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Vincent Ciolino
May 15, 2018 | Vincent Ciolino

Time to get a new corkscrew?

A wine club member sheepishly called me the other day saying “I’m only telling you this because I consider you a friend...” Of course, my heart immediately sank, bad news must be coming. She continued, “I think there’s a problem with the 3Divas”. A slight panic set in. “The cork split”. Relief washed over me. Whew, it’s just the cork not the wine. I wasn’t expecting a problem with the wine, but it’s always a winemakers worst fear!

Eve said she was especially worried because she just gave a bottle of 3Divas to a good friend, proclaiming how good the wine was—and she would be really embarrased if her friend had a similar experience to hers. Namely the cork split as she was opening the bottle! Luckily the friend confirmed that her bottle was delicious and the cork was fine. That’s when Eve called me.

I put on my thinking cap. Perhaps the bottle was kept upright and the cork dried out. But that typically takes many (5+ years) in very dry air. How long had she had the wine? Eve confirmed that it was our 2016 vintage, which was released a year ago so that shouldn’t be the problem. Besides Eve swore that her bottles are stored on their side or upside down, “just as you instructed.”

My next thought went to a single bad cork, an anomaly. Cork is a natural product after all, so not every one is going to be perfect. At Montemaggiore we pay extra for top quality corks, which we then test extensively—but corks do vary. I asked whether she’s had a split cork before, hoping that it hadn’t. She responded slowly. “Well… I’m embarrassed to say that I did buy some cheap wine the other day, and that cork split also”. Great… now our cork performance is being compared to that of “cheap wine”. But with that information, a germ of an idea was born.

I asked her what kind of corkscrew she had. She enthusiastically started describing a new corkscrew she bought with levers on either side, but I stopped her to ask what the “worm” looked like (the part that actually goes into the cork). I tried to describe the part of the corkscrew I needed to know about, but failed miserably, so I sent her a picture of a good corkscrew and a bad corkscrew.

Eureka! That was the problem. The worm of Eve’s corkscrew had a central shaft, like the corkscrew on the right. Unfortunately, this type should *never* be made (no less purchased) because the central shaft tends to split corks apart. Ironically, this type of worm is shaped just like a screw—hence the name cork-screw. Get it?

The worm of a good corkscrew should not actually look like a screw, it should look like a helix (a single helix, not the DNA double helix 😊). So if you have a corkscrew that looks like a screw, please toss it out. Which is exactly what I recommended to Eve...after I sent her a new, winemaker-approved corkscrew.


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