone to drive an unhelpful hole right through the cork and give no purchase at all. Another important attribute in a good corkscrew is a very sharp point with which to tunnel through a spongy cork.
If the design of the corkscrew is such that you simply pull the cork out, make sure the handle is comfortable to hold. Far too many corkscrews, such as the gnarled vine-root type, are almost painful to operate. Some of the easiest corkscrews operate on a leverage system. The butterfly-armed sort is generally reliable as long as theis a spiral coil. The only trouble with the all-wooden type is that it is difficult to see what is going wrong. The closest to an ideal corkscrew is the patented Screwpull which rarely fails and lifts the cork out as part of a continuous and easy screw action.
The ‘butler’s friend’ or ‘wiggle ‘n twist’ device is useful for venerable and potentially very delicate corks that might crumble under the strain of an imperfect corkscrew, but can present problems with very tight corks. Be careful not to put too much pressure on the neck of the bottle. This is the weakest part of the glass and might break off if roughly handled. The gadget that pumps carbon dioxide into the bottle to force out the cork can go disastrously wrong and it has been known for bottles with faults in the glass to explode.
If the cork breaks before all of it has been extracted, try to pull out the remains by the usual method with one of the instruments recommended. If you do not have any of them, push it in sharply with, for example, the end of a wooden spoon and pour the wine out carefully over it.