What to do if your wine cork breaks or crumbles – ask Decanter

We’ve all been there – a cork has started to crumble away in your bottle of wine. But what should you do next, and can you drink the wine?

‘If a cork disintegrates and falls back into the bottle, the simplest solution is to filter the wine through a fine mesh – either cheesecloth or a sieve, depending on how small the pieces of cork are,’ said Julia Sewell, previously sommelier at The Fat Duck and now working for Noble Rot.

‘It’s important to consider the age of the wine and the speed at which you will drink it.’

‘The filtration process can speed up the oxidation of a very old wine and it may be better to filter such a wine directly into the glass, rather than decanting it first.’

Can you still drink the wine?

In most cases the wine will still be fine to drink, as it should have still maintained a seal on the bottle.

‘There is not a universal rule, but our experience says that the wine maintains the quality for being served,’ said Guillermo Cruz, head sommelier at Mugaritz.

‘But at Mugaritz, we would always explain that the cork has crumbled when we serve the wine.’

Occasionally a crumbling cork may mean that the quality has been compromised, but ‘it’s best to reserve judgement until you have tasted the wine,’ said Sewell.

‘Some of best bottle of wines I have tasted have had the worst cork condition,’ said Clement Robert MS, head sommelier and wine buyer at 28-50 wine bars.

How can you prevent it crumbling?

‘If you’re in the habit of opening older bottles of wine, it’s best to invest in a two-prong wine opener, which can save you a lot of time dealing with fragile corks,’ said Sewell.

‘However, some corks just won’t keep their integrity, no matter how careful you are.’

Robert MS agreed. ‘It is much easier to extract the cork by pulling it from the sides with the prongs, rather that from the middle with the screw.’

‘If you don’t have a two-prong bottle opener, then try again very slowly with your screw-pull, pulling very slowly.’

And what if the cork breaks in the bottle?

This will be less likely to happen if using the right opener, and you can try using a two prong one with a regular one to get the cork out, recommended Sewell.

‘Try using the sharp end of the corkscrew in the cork and try to remove it – but it has to be done really carefully, ’ said Cruz.

‘However, the simplest solution – if you are unable to remove the broken half of the cork – is to push the cork all the way into the wine and serve as normal,’ said Sewell.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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