What's the best way to open an older bottle of wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the best type of opener to use for opening a bottle of a first-growth Bordeaux, 2000 vintage? The bottles have been kept in a temperature-controlled wine cooler, but I've had a couple of other bottles have their corks crumble when I tried to open them.

—Kurt A., Fort Worth, Texas

Dear Kurt,

At about a wine’s 10-year mark—even if it’s been stored in prime conditions—I notice that corks can start to get crumbly. If that’s the case, the worst thing to use is an opener that forcibly drives a corkscrew through the center of the cork.

I recommend using a two-pronged wine opener, known as an “Ah-So.” I was uncomfortable using one the first few times, but it’s not difficult at all. Starting with the longer of the two prongs, slowly slide the prongs into the tight space between the cork and the bottle. Rock the opener 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. Take your time, and you’ll remove the cork in one piece.

Make sure you take your time, otherwise—if the cork is on the loose side—you might end up pushing the cork further down the neck of the bottle. If that starts to happen, switch to your waiter’s corkscrew, the type of corkscrew that folds into the handle, which will give you the most control. Either try to insert the corkscrew directly down the center, or at a 45-degree angle into the cork, and pull it out slowly.

—Dr. Vinny

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