Tag Archives: Wine

How to Open a Sparkling Wine Bottle with a Broken Cork

This has been an interesting week.  I found myself with a serious problem.  I had chilled a bottle of sparkling wine to have handy if we found ourselves in need of some bubbles.  We normally have at least one in the fridge at all times.  Having just finished our chilled split of Ruffino Prosecco the night before, we didn’t currently have anything open.  My mother in law is in town and she likes to occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner, so I decided to open the next bottle of sparkling wine, a CA sparkling which shall remain nameless due to the issues it caused.

It started like any other sparkling wine opening.  Peel the foil, un-hook the cage, cautiously reposition bottle so one hand is on the top and the other is able to twist the bottom of the bottle.  Normally what happens at this point with a properly chilled bottle of bubbles is that the cork gently pushes out with a quiet “pssssst” and we go on our merry way.  This time the cork didn’t budge.  It didn’t even move a bit!  I gently twisted, then twisted a bit more and out came the cork but no hiss.  Suddenly I realized that only the top part of the cork had twisted off, leaving the small compressed bit inside the bottle of wine.  Several scenarios went through my head, none of them are advisable under normal circumstances and all come with a level of danger that I would not recommend to any person.  Remember, sparkling wine bottles are a grenade in glass and I had just pulled the pin.  I quickly took the bottle outside in our back yard to prevent unnecessary damage to our home and then set about working on getting the bottle open.

  1. Pull the cork out with a corkscrew?

No! This puts your hands and face directly in the path of the pressure coming from the bottle and is extremely dangerous.  Not even I was that crazy!

2.  Try to dislodge the cork by shaking the bottle.

In theory, this should have worked.  I pointed the bottle away from anything and anyone which could have been injured and shook vigorously.  However, I was unsuccessful.

3. Bang the base of the bottle on something hard to dislodge the cork.

I’ve seen this work for still wines so why shouldn’t it work for sparkling.  I fully expected the cork remnant to come flying out.  This was not the case and after denting our stairs, much to my husband’s chagrin since he just built them, I decided to reconsider.

At last I was left with no other option.  I could only saber the bottle open.  There was only one problem.  I had never had the guts to saber one open before.  Of course, like any good wine professional, I knew the theory behind how to make it work but had never actually done it.  I stocked up on safety gear such as safety glasses, an oven mitt, and my apron to protect from flying shards (or at least that’s what I told myself).  I found our large chopping knife and then the seam on the bottle. I turned around to see my mother in law, son, and husband filming me.  Fabulous! If I’m going to die, I might as well get it on video.  I turned my eyes back to the bottle, placed the knife, and prayed.  As I sliced up the neck, along the seam created by the mould, and hit the finish of the bottle.  Off it popped and flew across the lawn. I had successfully solved the problem and my mother in law had her bubbles for the evening!  However DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!

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Rain, Rain, Go Away

Seriously, we are good.  Last year was a drought year for the Finger Lakes but this year has been one of the wettest on record.  Upstate NY had the wettest March and April ever on record according to National Weather data.  Just in the past 30 days over 10 inches have fallen.  For the last 90 days we are between 8-12 inches above our normal average.

Weather data for July 25th, 2017 90 Day departure from normal.

Weather data for July 25th, 2017 90 Day departure from normal.

So you see that little purple blob in the middle of the map?  That is where I live.  The Grey at the top is Lake Ontario and this is the highly pixelated view of rainfall as a departure from normal for Western NY.  What does this mean?  Very little sun and LOTS of water.  The rivers are overflowing.  Lake Ontario is 28 inches above its long term average even after record outflows are being sent into the St. Lawrence seaway.  The massive flooding of roads and new water ponds in fields brings to mind that once, well before the glaciers carved out this amazing terrain, this area was covered with a massive in-land sea.  Flash flood warnings are a nearly daily occurrence.  That high level of moisture results in intensely humid days similar to the ones I grew up with in the deep south.  The growers have to be totally on their game to keep the fruit clean.  Downy Mildew is having a field day in vineyards which have been caught unaware.  Luckily, the fruit that I work with looks clean so far.  The fruit is still green and hasn’t even thought about veraison yet so the vintage can still be saved.

Flash flood warnings are a nearly daily occurrence.  That high level of moisture results in intensely humid days similar to the ones I grew up with in the deep south.

I’m putting in my August weather order now.  We need sun and heat and no more rain.  The vines have plenty of water reserves to draw from and are growing like weeds.  Hedging is a must but that can end up compounding the issues because of lateral shoot formation which further closes the canopy.  Closed canopies can lead to further fungal infections and it all just becomes a vicious cycle.  Closed canopies can also have an effect on next year’s harvest due to high levels of shading on the buds.  I hope this fate is one which most if not all growers can avoid.

In the winery, we are a little less than a month from starting harvest for the hybrid whites.  We are trying to make room in the tanks and making sure we have plenty of harvest supplies. I placed an order for more barrels today, having just located another fun red variety to add to the 240 Days line up.  What is it?  You’ll have to wait and see!

Stay tuned…

 

What Do You Do with Leftover Wine?

This is a subject very near and dear to my heart.  Even though I make my living making wine and being surrounded by the alcohol industry, I am not a particularly frequent drinker.  I’ll have 2-3 glasses per week with only one of those typically being on a week night.  Most people are surprised by this.  However, this usually means that I have partial bottles that are open when my husband and I get the urge to open something. Then we are torn as to what to do with the leftover wine.  Inevitably whenever someone brings this question up the industry jokes follow.

“What’s leftover wine?”
“We don’t have that problem in MY house!”

Let’s face it. From a health perspective, unless we have 3-4 people with whom we are sharing the wine a typical bottle should last more than one day.  This is something that is an issue for our industry but so often it gets swept under the rug and having “leftover wine” is something that is ridiculed and laughed at.  So here we go.  Here are two options for wine lovers who want to open those special bottles but don’t want to worry about finishing it before the inevitable exposure to oxygen starts to degrade the wine.

 

The first is called Private Preserve (Buy it here on Amazon.com).  This is one I’ve used for years and is a mix of CO2, Nitrogen, and Argon, three gasses which are very common in wineries.  It is a must have for making white wines at home in carboys and really works well for keeping wines that have been opened from going bad.  I purchased the bottle in this photo two years ago.

“We are starting this journey by reducing the $1.27B of wine that is poured down the drain at home, plus the additional 18-24M bottles dumped at restaurants.” – Ryan Federickson, General manager of ArT-18

The second is called ArT18 Wine Preservation System (Buy it here from the company’s website).  This one is pure Argon and does go farther than the average bottle of Private Preserve because of that.  This one is new to me and was sent to me as a sample to test. Ryan Frederickson, General manager of ArT-18 Wine says “The company I founded has a mission to decrease waste using sustainable technology.  We intend to take this technology to food preservation. We launched ArT Wine Preservation this past December with an engineering background in the argon industry.”

To tested both head to head I had the perfect opportunity when I hosted several fellow MW students who wanted to work on their Practical Exam skills.  I put 3 full mock exams together (36 wines total) ranging from $6.00 per bottle to close to $200.00.  We gassed each of the wines after the exams with one of the two products.  The mock exam weekend was about a month ago and I have been slowly opening the bottles to try them over the past month.

Long story short, both work really well.  Even this evening, after a month a half full bottle of 2010 Haut Medoc  was fresh and very drinkable.  The one wine that did not do well under the preserving gas was a 2003 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru.  Admittedly this one tasted a bit over the hill when it was just opened but after two days under the gas it had started growing a film yeast like coating and going very south flavor wise.  Even the floral white wines which stayed under gas and open in our fridge for 2 weeks were still fresh and drinkable.  The reds we left on our counter with the corks stuck in the bottles and continued to sample them and then re-gas over the past month.

“Even the floral white wines which stayed under gas and open in our fridge for 2 weeks were still fresh and drinkable.”

In conclusion, we should never feel like we need to finish a bottle of wine in one sitting just so it doesn’t go to waste.  With these two home gassing methods, wines can stay fresh for a long period of time and you never have to worry about opening too many bottles to try.