How to Get a Stuck Cork Out of a Wine Bottle
Whether you've been waiting to savor a special bottle of wine or are just craving a casual glass of rosé, few things are more frustrating than a stuck or broken cork. But stubborn or crumbling corks are no match for these tips from wine professionals. We're also sharing the time-honored tools for removing a cork from a bottle of wine that will help ensure you don't run into this problem in the first place.
Avoid the Problem by Using the Correct Corkscrew
The preferred wine opening tool among professionals is the double-hinged waiter's corkscrew ($18.39, amazon.com). These simple, elegant openers offer more flexibility and are far more nimble than winged corkscrews (the kind with two arms, also known as the butterfly corkscrew) or electric wine-opening gadgets which don't offer enough precision and control. The double-lever of a waiter's corkscrew helps lift the cork in a straight vertical line, so there's no bending the cork sideways against the bottle's neck, which can cause a cork to snap. Look for a waiter's corkscrew with a Teflon-coated "worm" (the sharp spiral that inserts into the closure) that can easily slide into a cork without damaging it.
Another tool preferred by sommeliers, especially when opening a bottle with age, is the Ah-So ($5.98, amazon.com). Older bottles can have very fragile corks that can easily crumble or split when a corkscrew is inserted (especially if they haven't been stored properly), so this is a suitably gentle tool. Also known as a "Butler's Friend," the Ah-So is a twin-pronged cork puller whose prongs are pushed between the cork and the bottle, hugging it while you gently twist the bottle and extract the cork without piercing it.
Work Your Angles
If the cork broke while you were trying to open the bottle, leaving a chunk of cork inside, wine journalist Chastity Cooper feels your pain (yes, this happens to wine professionals, too!). Says Cooper, "Getting the cork stuck in a bottle of wine is definitely a bummer, but it's not the end of your wine experience. The cork can only go one of two ways-in or out. If the cork hasn't been pushed down the neck too far, gently use your wine key to twist, pull, and retrieve the other half of the broken cork." Inserting the corkscrew at a 45-degree angle and using the side of the bottle for leverage to keep the cork intact as you slide it up and out is an excellent method to try.
Like many other things in life, having the right mindset helps: Larissa DuBose, founder of The Lotus & The Vines and director of education at Black Wine Professionals, advises resisting the urge to get frustrated and rush the process. "Patience and gentleness are the keys to dealing with a broken cork. If you're using a traditional server's key, very gently reinsert the corkscrew in the part of the cork that has the most surface area and pull it out slowly."
Run the Neck Under Hot Water
Sometimes a simple trick is all you need: Try putting the neck of the wine bottle under very hot running water for about 30 seconds. The heat will get the glass to expand, and in some cases, this is enough to loosen the cork to extract it.
Push the Cork Into the Bottle
If patience, gentleness, strategy, geometry, and advanced tools all fail you, there's always this last resort: Simply push the cork all the way into the bottle to free that magnificent juice. Pour the wine out of the bottle into a decanter, using either a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve to strain out any renegade cork crumbles so you don't end up with those in your glass. In a pinch, even a coffee filter can work for this. Happy sipping!