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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What’s the proper way to open a bottle of wine sealed with a wax capsule or plug? I always make a mess when I try to remove the wax …

—Kristy C., Yorba Linda, Calif.

Dear Kristy,

What helps me is to not worry about removing the wax and just focus on removing the cork. That means pretending the wax isn’t there—I take my sharpest waiter’s corkscrew and put it through the center. In most cases, the wax will break off pretty cleanly—there might be a couple of bits to brush away so they won’t fall into the bottle.

If it’s an older wine, I might take more care with it, because older corks can be more fragile. In these situations, I will take my sharpest blade on my waiter’s corkscrew and try to cut off the top of the wax to expose the cork—the same gesture that I’d make if it were a regular foil capsule. If the wax is really thick, it might take some fussing and, yes, some mess.

With some wax capsules—on wines that you are not concerned about stirring up any sediment—you can avoid the mess by melting the capsule off in a cup of very hot water, but take care to dip only the capsule in so as to avoid heating up the wine as much as possible. You can wipe the melted wax clean with a paper towel, but take care not to burn yourself, either!

—Dr. Vinny

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