Why are wax capsules used and is there a trick to removing them? – Ask Decanter

Christelle Guibert shares her advice...

Tim Warner, Surrey asks:

Why are wax capsules used to cover the cork in some wine bottles? And is there a trick to removing them without creating lots of mess?

Christelle Guibert replies:

Historically, wax capsules protected the cork from rodents in the cellar; they also hid any sign of leakage as corks were less reliable than they are today.

By the 1980s, the wax was replaced with aluminium, but there is a growing trend today to use wax seals once more; indeed I use wax for my own Muscadet.

The decision is chiefly a stylistic one, but I also believe that wax offers better protection than aluminium.

There are different degrees of waxing: from a neat dot on the top of the bottle to some wines with half the neck covered.

Faced with the job of broaching one, first determine whether the wax is hard or soft.

If it’s the soft variety, simply put the corkscrew through the wax and remove the cork as usual.

Hard wax is trickier – it must be chipped away at until it breaks off.

Wrap the bottle in a plastic bag and tap the wax top lightly but firmly with the handle of your corkscrew.

The wax will eventually start to crack. The bag will prevent wax shards flying all over your dinner table.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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