Crumbly corks

corkPulling the cork from a bottle of wine and hearing its satisfying 'pop' is a pleasurable tradition, so I'm told. Getting at and removing a cork ought to be easy: just insert the corkscrew into the cork and pull. Instead, more often than not, I see the cork tear and crumble as I heave on the corkscrew. The cork seems out to frustrate our primary goal - drinking the contents of the bottle.

wine rackCorks work best when kept moist through contact with the wine - a horizontally stored bottle achieves this. But less than optimum bottle storage angles and temperatures, along with cheap chipboard-like corks made from waste cork crumbs stuck together, all allow the cork's integrity to fail before it's entirely removed from the bottle neck.

When this happens push the corkscrew back into the remains of the cork but at a shallow angle – as if you are trying to get the corkscrew through the cork and through the neck of the bottle. Then gently pull on the corkscrew so as not to create more cork crumb on the way.

Even if you've managed to remove the bigger bits of cork there will still be some crumbs left in the bottle – harmless but you don't want to get them between your teeth – so pour the wine through a tea strainer or through a bit of kitchen towel or coffee filter. Messy but effective.