Dry Corks in Wine Bottles
February 8, 2011 10:56 PM   Subscribe

Dried out corks in wine bottles come apart in pieces - what to do?

So my father-in-law gave gave me two bottles of wine to open for the Lunar New Year celebration. These had been given to him as gifts several years ago and had been stored upright for all the time. I went to open them and the corks were completely dried out - they came out in chunks. I ended up having to push the corks all the way through in small pieces then pour the wine through a filter before pouring it into glasses.

Afterwards, he gave me three more unopened bottles. Is there any way to rehydrate the corks? Should I store them upside down or on their side? How long would it take for the corks to properly rehydrate? Are there any other measures I could take or should I just push the corks through and drink the wine?

posted by MPenguin to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try a 2 prong cork puller that does not puncture the cork.
posted by TDIpod at 11:24 PM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding TDIpod, those cork pullers work great, I much prefer them over corkscrews. To use it you just push the two ends into the bottle between the cork and the glass and rock the handle back and forth pushing down as you go until you've worked it all the way in. Then pull up slowly with a twisting motion, like you're unscrewing a bottle cap. Voila! Open bottle, perfectly whole cork!
posted by platinum at 11:32 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wine should always be stored on its side for just this reason. But once a cork has dried, I agree with the above comments, use a two prong cork puller and be gentle.

In the future, if you have a healthy cork get a waiter's corkscrew.
posted by Splunge at 12:28 AM on February 9, 2011

Note: the wine will oxidize (go bad) under a dry cork. Maybe you got lucky.

I don't think there is anything you can do once a cork goes dry & crumbly.
If it was rehydrated (storing the bottle on it's side would rehydrate it within days), it would encourage bacterial growth.

My advice: Drink and enjoy now.
posted by artdrectr at 12:28 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, drink it soon and use a sieve or strainer to catch the cork fragments if they bother you.

I used to own one of those two prong things. In my experience, they don't do markedly better with ruined corks.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:05 AM on February 9, 2011

You could buy a decanter with a sieve attachment. It's designed for just the use you outline. When I've got an iffy bottle I open it the best way I can and then decant.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:27 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've ran into this a few times at my MIL's house. My solution is to actually use a fondue fork to help pull the cork out without getting any particulates into the glorious beverage itself.

good luck!
posted by zombieApoc at 6:43 AM on February 9, 2011

I should add that I did not realize beforehand that the cork was dry, otherwise a solution like TDIpod suggested would have been perfect.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:44 AM on February 9, 2011

Are there any other measures I could take

Your wines may be affected with cork taint, which can interestingly enough be fixed with plastic wrap.
posted by TedW at 7:05 AM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Whenever I have a stubborn cork I just push the cork into the bottle of wine and then use a thin wire or guitar string and loop it under the cork (which is now wet) and pull it out of the bottle. Works every time!
posted by futz at 7:29 AM on February 9, 2011

Not a used or grungy wire of course.
posted by futz at 7:33 AM on February 9, 2011

If you know the cork is dry ahead of time, you could try one of these CO2 openers. These work great with any cork btw and are fun to boot. However, because the cork is dry you may some trouble getting the needle in, especially after you've already ripped half of it out. You'd have to be careful. Wouldnt have a problem with cork parts though.

Marginally NSFW video of gal falling out of her shirt demonstrating device. FYI.
posted by elendil71 at 9:25 AM on February 9, 2011

Re-moistening the cork will have a limited effect, as the drying out has already damaged the cork's structural integrity, and it will still crumble when wetted. Still, a dish towel soaked in almost-boiling water can be placed on the top of the bottle (being careful to avoid heating up the wine) can help some.

If you think the cork is only borderline crumbling, then you can usually get away with using a long waiter's corkscrew inserted at an angle. This gets more loops into the cork and thus puts less stress on the cork from each one.

Just be sure to remember to always leave about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch or cork from the tip of the screw. This should ensure that if the cork breaks, only the top part will come off, and you won't get any in your wine. Then you get a sharp, thin knife and pierce the cork through, whereupon you angle the knife about 30-45 degrees and gently pull the cork upwards, keeping the knife point gently up against the side of the bottle neck.

If you think the cork is hopeless, you can always just push it through into the bottle and decant it. You don't even really need to fish the cork out first, just decant the wine slowly.

If you're feeling adventurous, I've saved the best trick for last: Port Tongs. (It involves fire, and when you're done, you've cleanly broken the bottle off right below the cork.)
posted by patnasty at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2011

The key takeaway here is that once the cork has completely dried out, it lets air into the bottle. And that means the wine is dead (oxidized). It's up to you, whether you want to drink it at that point, or not, but the problem of the cork is secondary to that in that it hardly matters how you get the cork out now that the wine is dead.
posted by VikingSword at 1:28 PM on February 9, 2011

Yeah, I agree with the others that the wine may be dead. If it's just a tiny bit off, you can make sangria out of it.

I have one of those melitta single cup drip coffee makers and if I get cork in my wine, I pour it through a filter in the coffee maker.
posted by zinfandel at 2:10 PM on February 9, 2011

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