I’ve been a slacker again!! It’s nearly Christmas and the little icon on my weather ‘widget’ (yes, I use a Mac!!) shows today as 42 degrees with rain drops and…..snow flakes!
I struggle with this a lot. Not the cold weather but every Christmas as I grew up was hot because it is the middle of summer in Australia and everyone goes to the beach!
Enough reminiscing, lets get down to some interesting info. I received a publication from the Associação Portuguesa de Cortiça (Portuguese Cork Association or APCOR) which provides an array of information on cork. It details its origins, uses, research etc. I will provide some of the more interesting details and for fairness and ‘abundant clarity’ will later provide an insight to other closures like screw caps.
Firstly, APCOR describes the “Uncorking a bottle of wine. A ritual with rules.”
Drinking a glass from a good bottle of wine gives enormous pleasure. However, some important aspects need to be considered in order to make the most out of this unique experience. Right from the start, great care is needed when extracting the cork closure.
Depending on the age of the bottle, the cork will be in different stages of evolution. In a new wine, there will be a very robust cork closure, but in more mature wines, the cork closure will have softened. In the very old wines, generally with a bottle age of more than 35 years, weaker corks will be found due to their already fragile internal structure. These corks require great care as they often break during extraction. In the case of very old wines, a heated tong can be used as an alternative to a corkscrew, without needing to extract the cork closure.
I will interrupt here to describe the demonstration shown.
1. Heat the tongs on a gas burner until it is blazing hot and apply it to the bottle neck for 30 seconds.
2. Immediately after removing the tongs from the bottleneck, apply a brush of ice-cold water to the glass surface that was in contact with the tongs. Alternatively, ice or cold water may be applied directly to the bottleneck. The glass will immediately break leaving a clean, splinter free, cut. The wine is thus ready to be decanted.
At this point I would add that I feel this is a bit dramatic and cannot imagine a 3 star Michellin restaurant offering the service. I prefer to remove as much of the crumbling cork as possible and then decant the wine through the fine filter gauze that comes with the best wine funnels. I have a great one from Royal Selangor with the head of Bacchus as the funnel.
With new or very old wines, it is necessary to ensure that the corkscrew has a totally vertical extraction force.
The opening of the bottle should be made carefully and calmly. First, the capsule that protects the bottleneck must be removed, approximately one centimeter below the top rim of the bottle. After that, especially if the bottle is old, the bottleneck and the top of the cork stopper must be wiped with a clean cloth. The point of the corkscrew is then placed in the center of the cork closure taking care to insert the spiral of the corkscrew far enough but not so deep so that it perforates the bottom of the cork. This operation is not possible with every design of corkscrews, especially some that are not hand operated. If the spiral is not inserted deep enough the cork is not extracted and the screw can pull through the middle of the cork. If particles of cork do fall into the wine because of the spiral of the corkscrew has been inserted too far, there is no serious problem and one should remember these small particles are organically harmless, even if swallowed.
If this were to happen, they are normally poured into the first glass, which is then generally served to the host.
This article of wisdom was provided by the cork producers, I can’t wait to see how the screwcap guys explain how their closure works!
I will get back to you with details of the WORLD’S BEST CORKSCREW!!, and some photos (as soon as I charge the camera batteries).
ENJOY and remember…..practice makes perfect!