The Basics of Opening a Bottle

Cork Bottles

Pulling a Cork

Most wines are finished with a cork of some type—all-natural cork, composite cork or a synthetic—covered by a capsule of either metal or plastic.

To open:

1.Remove the top part of the capsule, cutting around the neck just below the lip of the bottle.

2.Wipe the top of the bottle with a damp towel or cloth if necessary.

3.Use a corkscrew to remove the cork. There are several different models of corkscrew available, the choice is a matter of individual taste.

4.Pour a small taste and check that the wine is in good condition.

Removing the top of the capsule makes it easier to remove the cork, reduces the chances of a weak cork breaking in the bottle and keeps sharp edges away from the bottle opening. It also gives you a clue if any liquid has seeped past the cork, from the wine having been exposed to high temperatures.

Formal wine service calls for the server to just cut below the lip to preserve the packaging for presentation, but in the privacy of your own home, you can feel free to remove the whole capsule if you prefer

You don’t have to smell the cork once it’s removed. Some believe it provides information about whether a wine is off; if a natural or composite cork smells bad, that may indicate the wine is flawed, but we’ve had corks that smelled fine even though the wine wasn’t showing well, and vice versa.

You can visually inspect the cork to see if it’s dry or damaged, or if wine has leaked to the top—warning signs that the wine is oxidize or cooked due to wrong storage—but tasting the wine will verify that.

If you purchased a rare collectible wine, inspecting the cork for the stamp of the winery can help verify authenticity.