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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Why do some wines "pop" when they're opened and others don't?
—@albertosoria, via Twitter
Remember that corks are pieces of tree bark that are squished into the neck of a bottle of wine. Cork is very elastic, and can compress to about half its width without losing any flexibility. When you break that seal by pulling out the cork from the neck of a bottle, that can sometimes make a popping sound. The sound doesn’t mean anything (and doesn’t “bruise” the wine, as I’ve been asked before).
In my experience, the faster you pull out the cork, the more likely you’ll get that pop. Using a leverpull type opener will more likely pop the cork than if you’re using a waiter’s corkscrew and taking your time. Keep in mind that corks can lose their elacticity and resilience over time, and so older corks might still keep their seal, but make less noise.
Of course, sparkling wines are more likely to make noise when opened because of all the pressure inside from the carbon dioxide. As much fun as it is to make a loud pop with bubbly, it can mean that you’re letting a lot of gas out, and that might result in the bubbly going flat sooner. Ideally, the bubbly cork should let out a "sigh" rather than a "pop"—I find it helpful to push back on the cork as it’s ready to fly out.
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