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How to Open a Bottle of Wine

There are many best practices for opening, tasting, and storing California’s favorite grape juice. The customs for how to open a bottle of wine range from culture to culture, and we gathered some of the most vital information you need to pour and store your favorite glass of vino. (Check out more of our articles here)!

Best practices for how to open a bottle of wine

Don't ruin your corkscrewFirst thing’s first—do not destroy the cork! This is especially important if you do not plan on drinking the entire bottle in one sitting. Additionally, you’ll want to keep the cork in tact when opening a fine bottle to ensure that pieces of it do not fall down into that beautiful bouquet.

If you are using a classic cork-screw wine bottle open, be sure to line up the midline of the spiral screw with the epicenter of the cork—NOT the point of the screw. This will make sure that the walls of your cork stay as even on all sides as possible, preventing breakage and decomposition.

Prevent spillage when pouring wine directly from the bottle. You can wrap a cloth napkin around the bottom side of the bottle so that once your pour is finished you can catch any stain risks from hitting your fancy guest linens. If that bottle of red is a finer wine, keep a decanter handy to help facilitate the flow of oxygen that will allow the wine to breathe after it has been poured. Decanters allow all the notes of the wine to be enjoyed while letting some of the sediment collect at the bottle instead of settling into the base of your Bordeaux glass.

Expecting a large guest list for your fine dinner party? Sometimes investing in a double magnum is worth the impress factor that your dinner mates will appreciate. A double magnum is equivalent to 4 standard-sized bottles of wine and takes a special butler’s cork. Visit Hall Wines YouTube for tips and fun facts about how to open a bottle of wine in a double magnum size.

Wine Etiquette from the finest restaurants

I have picked up some unique traditions when ordering wine in a high-end restaurant. If you want to be familiar with the process or recreate this ritual at home, take a look below at the common wine etiquette steps from the fanciest dining establishments:

    1. The person who orders the bottle from the waiter tests is the one who gets to taste test it.
    2. When the waiter pours a small sip into your glass, take your time to ensure the bottle is uncorked and OK to drink.
    3. Swirl your tasting sip around in a circular manner and sniff the aroma that rises up.
    4. While sniffing, take a sip to make sure there is no cork taint present.
    5. Once approved, nod that the flavor is right.
    6. The waiter will then pour everyone’s glass beginning with the person next to you and go all around the table, pouring your wine last.
    7. Enjoy!

The importance of wine corks

How important is a corkscrewHow much thought have you put into the one thing standing between you and your glass of Pinot? Fastening wine bottle closure has now taken three distinctive forms: natural cork, synthetic cork, and screw caps. Many will argue that synthetic cork and screw caps are very friendly to the environment, but did you know that choosing the closure should really depend on how long your wine is set to be in the aging process.

A study conducted at the University of California at Davis near prominent California wine regions investigated wine closures a bit deeper. Natural wine corks are made from the cork oak tree. They provide a lot lower likelihood of “corked wine” which is when the cork is defective at preventing oxygen inside the flow of the wine bottle; this is technically called “cork taint”. When natural cork is used, you are far less susceptible to experiencing a small 3-5% chance of this happening.

Should you steer clear of screw caps and fake cork in the wine aisle? Not necessarily. If you plan on drinking your wine within 2 years of production, then the alternatives should do just fine at keeping oxygen out of your bottle. When I am shopping for wine that has to last for a large group, the screw caps appeal to me because I know they will keep all dinner party disruptions as short as possible. Some folks will still believe that screw caps signify low quality—I personally don’t agree. Synthetic corks can also regulate the flow of oxygen because their production is more streamlined than the elements exposed to cork oak trees.

Wine drip prevention—a first world problem

Wine drip is without a doubt a first world problem, but is there a way to prevent it? You definitely don’t want to be on a date at an impressive, fancy restaurant and make a deep red circular stain on the white tablecloth. How did the waiter cultivate those ninja skills to open that expensive bottle while standing up?

Daniel Perlman, a bio physicist with over 100 patents, actually invented a wine bottle that is equipped to prevent dripping and spillage down the side of the bottle. He spent hours observing slow motion video of how the different pouring angles and volumes of wine bottles made it vulnerable to let a little of that fine red dribble down the label. Perlman discovered that adding a small circular groove around the neck of the bottle at 2 mm high and 1 mm deep could prevent this first world problem. Now for the next challenge: which bottle on that long wine list will impress your date and come equipped with Perlman’s genius idea?

Unconventional Ways to Open a Bottle of Wine

Pouring wine for elderly peopleHave you ever planned the perfect picnic menu for your special someone? You carefully crafted a collection of ant-proof finger foods to enjoy outdoors now that the winter frost is gone. You even brainstormed the perfect wine pairings to go with your cheese plate that you know will impress your company. Then you realize, you didn’t bring a corkscrew.

Luckily, the folks at Epicurious and the rest of the internet is bursting with innovative ideas on how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew! In other words, we are here to help you cope with your absentmindedness. From a screw and hammer to nail clippers, there are plenty of household items that you can use when you are home to replace the corkscrew you can no longer find in the junk drawer. But, how does this help you at the picnic?

Our favorite hack is the flip flop and a tree trick. How can this possibly work? Mirabeau en Provence posted a brilliant video demonstrating a corkscrew-less picnic strategy for getting that perfect pairing ready for a pour. Simply hold your rubber flip flop against the base of the bottle and smack it against the stiff trunk of a tree and voila!

The cork should pop right up. It almost seems easier than the corkscrew…almost. 

Let us know other neat ways of opening your wine bottle below!

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