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.

woman drinking roseFinally scientists have finally found something to celebrate about the female condition. It seems women who drink wine put on fewer pounds than teetotallers of the same sex. So you can tuck into a couple of glasses of wine every night and still stay slim. There are a couple of provisos: limiting yourself to drinking two glasses a night and those glasses should contain red wine.

The QueenChoosing a gift for next Sunday's Mother's Day is never that easy for sons and daughters, of whatever age. I'm sure you'll not complain when you receive the usual bunch of flowers or box of chocs, but it would be nice to get something rather more personalised wouldn't it? So why not help your children along by dropping subtle, or not, hints that a bottle or two of your favourite wine would be much appreciated.

French flagRecipes from our nearest continental neighbours have been pushed aside in favour of Italian, Chinese and Indian foods. So it’s time for a revival of French foods as they can always be relied upon to be tasty – a large glug of wine added to each recipe sees to that.