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,

Sometimes when I'm using a "Rabbit" type wine opener, the initial thrust pushes the cork down into the bottle rather than screwing into the cork itself. What should I do then? And should I make any assumptions about the wine if this happens?

—Bob L., Chico, Calif.

Dear Bob,

If your corkscrew pushes the cork into the bottle, I'm just as likely to make an assumption about the wine opener as the cork or wine. Check and make sure the "worm" (the spiral thing that pushes into the cork) still has a point on it that can puncture the cork—sometimes the tips break off or get dull. And I've tried some worms that work better than others. I look for very pointy, thin, spiral- (not auger-)shaped worms.

I usually don't try to use these types of wine openers on older bottles. The older a wine is, the more likely that over time the cork has dried out or shrunk, and the force of one of these openers could either push the cork in or turn it to sawdust. I recommend keeping a wine-bottle-opener arsenal that includes an Ah-So (the two-pronged gadget) and a waiter's corkscrew.

If, despite your best efforts, the corkscrew pushes the cork into the bottle, there are several solutions. You can buy a device that can actually retrieve the cork. Or you can simply pour out the wine around the cork, though you might want to use a sieve or coffee filter to remove any stray bits.

If your cork slides into the neck of your bottle, it could mean that the cork shrunk enough for some oxygen to get into your wine, accelerating oxidation and aging—but there's no way to tell unless you taste it.

—Dr. Vinny


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