corkscrewSeeing cork tear and crumble as you heave on the corkscrew is enough to bring an oath to the lips, the cork sometimes seems out to frustrate our primary goal - drinking the contents of the bottle. A horizontally stored bottle will keep a cork moist through contact with the wine – the cork's integrity is retained and it should remain whole when removed.

successfully removed corkDried out corks can tear before they are 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.

Sometimes that last bit of cork doesn't want to come out, so give up trying to remove it and push it into the bottle using your finger or the end of a pencil.

In his book How to enjoy your wine wine author Hugh Johnson describes a device called a claw – three bits of bent wire which can be used to hook bits of cork out of a bottle. Unfortunately I can't find anyone who still sells this useful looking device, so why not get the grandchildren to bend bits of wire coat hanger and make you one.

cork pushed backCorks can still flummox us when we try and push them back to seal a half-finished bottle of wine – they either refuse to go in at all (more common with plastic corks) or break. If you don't have an expandable rubber bottle sealer (readily available in packs of three from supermarkets) then cover the open bottle with a double layer of cling film secured in place with an elastic band. This will keep out the air and the flies until you finish the wine tomorrow. If your half empty bottle contains port wine you could always pour the remainder into the cut-glass decanter you've been meaning to use since last Christmas and continue that 'pleasurable' tradition of passing it to the left, or is it the right?

PG Wine Reviews

bottle of wineAsda Extra Special Italian Soave Classico 2014

£5 Asda

When the wine smells like apples baked in their skins you can bet the taste will be equally as enjoyable – and it is with butter, lemons and nuts.

Terres de Galets French Côtes du Rhône 2014

£5.50 Sainsbury's (down from £7 until May 17)

A light-bodied red that smells and tastes of cherry and violets.

Extra Special New Zealand Pinot Noir 2013

Asda £7.98

Leave this wine open for half anf hour before you drink it to reveal its underlying strawberry flavours.

Denbies Vineyard Select English Pinot Gris 2014

£16.95 Denbies Vineyard, Surrey (online or in person)

A delicate and creamy white wine with additional flavours of apple and biscuit. Nicely made.

Penfolds Australian Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz 2013

£19.99 Waitrose

Smooth blackcurrant flavours with a touch of spice – but watch out for the 14.5% alcohol.

This article also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on

red grapesWhen I'm giving a wine talk there will inevitably be questions from the audience keen to understand more about the wine they've just bought on their last visit to the supermarket, or some question that's been niggling away waiting to be answered from someone who knows. While I try my best to fit into this category I don't claim to know all the answers but here are a few of my answers to the questions I get asked most frequently – which usually starts with “Why do the French spell it Syrah and the Aussies Shiraz?”.

flameIt’s going to be a cold and unsettled Bank Holiday weekend according to The Met Office. But don’t let the dampness and lack of sun deter you from enjoying a picnic - a picnic with a difference that is. Instead of sipping light whites and rosés with your lettuce-filled sandwiches sitting outside on a blanket, why not sit under the blanket while sitting indoors next to the fire and get in a couple of cockle-warming reds and hearty whites for your May Day soup and sarnies.

dandelionsTraditional picked on St. George's Day, the flower petals of the dandelion can be brewed into a country wine. It turns out that its leaves can also be eaten as a salad leaf and its horrendously long tap roots that seem to grow down as far Australia make a passable coffee substitute: but now the humble dandelion has another use – it can be turned into car tyres. That milky-white substance that oozes onto your fingers whenever you break the stem or root of this useful plant/weed (delete as appropriate) is actually latex. And German tyre maker Continental is about to turn its research project into a facility that makes dandelion rubber by the ton.