ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have some 30-year-old bottles of Cabernet sealed with wax. The corks are breaking up, and I can’t pull them through the wax seal. Any ideas for removing the wax neatly so I can use a Durand brand or ah-so corkscrew?

Steve V., Culliman, Ala.

Dear Steve,

Good question! My typical advice for opening a bottle with a wax capsule is to ignore the wax and just pull the cork right through it. But with older bottles, where the cork is more likely to be fragile, your instinct to pull the cork with a wine opener that has two prongs to grasp either side of the cork is a good one.

The good news is that you don’t have to try to remove all of the wax, just the stuff on the very top of the bottle. The bad news is that this is rarely done neatly, as you’ve asked. Some waxes are soft and some are downright crumbly. You can start by using the blade of a corkscrew and seeing if you can score the top of the wax, eventually cutting it away if not at least chipping away at some larger pieces. The crumbliest wax capsule I’ve ever encountered has been on a bottle of Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, and years ago they gave advice on how to apply heat to soften and then scrape off the wax. Good luck!

—Dr. Vinny


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