Why did the cork on my very old bottle fall apart into my wine?

By / Magazine / April 14th, 2018 / 5

To quote Sean Connery in The Untouchables, it sounds to me like you brought a knife to a gunfight. If you’re buying older vintages of wine or cellaring away young ones to open much later while lacking the right tools to get the darn things opened properly, you deserve every floaty you find bobbing in your beverage.

The prevalence of screwcaps has made people lazy when it comes to wine-related accoutrements. I’d be a rich man if I got a buck every time I was met with rolling eyes when I showed up at a dinner party with a wine under cork. That’s why I always travel with my own extractor. The time of even my mother-in-law having a drawer full of corkscrews is officially over.

While I can forgive most for forsaking their foil thanks to the ease of a swift-off top, you sound like a wine aficionado with more money than sense. No matter how fancy the space either you or your local wine shop employs to keep their wines in drinkable condition, corks will age alongside the juice inside the bottle. Sure, storing wine on its side will keep the bottom of the cork damp and expansive to ensure unwanted air doesn’t make it past its seal, but time will have its way with the rest. Even top-notch corks, though remaining solid inside the bottle’s neck, will become very fragile, requiring a gentle hand and professional equipment to remove them in one piece.

Why do you think Port producers use those fancy heated tongs to snap off the necks of their older wines? Even they can’t get their own corks out without the fear of fragmented ramifications. If you can’t get your head around in investing in a Class A corkscrew, stop complaining and just decant out any unwanted solids before they hit your glass.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on Alliant.net to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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