Natural corks breathe air, which allows for a regulated aging process of wine. Historically, this is why they have been the preferred choice for sealing wine bottles in storage.
While corks do allow for a beautifully aged, delicious wine, the downside is that they too age. They become porous and crumbly, making it very difficult to remove them in one piece.
As a wine expert (in that I drink a lot of wine) myself, I will be the first to tell you: there is nothing worse than being excited for a deliciously aged wine… and finding cork crumbles in your glass.
I mean, of course you still drink it, but what if it was simply perfect? Corkless aged grapes. Read on to find the best cork to make your aged wine dreams come true.
Corks: the good, the bad, and the ugly
Although corks are a natural and renewable product, no two corks are the same. Despite this, artificially made corks are another product that some winemakers use. However, these ‘colmated’ corks are low quality and filled with cork dust, as well as glue. This prevents the cork to breathe and hinders the oxidation of the wine, stunting the aging process.
However, too much oxygen getting through the cork can completely ruin the wine, or cause it to seep into the cork within a year of storage. This vicious cycle then damages the cork, making it very difficult to remove in a single piece. What’s more, some corks are bleached to make them look cleaner, or of higher quality. We all know, bleach = not good to drink.
Long story short, life is a win some/lose some experience, even with wine. For a great, oxidized wine, you need real cork to allow oxidation. But what if you didn’t have to “lose” the experience with cork bits?
Thankfully, creative wine fanatics have developed a number of products to help combat the problem of crumbling corks. One solution is the wine bottle cork retriever. This ingenious device helps extract cork remnants that have fallen into the bottle. It’s most useful for larger chunks, but for smaller pieces, you’ll still have to use a spoon (or your finger, if you’re as classy as me). Best news? You can get one for, like, 15 bucks.
A better solution is the butler’s thief wine cork extractor. There is a whole line of similar products, known as “thieving butlers” or “waiter’s friends,” which all carry out this clever way of removing corks. As opposed to screwing into the cork, disintegrating it as they go, these cork extractors fit down the sides of the cork. That way, no disintegrating, no crumbles, only wine.
A waiter’s friend looks similar to a conventional corkscrew. It has a similar handle and requires the user to pull the cork using their own strength; however, instead of a screw piece, it has two arms thin enough to fit between the bottleneck and the cork. Slide the arms in, twist them to loosen the cork, and pull it out. It’s just that easy. Also, you can get it for around $20.
Your fancy option
Have you ever wanted to be a wine snob enthusiast? Same. Which is why I have highly considered a nice wine decanter. They’re so pretty, but they’re also functional. Wine decanters add quality to even the most average (budget-friendly) wines.
If cork crumbles happen to drop into your bottle, take a sieve (looks like a funnel) and hold it above your decanter (looks like a potion bottle. Really!) and pour the wine in. The sieve will collect the cork while the wine gathers oxygen and flavor in the decanter.
These are undeniably the more expensive option, but they’re also undeniably elegant. One of the best on the market is the Riedel Ultra Wine Decanter.
Its wide base allows for a greater surface area for oxygen to enter the wine and develop its flavor and aroma. But, beauty comes at a price of around $250.
Old corks are a small price to pay for aged wine. Trust me, it’s usually worth the crumbles but, if you’re ready to grow your wine collection without the cork additives, shop around and find what’s best for you! You might also want to check out this post on the best wine key for servers, if you happen to open a lot of bottles!