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Mar 19, 2007 01:40 PM

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.

          15 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.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

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

                  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,

                      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.


                      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.


                        2. re: Veggo

                          Veggo! You are my new personal hero!

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Veggo - thank you, your hot water theory is indeed correct! I was fighting with a bottle of white to remove its stubborn artificial cork. I even tried using the force of my legs by placing the bottle between my boots and sandwiching myself between the kitchen counter and fridge and pulling with all my might. Nothing worked. So I googled the problem and found this site. I ran hot water over the top of the bottle for about 1 minute, dried off the bottle and tried again. Voila! After a strong tug, the cork came right out. Cheers!

                          2. What kind of corkscrew are you using?