Opening a mature vintage wine bottle can prove to be quite the challenge… As the wine ages, the cork can become very fragile. It would be more than just a pity to have to pour your last bottle of Château Mouton-Rothschild 1945 or La Tâche 1990 down the drain just because of a cork mishap, don’t you think? Here’s our step-by-step guide to opening a mature bottle of wine.
Obviously, the first step is to retrieve the bottle of precious nectar from the cellar. We recommend planning ahead and going down there the day before so you can then stand the bottle upright overnight. This will allow deposits to fall to the base of the bottle, greatly simplifying service.
OPT FOR A CORKSCREW WITH A VERY BIG WORM
It is perfectly possible to open a mature vintage with a classic waiter’s friend corkscrew. But remember, it’s far better to choose a corkscrew with a longer worm than the one you’ll find on this type of corkscrew. This is because the length of the worm is usually shorter than the cork itself (some wines for laying down, such as Sauternes, typically have even longer corks). So, with a traditional corkscrew, the worm won’t extend to the end of the cork and there’s a strong probability that it will break when you attempt to pull it out.
USE A WINE CORK EXTRACTOR
This is the alternative and better option. It does require a little practice, but will allow you to avoid tricky situations, such as damaging cork or causing it to break apart and drop crumbs into the precious nectar! A wine extractor features prongs that slide down between the wine bottle and the cork. You’ll need to insert the longer prong first, followed by the shorter one. To do this, you’ll need to delicately ‘wiggle’ the prongs between the wine bottle and the cork. The next step is to progressively unscrew the cork, this takes a little more manual strength than with a classic corkscrew. You can stabilise the cork with your fingers to make sure it stays in one piece. Be careful towards the end, as the tip of the cork may still remain in the bottle, so you should give it a quick pull to extract the entire cork.
WHAT IF THE CORK STILL FALLS IN THE BOTTLE?
If this happens, there’s no need to panic, simply pour your wine very gently into a decanter so it doesn’t pick up the taste of the cork. Be particularly mindful not to rough up the wine, as mature bottles definitely won’t survive a sudden and brutal aeration. All that’s left to do now is sit back, relax and enjoy the wine!