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Wine Kludges

Odd but effective remedies and hacks for problems with wines and corks
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Dec 19, 2017 11:51am ET

I gave a few bottles of well-aged red wine to my daughter the other day to share with out-of-town friends who came to see the premiere of the new Star Wars movie. They liked the wine but, she noted, "It could have rested a day before being poured after being moved around, to let the sediment collect."

"Next time there's a lot of sediment left in the bottle after decanting," I emailed her, "pour the dregs through a coffee filter or paper towel into a clean glass or measuring cup. Add it to the decanted wine. Like magic!"

It may sound like heresy to traditionalists, but I do this regularly when I decant. Those last couple of ounces after the telltale dark cloud wisps into view can be saved. To be sure, I taste the filtered wine for any papery overtones. As with making drip coffee, rinsing the filter first minimizes any off taste.

"It would have had to be the whole bottle," she lamented. "I let the guys carry the box, and I think they put it in a paint mixer or something. Even the first pour was schmutzy."

Is it better to chew sediment through a whole bottle of wine, or risk spoiling the wine with a papery taste? A Hobson's choice. As always, a taste will tell.

A longtime colleague has been known to deal with a bottle that hadn't time to settle by becoming a human centrifuge. Outside, he makes sure the cork is set, and windmilling the bottle to get most of the sediment to the bottom. I've done this myself. Weird, but effective.

I've also used some unorthodox time-saving methods to adjust a wine's temperature. Too cold? Microwaving a glass holding a serving of wine for 5 seconds raises the temperature about 10° F, enough to take the chill off a red wine out of the cellar or a white wine right out of the refrigerator. Too warm? Submerge the bottle in an ice bucket with ice and plenty of water, plus a handful of salt.

If the wine in the bottle doesn't submerge completely, after removing the bottle I have been known to put my thumb over the lip and gently turn it over to let the cold wine at the bottom cool the warmer wine at the top. Otherwise folks who get the first glass with be drinking warmer wine than the rest.

Even faster, swirl an ice cube in your wine for 5 to 10 seconds, and remove it with a spoon. A little melt won't hurt most wine, even if it appalls traditionalists. Little do they know that "Château Le Pump" already finds its way into some highly prized wines to reduce their alcohol levels.

Sometimes an old cork crumbles and won't even come out cleanly with an "ah-so" opener. The remedy? Poke the cork into the bottle with a chopstick and decant the wine through a fine sieve. Any cork dust that gets through will usually come out with the first few ounces poured. See the technique above for filtering that pour, and save it for last.

Letting a wine "breathe" is a whole other subject. To speed up the process, try this most extreme-sounding technique for aerating, propounded by Nathan Myhrvold in his Modernist Cuisine tome. Pour a bottle of wine into a blender and let 'er rip for 30 seconds. Let the foam subside. It can speed up the "let it breathe" process by a half-hour or more. I don't do it, not because I'm afraid of "bruising" the wine but I prefer to enjoy a fine as it develops in the glass—free of sediment and at a congenial temperature.

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