Over the weekend, Tracie, our girls, and I hosted a holiday party for roughly 50 people in our home. In keeping with seasonal spirit, I wanted to greet every adult guest with a glass of sparkling wine. And so I had chilled a six-pack of one of my favorites.
In order to have the wine ready, I decided to open the bottles a few minutes before guests were to arrive.
And that’s when something DISASTROUS happened: the cage on every bottle was faulty. Something at the winery must have gone awry when the wine was disgorged and sealed. Either that or the cages themselves were defective.
As any wine pro should be able to tell you, it takes six turns to remove the cage from a bottle of sparkling wine. But occasionally (rarely though it does happen), the wire will break before the cage can be removed. (It wasn’t the wine in the photo above btw; it was a wine from another European appellation.)
How do you deal with this issue when it arises? I’d really appreciate any insights.
Here’s how I handled the situation.
First of all, I took all the wine outside. I knew that the pressure of cutting the wire from the cage would agitate the bottle, making the pressure inside the bottle even strong and increasing the risk that I would not be able to contain the cork. I wanted to make sure that no one (including me) would be hurt.
Armed with a wine key, kitchen shears, and a dish towel, I gingerly used the knife of the wine key to pull the wire a few millimeters away from the bottle.
Then with my thumb placed firmly over the cage, I used the shears to cut the wire.
As I suspected, the cork was ready to pop. Even though I had been extremely carefully not to disturb the bottle too much, the force exerted to pry away and then cut the wire was enough to increase the pressure in the wine to the point that the cork would pop off if left unchecked.
Holding the cork tightly with my thumb, I loosened the cage until the cork popped off. It was extremely difficult to keep the corks from being shot across the backyard. I managed to hold on to all of them. But I was glad that I had stepped outside: it was clear to me that I risked not being able to control the situation.
Sommeliers, what tool should you have on hand for this situation? I had kitchen shears but I could have also used needle-nose wire cutters (that I always have handy for when I work on my guitars).
What do you do when this happens on the floor of a restaurant during service?
I keep a pair of 5″ needle nose pliers in our kitchen drawer, right next to the corkscrew. They have saved me several times over the years.
I always have needle nose pliers lying around. I wish I would ha e grabbed those instead of the shears but they were easier to reach for quickly.
I am trying to imagine what the problem was, exactly–after how man turns did the cage break?
The darnest thing but the wire broke each time after three turns. Every time.
Muselet malfunction? If it was the twisted tail of the lower ring that broke before loosening the lower ring, I have used a couple of methods. If I were in a restaurant or some friends’ home, without a toolbox, I would slide a table knife (nothing sharp) between one of the legs nearest to the ‘twist’ and the cork. Then pry gently outward focusing on the part of the leg nearest to the bottom ring, hoping to loosen the twist. Do this on both legs nearest to the twist and you should get enough slack to remove the cage. When I am home, I’ve got multiple options with different pliers/wire cutters, etc.
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