How do you open a bottle of wine that has a wax capsule?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

How do you open a bottle of wine that has a wax capsule?

—Bob, Meridian, Miss.

Dear Bob,

When opening a bottle of wine that's topped with a wax capsule, there’s usually no need to remove the wax first. Using a waiter’s corkscrew, I place the worm (that’s the metal spiral that screws into the cork) at the center of the wax capsule and push the point in as if the wax weren’t there, twisting it down into the cork. The cork usually makes a clean break with the wax as I pull it out, and that’s all there is to it.

But there are some scenarios where plowing through the wax capsule isn’t advised. Older wines (more than 10 years) may have delicate, brittle corks that can crumble under the pressure of being pulled up through a wax capsule. And if the wax is too thick, I might not be able to properly set the ledge of the corkscrew on the lip of the bottle, which is necessary to get the leverage required to pull out the cork. In both of these scenarios, I cut through the wax like I would a foil capsule, slicing it around the lip of the bottle and cutting or breaking it free until the top of the cork is completely visible.

If you’re not worried about sediment getting stirred up, or you have time to let the bottle rest upright for a few days afterward, you can take an adventurous tip from Wine Spectator’s tasting department: In a pot or bowl of very hot water, carefully hold the bottle upside down, with just the top of the bottle submerged in the hot water (you don’t want the wine to get hot); after a minute or so, you should be able to cleanly wipe the softened wax off with a thickly folded paper towel.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Corks

More In Dr. Vinny

Why are grapes harvested in bins instead of in a big truck bed?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why large plastic bins are ubiquitous in wine …

Dec 5, 2022

What is “reverse osmosis” in relation to wine? How and why is it used?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the science (and the motivation) behind the …

Nov 28, 2022

I need advice on Thanksgiving wines. Which wines pair best with turkey and sides?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice on selecting wines for the Thanksgiving …

Nov 21, 2022

What is a “second wine”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the "second wine" concept and what it means in …

Nov 14, 2022

Is it bad if an old bottle of wine has sediment in it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that sediment happens—and how to deal with it.

Nov 7, 2022

Is it OK to change my mind about a wine after I've approved a sommelier to serve it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that there's a reason that sommeliers show …

Oct 31, 2022