The bottle of Italian wine is sat on the counter.
You can almost hear it calling your name. The tempting nectar inside is just waiting to be poured. All it needs is for you to grab the corkscrew, pop the cork, and prepare the glasses.
You can’t take it anymore.
The kitchen drawer gets opened and out comes the corkscrew. You plunge it into the soft cork that is the only barrier between you and the stunning Italian wine inside the bottle.
Then you twist.
The cork is almost out of the bottle.
Then, the cork starts to crack. You try to soften your twisting motion but it’s too late. Before you know it, a little bit of cork has dropped into your wine. And now, the integrity of the drink has been compromised.
The wine still tastes okay when you pour it.
But you know it could have been so much better. Plus, you’d much rather drink your wine without having to be on cork watching duty.
It’s happened to the best of us.
In our eagerness to get to the wine we love, so many of us have broken the cork and ruined the wine.
How about we make sure that never happens again?
Here are a few steps to help you open a bottle of Italian wine properly.
Step #1 – Take it Slow
Before you even think about grabbing your corkscrew, take a moment to slow yourself down. Yes, you want to get your bottle of Italian wine open. However, drinking wine is a sensory experience. It’s not a race to the finish line at any point. Once the wine is in the glass, you take your time experiencing the bouquet and sipping slowly to appreciate the many flavours the wine contains.
Take the same approach when opening a bottle of wine.
Instead of rushing in your efforts to shift the cork, treat opening the bottle as part of the experience. Commit to taking it slow and enjoying the anticipation that comes as you ease the cork out of the bottle.
Having this attitude will ensure you don’t go in all guns blazing, which is exactly how most cork breakages occur.
Step #2- Cut the Foil
Most bottles of wine have a protective foil that encompasses the neck of the bottle and, in some cases, may extend over the finish. This foil is not there purely for decoration. It aids in keeping the cork secure, which means it can also be your biggest enemy if you don’t do something about it before you start opening the bottle.
Hold the bottle upright and stationary.
From there, use a sharp blade to slice open the foil. Cut the back, front, and top of the foil, making sure to keep your fingers away from the blade as you do. By doing this, you release any hold the foil may have on the cork, making the cork much easier to pull from the bottle later.
Step #3 – Set the Corkscrew
Many people make the mistake of plunging their corkscrew straight into the centre of the cork. It seems to make sense, as the centre should provide you with the most purchase. However, going straight into the centre can also compromise the cork’s integrity, leading to the crumbling mishaps that you’re trying to avoid.
Instead, aim to position the screw just a little off from the centre. Once you’ve pierced the cork, rotate the screw so that it’s moving straight down into the cork.
Step #4 – Screw to the Right Position
Corkscrews are built to a very specific length.
That means you’ve got to avoid the temptation of attempting to pull the cork out before the screw is properly set. Many cork breaks occur because the overeager drinker begins the cork extraction process before the screw is properly set.
The aim here is to keep screwing into the cork until only a single curl of the screw remains visible. This last curl is your marker as it lets you know that the screw is fully buried into the cork.
Step #5 – Ease the Lever
Again, the key here is to take it slowly instead of trying to use the levers to yank the cork out of the bottle.
Using your finger, secure one side of the lever to the bottle’s neck. Holding that part of the lever in place, use your other hand to slowly push down on the other lever. Note that the cork doesn’t have to come out in one push. Instead, use your slow and steady motion to ease the cork out of the bottle. This reduces the amount of friction the cork experiences as it exits the neck, again leading to less chance of breakage.
Step #6 – Wipe the Lip of the Bottle
Grab a clean towel of napkin and lightly wipe the lip of the bottle.
This may seem like a pointless action, especially today. The custom of wiping the lip actually stems from many centuries ago, when lead was a potential problem for wine drinkers. In wiping the lip, the drinker would be able to remove any trace elements of lead before pouring.
Again, that isn’t an issue today.
However, wiping the lip still helps to remove a few potential contaminants. Plus, it’s a customary and traditional action that lends just a touch of gravitas to the experience.
Keep the Cork In-Tact
Ultimately, this is the goal of any Italian wine drinker when they’re opening their bottle.
The feeling of watching a cork crumble under pressure is much like the feeling the English experience when a biscuit breaks after being dipped into a cup of tea. Yes, the tea is still drinkable. But that chunk of biscuit changes the flavour and leaves an unpleasant residue inside the cup.
The same applies to a broken wine cork.
With these steps, you now know how to ease the cork out of the bottle so that you don’t risk it breaking and ruining the taste. Make removing the cork part of the Italian wine experience and you can’t go wrong!
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