Old friend and former co-blogger Jason Rosenbaum stopped by my house last night with a rather tricky problem: the cork on a bottle of pinot noir he was having for dinner had partially disintegrated and the remainder of the cork seemed irredeemably lodged in the bottle. I thought this was a good starting point to sound off about a couple of things.
First, I don't know why producers of low to medium end wines still bother with cork. Screwcaps are much much easier to manage and you can easily recycle. Cork is also susceptible to bacterial infection that on occasion can taint the wine and produce some rather ghastly aromas of moldy basement and putrid socks. And some producers use composite or synthetic corks that are hell to open...sometimes it seems like synthetic corks are superglued to the bottle.
As a former waiter, I can assure you that you're not alone. Many times I've been in embarrassing situations opening bottles of wine for people. Some of these times have been actually rather dangerous: I particularly recall once trying to remove a synthetic cork from a bottle that just would not budge; ultimately I applied so much pressure with the corkscrew hinge that part of the neck of the bottle cracked in my hands, leaving me with a minor but bloody flesh wound. Not something I prefer to happen during table service...
Fortunately, there are some simple solutions. First, breaking the seal between the cork and the bottle is extremely useful...to do this, just insert the corkscrew into that space between cork and bottle instead of into the middle of the cork. That should weaken the grip between cork and bottle. Second, don't worry too much about disintegrating corks; worst case scenario is that you'd have to pour the wine into a carafe to filter out cork.
I'll finish off here with a note that I hope you enjoy your weekend. And for people looking to keep up with a really good Missouri political journalist, it doesn't get better than Jason's blog, Capitol Calling.