Every time I see somebody struggling with a cork, I get the urge to intervene before the thing invariably breaks into pieces. Am I arrogant?
On the contrary. You are a good soul with a high purpose. You want people to enjoy good wine in its pure state, without having to first pass the liquid through a cone-shaped coffee filter or a sweaty T-shirt.
Some people take to uncorking better than others. I suspect the inferior ones are also bad at physics. You’ve got to maintain correct angles at all times and you’ve got to be able to recognize when that little cylinder of tree bark is so dry that it’s going to strip when you pull with too much pressure.
Each cork – assuming it’s the natural kind, not made of plastic and not one of those composite corks pressed into a cylinder using cork fragments and glue – is different. Some strip or crack easily, some don’t. It’s always a good idea to go slowly. If you’re good at it, and by your question I assume you are, it’s okay to offer to come to the rescue, particularly in the case of a precious bottle. Just be courteous and amusing about it. Say something like, “That seems dry. It looks like it’s preparing to break. I hope you won’t be offended, but I’m actually really good at opening wine bottles because I get so much practice at my house! Can I give it a whirl?”
Should your undertaking fail, at least you can take comfort in the fact that you spoke up. And now that I’ve answered your question, could you do me a favour in return? Come to my place and help me twist off a screw cap from this bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc? I’m thirsty and it’s stuck.
Beppi Crosariol will once again be participating as The Globe’s wine expert on both the July 1-11, 2019, Globe and Mail Seine River (Paris and Normandy) Cruise and the July 28-Aug. 7, 2019, Globe and Mail Portugal River Cruise. For details on how to reserve your cabin visit GlobeandMailCruises.com.