No corkscrew? A broken cork in your bottle? No time to chill? Here’s how to navigate some of wine’s most frustrating scenarios.
If you drink wine with some regularity, you’ve no doubt come across a situation where you screw something up. Years of experience as a sommelier have taught me how to handle most of those situations, so before you panic, take a look.
Probably the most common issue that people have is they realize that, at the exact moment that they want a glass of rosé, the only bottle they have is at room temperature. If patience isn’t a virtue you possess, the absolute fastest method I’ve found to chill down a bottle without access to heavy machinery is to fill a large bucket with ice, add in half cup or so of salt (rock salt is perfect), and then fill about halfway with water. Put the bottle in, and turn it every 30 seconds or so. You should have a chilled bottle within about 5 minutes, though for sparkling wine you’d probably want to give it more like 10; the thicker bottles take longer to chill.
I face this one pretty regularly on the floor of the restaurant, and I have a range of tools at my disposal. Assuming you’re limited to standard wine openers, techniques here vary based on how badly broken the cork is. If the remaining part appears to still be solid, I’d just dive back in: this is where a waiter’s corkscrew comes in handy. If the cork is crumbling though, I often make the decision to just push the cork down into the wine. Some people would then filter the wine through a coffee filter, cheesecloth, or strainer, but I prefer to decant the wine into a clean vessel, and then pour it into another decanter: this allows me to get all or virtually all of the cork out without damaging the wine.
No wine opener
We’ve all been there: a bottle of wine and nothing to open it with. The best approach I’ve found is to us a fairly long key: your car key, perhaps, and to slowly work it into the cork. Once it’s in as far as it will go, you slowly twist the bottle while very gently pulling up. It can take a while, but it’s the safest method I’ve found, both for you and the bottle.
Cleaning wine glasses
This does require at least a small bit of foresight: cleaning glasses is much easier if you don’t let the wine totally dry out, so at least putting some water in the glass at the end of the night will make your life a lot easier. I then like to use a wet cloth or rag, and no soap if I can avoid it, as I find that soap tends to leave streaks and stains on most wine glasses. If you have a hanging drying rack that’s ideal, but if that’s not an option then I start my glasses face down and then flip them about an hour later. I usually still have to polish them if I want them spotless (and by all means spend $8 on an actual polishing cloth), but it helps minimize the water spots.
Now, go forth and drink with confidence!