I bought a bottle of wine the other day, and when I attempted to open it, the cork crumbled to pieces! I was eventually able to dig a hole through the cork, and pour the wine (slowly) through a coffee filter. But for the future, I'd like to know:

  • Is there a more elegant way to open a ruined cork than stabbing it repeatedly and hoping for the best?
  • Should I even be drinking wine like this? Does a ruined cork mean the wine has somehow spoiled? For reference this was a bottle from 2004.
  • If the wine had gone bad you would know it. It would taste like vinegar.
    – paparazzo
    Mar 15, 2017 at 15:41

2 Answers 2

  1. The best way to take out bad corks is with an Ah So. Keeps the crumbly corks together better.

Ah So cork puller

  1. Instead of picking at the cork, push it back into the bottle and then strain the wine through a stainless steel tea strainer like this:

tea strainer

Many times the wine is good, but when the cork is that bad it's probably oxidized to hell, vinegar or corked. The only way to tell is to smell and/or taste it.

  • The two-pronged opener (sometimes called a "dishonest butler") has saved me more than once -- sometimes because the cork was in poor shape, but also sometimes because I messed up the initial placement of a hand-held corkscrew and did the damage myself. (Now I use a lever-style corkscrew -- much easier.) Mar 14, 2017 at 2:56
  • I have never seen this contraption before, but will look out for one - the amount of times I have had to poke the cork through and then strain makes for buying this a no brainer - thanks for the info. Mar 14, 2017 at 3:54

First, if you bought it in a specialized shop, a cellar, do contact the seller. He might do some gesture, and it's an important information for him, if he has other in stock.

Make sure you use the right kind of corckscew : it shall have a pigtail shape instead of a straight one. This way it'll apply the torque and the pulling force more even on the wood, and shall have less accident. You may also try for a twin-prong cork puller, where blunt blade are pushed between cork and glass. They do even less damage to the cork.

Corks aren't suppose to live eternally : it's not unusual for bottle above twenty years to have some defect. 2004 is a bit early, but you might get the monday morning cork ... In fact, some cellarmen changes corks every decades to make sure nothing dreadful happens.

You should at least taste it. If it has spoiled, you'll definitly know it in a few second ... and even before you take a sip, if you are careful to the scent.

  • If it has gone bad ... well, make vinegar from it if you can't get help from the seller.
  • If it has lost some flavour but you still enjoy the taste ... well enjoy your wine !
  • If it tastes perfect ... why should you worry ? Any kind of rubbish that could have been dangerous was put inside the wine before it has been draught from the cask. The corks only let a little osmosis with oxygen over the years.

I do have a very few 1988 bordeaux with this problem. Nothing different with the "healthy corks"ones.


  • The seller is a fairly typical bottle shop, where the customers are usually frat bros looking for a cheap drink. I don't expect anything from them. But what do you mean by pigtail shaped corkscrew? I've never seen a corkscrew that wasn't shaped like your link.
    – SPavel
    Mar 13, 2017 at 20:10
  • Go on the french wikipedia page : first of the array is straight, like a woodscrew, whereas the second is pigtailed : it doesn't have a central axis, but appears to coil around a fictive central axis. The difference is tiny, but actually matters.
    – Kaldui
    Mar 13, 2017 at 20:15
  • Oh, I see! I have never seen that kind of corkscrew, and it doesn't even appear on the English page.
    – SPavel
    Mar 13, 2017 at 20:22
  • For future reference: here's a direct link to the inefficient "woodscrew-shaped" corkscrew from the French Wikipedia page. As an American, I also had never seen nor heard of a corkscrew shaped like this. Apr 5, 2019 at 0:50

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