If you’ve opened your fair share of wine bottles, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself struggling with a crumbly cork. Disintegrating corks are more than an inconvenience; they can ruin your wine! And that means that avoiding crumbling corks is more than a necessity; it’s an obligation for those of us who enjoy fermented grape juice.
If you’re into wine, you’ll want to know how to reduce the risk of ruining your evening with a crumbly cork. Stop the cork from crumbling with the tips below and learn what to do when a wine cork crumbles. Crumbly corks are inevitable if you are a long-term wine drinker, but you can handle them correctly.
Why do some corks crumble while others stay in perfect shape for years? The answer is found below.
Does a Crumbled Cork Mean the Wine is Ruined?
Before we talk about how to stop the cork from crumbling, let’s talk about what a crumbly cork means for your wine.
Fragile, crumbly corks are often lousy at keeping oxygen from finding its way into the bottle, which means that a crumbly cork may not protect the wine as it should. Still, a crumbled cork doesn’t mean that the wine is in bad shape — in fact, in many cases, the wine is just fine.
Although crumbled corks are not what you want to see, you still have to try the wine to know if it has been compromised. You’ll be happy to know that many wines are drinkable, even with a faulty cork.
Why do Some Corks Crumble?
Natural corks are pieces of tree bark punched perpendicularly from the bark. They come from the cork oak tree or Quercus suber. And if you’ve seen tree barks before, you know they’re never perfect. This means faulty corks might be flawed from the start, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent them from falling apart or drying out.
If the tree bark was too dry or faulty, the corks punched out from it will be flawed as well, and if the cork manufacturer is not careful, some of these corks may end up on the market.
In other cases, corks are fine when they leave the cork factory, but the wineries mishandle them. Old corks or corks exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods can suffer irreparable damage.
Finally, if the wine bottles are not stored appropriately, ideally on their side, the corks may dry out and crumble. This can happen in a wholesaler’s warehouse, in a wine shop or in your home.
To ensure wine reaches the consumer in mint condition, including its cork, everyone has to play their part, from the producer to the wine drinkers themselves. Wine bottles can last many years if stored appropriately, and corks should be fine for years.
The secret here is moisture — the wine itself can keep the cork moist if you store your bottles on their side, but ambient humidity also impacts the closure.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about another reason for having to deal with crumbly corks often. Sometimes the cork is perfectly fine, but it crumbles because you’re shredding it using the wrong corkscrew.
Use the Right Corkscrew
Corkscrews and bottle openers come in all shapes and sizes, and although most work similarly, some are gentler with the cork than others.
If the corkscrew’s pointed metallic helix or “worm” is not sharp enough or is too thick, it can damage the cork, causing it to fall apart, split in half or crumble. And if the cork was already fragile, the wrong corkscrew will definitely crush it.
Winged corkscrews, lever corkscrews and mounted corkscrews are often not as delicate or precise as the dependable two-step waiter’s friend. If you have an old bottle and suspect the cork is fragile, use a two-prong “ah-so” cork puller — the perfect tool for the job, as it doesn’t rely on a worm to extract the cork.
Stop the Cork from Crumbling!
Now you know that crumbly corks aren’t always your fault. And you know how to prevent them. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you won’t have to deal with faulty closures from time to time, but that’s okay — it’s all part of enjoying wine!