Perhaps you’re watching your liver. Maybe you have a sensitive stomach lining and don’t want heartburn. Unless you’re sharing with a group (which, let’s face it, shouldn’t be happening in today’s pandemic times), that bottle of wine is likely going to need a few more days before it runs dry. How do you protect the wine’s flavor and aroma?
Well, you need to know how to recork wine properly. Below is a little science, and a few tips, to make sure you do it right.
Quick History About Wine Corks
For all the advances we’ve made in technology, some things truly don’t change. Wine corks today are very similar to the ones of the past, using natural materials and careful craftsmanship to create an airtight fit.
Having been in use for over four hundred years, wine corks come in a few varieties. You have the ones made exclusively from wood cork, which are widely considered by wine experts to be the highest quality and longest lasting. Following those there are lower-quality corks made with natural aggregates such as glue, bark dust, and wood pulp combinations. The perception of the wine can actually change depending on what kind of cork is used to keep the quality in. That said, don’t expect a more affordable wine to automatically taste worse!
Understanding how your wine functions from creation to cup will help in preserving its unique personality. Exposing it to a little air is fine, even beneficial, but too much will quickly go south.
The Science Behind Your Opened Wine
We constantly plan around our food and drink going bad. It’s a subconscious skill that gets more fine-tuned when you add wine to the mix.
We jot down reminders in our phone for preparing chicken. We double-check our milk’s expiration date, then sniff to be on the safe side. The second you open wine you’re introducing air and light that wasn’t there before…and that’s actually not a bad thing! The function behind the popular ‘swirl and sniff’ method of drinking wine is designed to circulate air in the drink and get it releasing all its flavor chemicals. The phrase ‘tight on the nose’ refers to how wine can be a touch too sour or too bitter to start with, with a quick swirl getting it to release the rest of its juicy potential.
It’s all about balance. Opening your wine and giving it a little swirl is actually a great thing…but leaving it open or recorking it improperly? That’ll give you the other extreme of dull, flat, mild wine.
What Happens If You Don’t Cork Wine?
Maybe you got distracted while watching a movie and left your wine on the counter all night. You return to it and think you can beat science by shoving it in the fridge and keeping it from getting any worse. Will it taste the same?
The sad answer is no. Wine is a highly sensitive creation from beginning to end, with a propensity toward changing its subtle flavors and aromas if you’re not careful. Failing to cork your wine after opening it will cause oxidation, a term for the degradation of food and drink when exposed to oxygen, light, or both. You’ll notice this change when your wine loses its saturated color or the flavors become more dull. Failing to refrigerate your wine will also cause it to break down more quickly, particularly if it’s a sparkling varietal.
Even if you plan on pouring yourself more the same night, cork your wine once you’re done. It’s all about protecting that flavor for as long as possible.
What Is Cork Taint And Why Does It Smell So Bad?
This is a nasty surprise for any wine drinker, beginner or experienced. You twist in your corkscrew, pop the cork out, then get a surprise tang of mildew instead of the robust cherry or smoky tobacco you were hoping for. What gives?
What you’re smelling is a phenomenon known as ‘cork taint’. This is a chemical reaction that occurs for a few different reasons, namely a bacterial build-up in the aggregate pulp and bark tissue used to create the quintessential cork. Although some manufacturers will craft their corks out of different material percentages, they all have the potential to go a little rotten. This isn’t harmful, but it’ll certainly affect the delicate aroma of your glass.
If your wine comes with a bad cork, that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad vintage. Go ahead and drink it. Now you know what someone’s talking about when they say their wine is a little on the ‘corky’ side.
How To Recork Wine Properly
Ah, the classic wine cork. Used in countless DIY arts and crafts recipes. It’s a rustic reminder of times bygone. It’s, not so surprisingly, still an effective method of maintaining freshness.
Does that mean you should reuse it to recork your wine? Absolutely not! Even if you don’t have to deal with cork taint, the cork is designed to slot in as tightly as possible from the beginning. Once you loosen it up it won’t have the same tight fit it used to. Corks will also be stained with wine as they’re picked up and moved around, so exposing it to air is going to cause a chemical change you’ll eventually taste and smell.
There’s nothing wrong with reusing your cork if you have no other options, but if you can, save that cork for a neat corkboard or some cork light strings instead. Wine stoppers are tighter, cleaner, and can be reused easily.
Get A High-Quality Wine Stopper
You have the pick of the litter when it comes to high-quality wine tools. These are crafted to keep air out and quality in…and they’re easy to clean!
My personal favorites are the rubber wine stoppers with grip, which you can find over on Amazon here for a smart $8 per pack. The slightly squishy nature of the material means it gets a tighter fit than some of the cheaper plastic stoppers out there. I make sure to wash and dry my stoppers after every bottle, as wine’s delicate nature is very easy to mess with. If you want to get a fancier variety, make sure it has the right materials. Stainless steel is essential to avoid rusting and glass stoppers can still let air in.
Keep a few of these on hand at all times. Wash them with warm soap and water in-between uses and make sure to toss them if they start to lose their tight rubber grip.
How To Uncork Wine Without Damaging The Cork
You know how to recork wine properly…but how about uncorking it? This process can be a little messy depending on the type of corkscrew you own and your experience.
Starting out I had a few times where I would screw out a cork and be left with a battered, frayed mess. Over time I’ve grown accustomed to positioning the screw and carefully drilling it vertically as not to cut through the sides. Get a solid (and modern) corkscrew that gives you enough grip to properly twist it out of the bottleneck, such as this multifunctional corkscrew from Amazon. I also really like the rabbit wine opener corkscrew, as it gives you an extra pop of pressure if you have a weak grip like me.
Learning how to recork wine and uncork wine will serve you well if you decide to use your materials in a future art project. Speaking of which…
The Environmental Benefits Of Wine Corks
Wine has been completely transformed this past decade. You can find it in a can, you can find the cork replaced with a bottle cap, you can find tiny bottles. This may come as a surprise, but wine corks are pretty eco-friendly.
They’re crafted from cork oak trees, or more specifically, their bark. The trees themselves don’t have to be cut down to supplement the industry, which is a huge deal in an age where deforestation is seeing entire ecosystems go belly-up. Corks can also be recycled but on a very technical basis. Many of today’s recycling systems still focus on more straightforward paper, glass, and plastic materials. If you’re trying to go green, call the facility first and ask them if they accept wine corks.
If you’re worried about where your corks are going, consider saving them for a project or donating them to a thrift store with a craft supply section.
Wine takes so many different skills not just to cultivate, but to maintain. It can all sound like a lot of bother after a point.
When you take that delightful sip a day or two after opening the bottle, though? You realize it was all worth it. Learning how to recork wine effectively will keep your wine’s flavor, mouthfeel, and aroma lasting longer.
Not everyone knows how to take proper care of their wine once it’s opened, so go ahead and link a friend to this list to help them out. In the meantime: what kind of wine stopper do you use to recork your bottle?