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Wine Uncorked

WAX ON, WAX OFF

WAX ON, WAX OFF

From time to time, I hear complaints about the difficulty of opening wine bottles sealed with wax.  On the rare occasion I’m confronted with such a wine, it’s been a struggle to get the cork out.  Thankfully they are easy to avoid.

 

Then a client gave me two bottles whose necks were encased in wax.  The bottles sat for days while I procrastinated opening them.  There had to be an easy way to do it, if only I new how.

 

David White
The Terroirist

Thankfully, the Terroirist, aka David White, came to my rescue.  “The mistake people make is thinking a wax capsule is like a foil one,” he said.

 

His advice?

 

“Pretend it’s not there.  Go straight through it with a corkscrew.”

 

Seriously?  This is so beautifully simple.  I was speechless.

 

Though White calls the wax “silly and wasteful,” these thick coverings once served a purpose.

 

Dr. Tony Johnston, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, says, “Wax seals [were] used to ensure that bottles of wine were completely sealed after filling.  Before we became ‘good’ at cutting cork stoppers, leakage was a real issue.  By adding wax over the cork and the top of the bottle, a complete seal was much more likely.”

 

(The wax also kept rodents away from the cork, notes White – thankfully, not an issue for most of us these days!)

 

Today, wax is pretty much only seen on bottles of high-end wines – and while often simply decorative, it is still of some use.  “Wax actually slows the transmission of oxygen through the cork and into the wine,” notes Dr. Johnston.  “[It slows] the resultant oxidative aging of the wine and making the wine ‘store longer.'”

 

And that nifty, super-easy technique for opening the bottle?  As the Terroirist promised, it worked like a charm.

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