How to save a bottle of wine when the cork snaps in half

Let’s be honest, when you are by yourself, who cares? After all you’ve pushed a half-cork into a bottle of wine with a bic biro before haven’t you? You’re a savvy customer – you know cork floating in wine doesn’t mean the wine is corked. Pooh to those that suggest otherwise.

When other people are in the room though, it’s a different ball game isn’t it? Particularly when those people are not your bosom chums/girlfriend/wife/family (delete as appropriate).

So how do you winkle out that remnant of cork with a modicum of dignity? How do you show people that you Know What You Are Doing, and you just weren’t paying attention in the first place?

First things first, don’t give up on your corkscrew. It may have let you down the first time around, but it is (genuinely) sorry, and it really will try harder next time. Think of the corkscrew as your wingman (Goose to your Maverick if you will) – you do need it.

Gently work the corkscrew’s spiral thread (the bit that looks like a pig’s tail, otherwise known as a worm), back into what’s left of the cork in the bottle, this time making sure the worm works its way through the entirety of the cork (you didn’t do this the first time did you?). Then try to pull the cork out again.

It may be the case at this stage that what’s left of the cork crumbles into the wine (this mostly happens with older bottles – corks are like bodies, they become brittle with age).

If this happens, don’t have a breakdown. Your ultimate objective is to make sure the wine pours clear and bright. You can do this by decanting the wine through muslin (or a tea strainer, or a fine sieve) into a decanter (or a jug, or any receptacle that’s large enough to hold 75cl of wine). If what you’ve decanted into isn’t quite The Thing for your table (i.e. you’ve used your cafetiere), you can always simply double decant the wine (pouring it back into its original bottle), ideally using a funnel, safe in the knowledge that this is a practice often employed in our wine tasting events and by swanky sommeliers (see our earlier article on wine decanting on this site). If you are double decanting, remember to clean the empty wine bottle with mineral water before pouring the wine back into it.

After this, stand down! Your job is done, and your wine is grateful.