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Tips for a stuck cork

So last week I grabbed a bottle of inexpensive Gewürztraminer at the grocery store to go with a week night supper. It's a recent vintage, nothing fancy, in the usual Gewurzt style bottle. The rubber cork will NOT come out. My husband, a perfectly able-bodied man who used to open wine bottles for a living, has tried and tried but cannot even get the thing to budge. We've tried it both when the bottle was cold and at room temperature. Of course, it wouldn't be a terrible loss if we never drank it, but at this point it's a matter of pride. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to loosen a stubborn cork or do I have a new decorative installation on my kitchen counter?

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  1. Get an opener with a strong, long, but thin screw, like a Screwpull. Fat screws sometimes add extra pressure, making those plastic stoppers impossible to remove.

    1. I've never had that problem, with a real or a synthetic cork. You can try an Ah-So, or -- barring that -- I suppose a glass cutter! ;^)

      1. If it's rubber and not natural "cork" you can try to push it in or even cut it with a long paring knife. Be careful!

        3 Replies
        1. re: momof3

          you can do this with a natural cork, too, and FWIW, synthetic corks are not made out of rubber.

          1. re: zin1953

            The poster called it "rubber" and I am aware that you can do this with a natural cork, but unless you want to drink your wine with little corky bits in it, not recommended.

            1. re: momof3

              That's why you would decant that bottle.

        2. Hold the cork end of the bottle under the hottest tap water from your kitchen faucet for a minute, and the cork should then come out with the customary tug of the corkscrew.

          13 Replies
          1. re: Veggo

            Now, I have not had a really stuck cork, synthetic or natural, so I may be off base. My physics classes lead me to believe that the coefficient of thermal expansion/contraction will be greater for the plastic cork, than for the glass bottle. Would not cold water (maybe even brine, a la Champagne disgourgement) be a better method? One wants the "cork" to shrink and it should do so more quickly, than the glass neck of the bottle, in very cold water.

            I have used an Ah-so for similar, when my waiter's-friend, or my Screwpull, would not budge the cork. A weapon of last resort is either my handpump injection de-corker, or my gas-powered one. However, be a bit careful, as one can damage the bottle with the handpump unit, if they are too vigorous. Maybe hold it in a towel, just in case.

            If one can force (carefully) the prongs of the Ah-so between the cork and glass, a slow twist, before the pull, should remove the cork.

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Just don't use an Ah-So on an Italian bottle. Narrower bore.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Never had a problem.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I've never had a problem either.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I broke a few bottles before I figured it out, and have several times been in wine shops when other people were returning bottles they broke the same way.

                    Only happens if you push the Ah-So down all the way.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Interesting. I had not thought of that, but then I do not recall using an Ah-so with any IT wine. I usually grab my waiter's friend, and move on to others, if it doesn't do the job.

                      Thanks for the insight,
                      Hunt

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        They can return a bottle that THEY broke??? Never would have occured to me!

                        1. re: abowes

                          They think it was a defective bottle.

                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                      I was a physics minor, but I don't get to amortize my tuition with my knowledge of thermodynamics on this one. The heat simply softens the plastic cork so it slides out with surprising ease. I wish the poster, concordcourtney, would simply give it a try and report the results. YO! concordcourtney! Where are you????We're trying to help!

                      1. re: Veggo

                        I'm going to give it a go tonight. Wasn't able to check the boards before dinner last night so we just had vodka tonics with dinner. ;) I don't have an Ah-So, just a couple different waiter style corkscrews (never failed us before).

                        I appreciate all the advice and nifty facts and will report back as soon as I give the hot water (or failing that, ice water) a try.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          Could be, but I'd also expect that it would expand disproportionally to the glass. Would be interesting to be in the kitchen, when the various methods are tried.

                          Also, a full screw corkscrew, and not one of those solid helix units will expand the cork less. My waiter's friend is Teflon (R) coated, so it inserts into about all types of cork fairly easily. The soild units break real, or composite corks, and expand everything.

                          Hunt

                      2. re: Veggo

                        This just worked on a bottle of wine that we had named "Excalibur" after numerous other failed attempts. We held the cork end under very hot water for 30 seconds and then it popped right out with a corkscrew.

                        1. re: lukem

                          And, were you then christened, "King of the Britons?" [Grin]

                          With some crystal formations, I can see this working well, Excalibur, or not.

                          Hunt

                      3. What kind of corkscrew are you using?

                        1. Well running hot water over the cork for a few minutes didn't do the trick. If I happen to be somewhere this weekend I can grab an Ah-So, I'll do so and give it one last valiant effort (and report back). Otherwise, I think this bottle is a So-Sorry. Que sera....etc.

                          Either way, thanks everyone for the help. I did learn some good things anyway. :)

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: concordcourtney

                            Bummer. The final solution, which I have only had to employ once, is the electric drill.

                            1. re: concordcourtney

                              One last "gasp." With some very old Port, it is fairly common, in certain circles, to use Port-tongs. These are heated in fire, until red-hot, then applied to the neck of the bottle, just below the cork line. A quick pinch and pull, and the top of the neck is cleanly separated. I've never tried this (not owning Port-tongs), but have seen it demonstrated once. It worked fine, but then the gentleman had probably done it a bunch. Besides, I do not like to mix fire with my wines.

                              Baring the absence of Port-tongs, and who keeps them around nowadays, you might do the sabre trick, a la Champagne opening. Again, I've never done it, but have seen it demonstrated a few times - once with a pyramid of Champagne flutes holding the magnum. The Champagne did a fountain-like number, and many of the glasses were filled. It looked like an episode of "Myth Busters" from the Discovery Channel. I did sample a glass, but looked carefully for any glass shards.

                              Or, you can just pop back to the store and hand the bottle over to a salesperson, explaining what you have done. Were it mine, I'm sure that I would have sufficiently loosened the cork and the salesperson would be able to remove it easily to my embarassment and consternation.

                              Let us know,
                              Hunt

                              1. re: concordcourtney

                                Courtney, if you buy a Screwpull rather than an Ah-So, and then while the Screwpull is applying pressure (if the cork hasn't already come out) run hot water over the neck of the bottle, you will be drinking that wine.

                                Or my name isn't Steve K.

                                Hope I don't have to change my moniker.

                                1. re: Steve K

                                  While I agree that a Screwpull-type corkscrew is likely the OP's best bet for extracting the stubborn slug, I'd strongly advise against using a Screwpull or any other corkscrew with a Teflon-coated worm. Synthetic corks, especially the cheap, solid, hard kind this one appears to be, will strip the Teflon off faster than you can say 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, and a replacement worm will probably cost as much or more than the bottle in question.

                              2. simply buy some round iron pincers that can contact the bottle at a point below the bottom of the cork. Heat them in a fireplace or on a gas stove until they are red hot. Clamp around the neck of the bottle, melting into the glass. Take an ice cube and cool the hot glass where you have clamped it, then snap the top of the bottle off, cork and all.

                                see port service at Jean Georges:
                                http://augieland.blogs.com/augie_land...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: kenito799

                                  Oops, you beat me to the punch! Gotta' read ALL of the entries in a thread, before posting.

                                  Hunt

                                2. I'm trying to open a pretty cheap Chardonnay from 2005. When I got it I was praying it didn't have a synthetic cork. Peekaboo, I'm wrong and now I want to shoot myself.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: HPRS

                                    A response I haven't seen yet but I can tell you from personal experience works with a natural cork is this: walk outside with your bottle and a largish dishtowel. Wrap the dishtowel around the bottom of the bottle to cushion it. Find a tree with a large trunk and thick bark. Start banging the bottom of the bottle against the tree with some vigor for many minutes (5-10, maybe less). Something (physics majors can chime in here) causes the cork to be forced out of the bottle, and you can then pull it out manually.

                                    We did this at my aunt in law's many years ago when we brought some great Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy for Thanksgiving Dinner and discovered Auntie Birdie did not possess a corkscrew. It did cause the wine to effervesce a bit, but it settled down after several minutes.

                                    1. re: NAspy

                                      Bang the bottle against your head with some vigor for 5-10 minutes, then you won't need to drink the wine at all. I've found that with synthetic corks the trick is to get the seal broken and the rest is easy. There is a waiter's friend called "The Winner". I received one by mail for promotional purposes a few years back. It is light and super strong and I have not met a bottle it could not open. A google search should be all you need to find it. Thankfully Randall Grahm has begun screwcapping his wines so the tree method is no longer necessary.
                                      Punk

                                      1. re: winepunkguy

                                        Maybe the bark on your head is thicker than mine which could make this variation successful for you.

                                        1. re: NAspy

                                          Just funnin'. I'm actually gonna try the tree, proof that necessity is the Mother of invention.
                                          I do have a thick head.
                                          Punk

                                  2. Ummm... oenephiles,
                                    Hop Hound here, as Bill Hunt also mentioned above, I bought a few vacuum pump cork removers several years ago from The Sharper Image as stocking-stuffer Christmas presents. I kept one of them for ourselves. It has a scabbarded, sharp, hollow needle. After deploying it at 90 degree right angle, it's thin enough to press fairly easily through the cork until it's fully seated. From there, you simply pump air into the bottle and the ensuing internal air pressure WILL pop that Bad Boy out everytime! It's cumbersome, compared to a regular corkscrew, to use regularly but it does have its times. It appears that Sharper Image no longer carries it but here's a similar one that I found; http://www.etravelergear.com/powiboco...

                                    Harp00n

                                    1. Know how to saber?

                                      It's easy to learn and a rockin' party trick. Hint: you don't slice off the top off the bottle -- the top of the bottle separates itself from the rest of the bottle. Be safe, though, and learn the proper technique. Great for bubbly.

                                      1. Stuyck pseudocork? Just push it in--you've wasted enouigh drinking time already. Lijkewise w/natural corks. so shat idf you get a bit of cork in ther wimne/ then wimne's ben in contact w/cork since it was bottled, and the only damage is to appearances. That disappears when you get out your strainer.

                                        As to ort tongs--those are the things to use. Pincers from the hardware store are meant for pulling nails and probably won't work--they have very shallow "throats," don't open v. wide and have a 'bite' that would go parallel to the neck of the bottle rather than across. but the idea of chilling the neck after heating is correct as per demonstrated for me by Adrian Bridge of Taylor Fladgate. Instead of an ice cube he used a strip of cloth soaked in ice water.

                                        1. pride combined with "a bottle of champagne is not going to beat me"! it is a sunday morning. i have the next week off. moved the furniture yesterday, hung a few things - am quite pleased with all of it. THEN found out that i have been blessed with my 15 seconds of fame - have 1/4 of a page in a chicago magazine that shows me looking way too cool (at least for 53); was going to work this morning (yeah, i'm off - it's a nasty business this law thing) and stopped . . . stuffed french toast (using a batter similar to monte cristo and stuffed with a cream cheese, cinnamon, guava butter combo) and . . . AHHHH, CHAMPAGNE. i am currently drinking said stubborn bottle. HOT WATER - not warm, on the neck, not the cork - the neck to alter the ratio of the cork to bottle. took a few minutes. but at least the cork was twisting, then the bulb of the cork broke; used a simple, cheap corkscrew, et voila!! thank you ladies and gentlemen for the ideas and the tongue-in-cheek.

                                          1. I have one of those gas cork removers from Sur La Tab. Just push needle through cork, push on small gas cartridge and gas goes into the bottle and cork pops out. To easy.

                                            1. After reading several posts that had unsatisfactory answers, I decided to try my own idea.

                                              I screwed a 3" deck screw through the cork that was stuck down in the neck of the bottle. I then used a set of diagonal pliers to GENTLY pry up on the shank of the screw until it was flush with the top of the bottle. I then used a pair of needle nose pliers to form a bridge around the cork and continued to pry up with the diagonal pliers. In a short period of time, I had pulled the cork far enough out of the bottle to finish the job just pulling on the screw. This really does work and is much faster then it sounds

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: scubajack

                                                Glad if it worked. It sounds like a combo of an episode of "This Old House" and a tooth extraction.

                                                1. re: scubajack

                                                  I think that I would have done similar, but first wedged the bottle into the framework of my garage. Then, I would have used my 3" nylon "tug-em strap," attached to my Landcruiser, shifted into Low, and locked the diffs - to pull that cork out... or would have brought down my house!

                                                  Personally, I would have grabbed my Champagne saber and just whacked the stuck cork off, with the neck of the bottle.

                                                  Hunt

                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    I'd been thinking of the sabre, too. Unfortunately I don't have a cavalry sabre, just the light fencing kind. Wonder if the gas pressure has anything to do with the process or if it's straight mechanical shock.

                                                    Actually I think I'd try drilling a moderate sized hole in the cork and either collapsing the remainder to get it out or just pouring through the hole.

                                                2. I haven't had this problem with a synthetic cork before, but a lot of natural corks are coated with wax.

                                                  Forget the warm or hot water in the sink, I put the neck of the bottle over the flame on my range top. Cork comes out after that.

                                                  Of course, you don't want to leave the flame on there too long...

                                                  1. So you tried to uncork a bottle of wine and the cork failed eh? Here is the simple solution. Push the cork all the way in. If the cork deteriorated in your unsuccessful attempts to remove it, then you will have cork shrapnel in your wine bottle. The solution to that is to place a hefty paper towel over your glass and kinda make a small bowl out of it. Then, pour the wine thru the paper towel and, voila! Freshly strained wine juice!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Skyke101

                                                      For an old natural cork of dubious quality or stuck, try this:
                                                      Get a short lenght of wooden dowel just sligthly smaller in diameter to the cork. Put it on top and give it a gentle tap with a hammer, not trying to knock the cork in, but just to dislodge it a bit. Then use a regular method for removal.

                                                    2. Synthetic corks lack porousness that allows air in as you create a vacuum - so rather than breaking your opener take a skewer (the thin ones you use for shish kebob and stick it in between the glass and 'cork' seam - it breaks the vacuum effect and out it slides

                                                      1. I have one of those professional tabletop marble based pewter handled corkscrews. My husband bought it for me at a high end wine shop for our anniversary because of my love of wine. I have never lost a cork after that!

                                                        It is similar to the one pictured here.

                                                        http://www.garyswine.com/shop_wine_ac...

                                                        1. Simple, go back to the store and get another bottle!!!

                                                          1. Try using your shoe.......

                                                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuGfjt...

                                                            1. imho, The rotation fo the cork by the inserted ah-so breaks the stickiness of the cork to the glass of the bottle, allowing the removal of the cork by the ah-so. corkscrews don't address this bonding as they don' t rotate the cork.
                                                              my $.02,
                                                              Phood.
                                                              P.S. for Italian wines, don't insert the ah-so fully.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Phood

                                                                True. I've successfully used an ah-so only 3/4 in and it gets the cork out. Although sometimes you can wreck the ah-so doing that.

                                                                1. re: hsk

                                                                  Get it all the way in, inserting one blad at a time-flexing to and fro, (look out for Italian wine bottles wth their narrower neck) and when inserted, give it a twist to break the seal between bottle and cork; then the cork and ah-so are removed with a few more gentle twists (and moderately muscular pullng).

                                                              2. I have opened thousands of bottles of wine in my waiter/drinker career. Never, Had I had one stick until tonight.
                                                                Placed under hot water for 30 seconds....Voila!

                                                                 
                                                                1. I just solved this problem the other day when my girl broke the corkscrew off in the cork...

                                                                  What you need:

                                                                  A Screw
                                                                  Drill
                                                                  Pliers or Vice Grips
                                                                  2 Feet

                                                                  Drill the screw into the cork at least an inch in (leave room to grab it at the top). Sit down, put the wine bottle in between your feet. Grab the top of the screw with the vice grips and pull straight up slowly. Should come right out.

                                                                  1. Thanks so much to the posters who advocated hot water on the neck of the bottle. That technique has freed two difficult corks easily in the past few weeks.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: comestible

                                                                      My thanks as well. I had to run it under the water twice (first time just loosened it a bit) but it worked perfectly.

                                                                      1. re: njuser

                                                                        Yes! Thank you thank you thank you to those who recommended the hot water trick. Took me two rounds and pulling with my teeth but it worked!! lol