I didn't intend to write about corks again today. But last night as I opened a 1995 Beringer Howell Mountain Tre Colline Cabernet (which was excellent), the cork split in two and eventually crumbled.
The moment that cork split I remembered what I had promised to remind myself about opening older bottles of wine: Don't use a traditional corkscrew; use an ah-so.
If you like to collect and drink older wines, an ah-so is an invaluable tool. It's a two-pronged key-shaped device that slides into the neck of a bottle, one prong on either side of the cork. To remove the cork, you gently twist and extract the ah-so, bringing the entire cork with it.
Traditional corkscrews and lever pulls are great. The latter is particularly efficient for opening lots of bottles in a short period of time. But keep an ah-so around. It's a far safer way to open older bottles with delicate corks. When the cork comes out in one piece, there's no cork film or bits floating in your wine, let alone a third of the cork floating around in the bottle, as I had last night.