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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is there a secret to removing older corks? We used a Rabbit, and it had no effect on the cork except to partially crumble its upper portion. This resulted in us having to use a knife for most of the cork while the last remaining portion fell into the wine. It was a 30-year-old Bordeaux which tasted fine, but I wonder what it would have been like without the cork crumbles.
—Jennifer H., Erie, Colo.
When it comes to fragile older corks, the worst thing you can do is use one of those wine openers that forcibly drives a corkscrew through the center of a crumbly cork. I recommend using a two-pronged wine opener, known as an Ah-So. Slowly slide the prongs into the tight space between the cork and the bottle (start with the longer prong). Rock it back and forth until the top of the Ah-So is resting on the top of the cork. Then twist the cork while gently pulling it up. It might feel a bit awkward, and it takes a couple of minutes, but it keeps the cork in one piece.
Unfortunately, some corks move around the neck of the wine too much, and your Ah-So might end up pushing the cork down into the wine. If this starts to happen, you might want to reach for your waiter's corkscrew—the flat, Swiss Army-style one with a corkscrew that folds into the handle. A waiter's corkscrew gives you more control (and often has a thinner screw or worm than other models). If the cork breaks, reinsert the worm at a 45-degree angle into the remaining cork. And good luck.
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